Posts Tagged ‘New York Giants’

Where home plate once was at the Polo Grounds

September 3, 2012

The bathtub-shaped stadium known as the Polo Grounds, on Eighth Avenue and 155th Street in Harlem, met the wrecking ball in 1963 (here it is being dismantled at right).

In its place, the city built the Polo Grounds Towers, a public-housing complex with four 30-story red-brick buildings.

Maybe these projects were okay in 1968, but today, they’re as isolated and decrepit as the Polo Grounds were crowded and inspiring.

Inside the complex is one small reminder of the location’s former glory: a very faded plaque affixed to one of the red-brick buildings.

The plaque commemorates the Polo Grounds—home not just to the Giants but also the Yankees in the 1910s and the pre-Shea Stadium Mets in the early 1960s.

It’s supposedly placed at the approximate location of home plate, where greats like Willie Mays scored runs and Bobby Thompson hit his “shot heard round the world” in 1951.

The plaque is rusted and old—a faded bit of New York baseball history, like this secret staircase that once led to the Polo Grounds.

Where was Yankee Stadium almost built?

April 7, 2011

In 1921, after the Yankees had been sharing the Polo Grounds in Upper Manhattan with the Giants for a decade, the two teams were butting heads—especially with the Yankees selling more tickets.

Yankees honchos Jacob Ruppert and Tillinghast Huston knew a new stadium had to go up.

After checking out sites in Long Island City and in the West 50s at 11th Avenue, a location was picked: Harlem, on Convent Avenue between 136th and 138th Streets.

At the time, the site was occupied by the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, an 1884 Modern Renaissance structure that housed more than a thousand kids.

A design was selected, but in early 1922, Yankees brass announced that the new stadium would actually be built in the South Bronx on land once owned by the Astor family.

What did the Bronx have over Harlem? Stellar subway access.

“Ruppert and Huston had looked at the Astor property shortly after buying the Yankees in 1915. They ruled the site out because it lacked adequate transportation,” wrote Neil J. Sullivan in 2001’s The Diamond in the Bronx.

“The development of the subway solved that problem, and the Bronx location became even more accessible than many neighborhoods in Manhattan.”

[Hebrew Orphan Asylum image: the NYPL Digital Collection]

Two views of the Polo Grounds

April 4, 2009

The Polo Grounds, home of the New York Giants until 1957, doesn’t get the adulation Ebbets Field and the old Yankee Stadium receive. This photo dates to about 1920; check out the decorative motifs on the left:


The bathtub-shaped stadium was located at Eighth Avenue and 155th Street, at the bottom of a steep hill rising from the Harlem River called Coogan’s Bluff.

Why the Polo Grounds, when no polo was played there? In the 1880s, the Giants held their games at a polo field on Fifth Aveune and 110th Streets. When they moved uptown, they took the name with them.

After the Giants shipped out to San Francisco, the Mets played there for their first seasons in 1962 and 1963.


Torn down in 1964, it’s now the site of the Polo Grounds housing project. Reportedly the demolition crew wore Giants jerseys and tipped their hats in homage to the stadium. 

Before they were the Yankees

June 30, 2008

The team was called the Highlanders, named for the British army unit the Gordon Highlanders. The name also fit the location where they played: Hilltop Park on 168th and Broadway overlooking the Hudson River.

Unfortunately the American League Highlanders, who played their first game in 1903, didn’t win very often. And the more established New York Giants, playing for the National League nearby at the Polo Grounds, resented their existence. 

But the two teams eventually warmed up to each other, and by 1913, the Highlanders officially changed their name to the Yankees, a nickname fans and sportswriters had given the team. The Yankee era had begun.

It’s a shame Hilltop Park was abandoned because it sure offered a gorgeous view of the Hudson and the New Jersey Palisades, as seen in this photo. Since the 1920s the site has been occupied by Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.

Columbia-Presbyterian hasn’t forgotten about its baseball roots; a plaque in a garden on hospital grounds marks the approximate spot where home plate was located.