Posts Tagged ‘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]

Before they were known as the New York Jets

January 12, 2011

They were the New York Titans. Formed in 1960 as part of the new American Football League, the Titans played at the crumbling Polo Grounds—former home turf of baseball’s New York Giants.

“On September 11th, the Titans took their field for the first time ever at a rain soaked Polo Grounds against the Buffalo Bills,” says

“A disappointing crowd of only 10,200 showed up to watch the Titans win 27-3. Attendance would not improve as the Titans and AFL played in front of empty stadiums all season in the league’s inaugural season.”

So when did the name—and their luck—change? In 1963, the Titans were sold to a new owner. The new Shea stadium was now their home, and the team’s name changed to reflect the jets flying to and from LaGuardia Airport.

The mysterious staircase near 158th Street

October 4, 2010

At the tail end of Highbridge Park, at about 158th Street and Edgecombe Avenue in Harlem, lies a decrepit staircase. It’s in bad shape, fenced off from pedestrians.

So where did it lead to? It’s the last remnant of the Polo Grounds, home to the New York Giants baseball team from 1890 until 1957, when they departed for San Francisco.

The staircase took fans down to the stadium, which was built against a cliff here called Coogan’s Bluff.

You can still read the plaque on one the landings: “The John T. Brush Stairway Presented By the New York Giants.”

John T. Brush was the Giants’ owner who rebuilt the Polo Grounds after a fire in 1911. The team dedicated the then-new staircase to him in 1913, who had died a year earlier.

Baseball’s other New York Giants

May 20, 2010

While the New York Giants of the National League held court at the Polo Grounds in the first half of the 20th century, a couple of other teams with the same name played Negro League ball around the city.

The New York Lincoln Giants got their start in 1911. 

Home was Olympic Field, at Fifth Avenue and 136th Street, where they played at least one exhibition game against the National League Giants (the big-league Giants won, 3-0). 

The Lincoln Giants reigned over other Eastern teams before World War I, after which they sank to the bottom of the rankings.

The team disbanded in 1930, a victim of the Depression.

The Brooklyn Royal Giants (left), formed in 1905, also dominated prior to World War I.

They played home games at Dexter Park, a former racetrack in Woodhaven, Queens. The Royal Giants threw in the towel in 1942 after slipping into semi-pro status in the 1930s.

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.