Polo Grounds

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The Polo Grounds was the name given to four different stadiums in Manhattan, New York City used by baseball's New York Giants from 1883 until 1957, New York Metropolitans (1883-85), the New York Yankees from (1912-22), and by the New York Mets in their first two seasons of 1962 and 1963. The New York Titans/Jets played their first 3 seasons there, from 1960 to 1963, and the New York Giants football team called it home from 1925-1955.

Contents

History

The original Polo Grounds was built in the 1870s for the sport of polo, thus accounting for its name. It was the only one of the four structures that was actually used for polo. The field was originally referred to in newspapers simply as "the polo grounds", and over time this generic designation became a proper name. It was converted to a baseball stadium when leased by the New York Metropolitans in 1880. The stadium was used jointly by the Giants and Metropolitans from 1883 until 1885, and the name stuck for each subsequent stadium of the Giants. The fourth and final Polo Grounds, which the Giants used until they moved to San Francisco after the 1957 season, and which the Mets used until Shea Stadium was completed in 1964, was the most famous, and is the one most people mean when they refer to the Polo Grounds. The name "Polo Grounds" did not actually appear prominently on any of the stadiums, until the Mets posted it with a large sign in 1962. The park was noted for its distinctive bathtub shape, with very short distances to the left and right field walls, but an unusually deep center field.

Use for football

While somewhat awkwardly laid out for baseball, the various incarnations of the Polo Grounds were well-suited for football, and hundreds of football games were played there over the years. Yale played football in the original 110th Street Polo Grounds in the 19th century, for some games which were expected to draw large crowds, including a couple of Thanksgiving contests in the 1880s The grounds were also used for many games by New York-area college football teams such as Fordham and Army. An upset victory by the visiting University of Notre Dame over Army in 1924 led to Grantland Rice's famous article about the Irish backfield, which he called "The Four Horsemen". The field was also the site of several Army-Navy Games in the 1910s and 1920s. The football Giants played there for the 1925-55 season, and also hosted the 1934, 1938, 1944, and 1946 NFL championship games at the Polo Grounds. In addition the Boston Redskins moved the 1936 game from Boston to the Polo Grounds, as part of their transition in relocating to Washington.

Decline

The football Giants left for Yankee Stadium following the 1955 NFL season, and the baseball Giants' disastrous 1956 season (which they spent most of in last place before a late-season surge moved them up to 6th) caused a further drag on ticket sales. The Giants' 1956 attendance was less than half of the figure for the Giants' World Series-winning 1954 season. That meant little to no money for stadium upkeep. Frustrated with the subsequent obsolescence and dilapidated condition of the Polo Grounds and the inability to secure a more modern stadium in the New York area, the Giants announced on August 19, 1957 that they would move following that season, after nearly three-quarters of a century, to the West Coast.

Home of the Titans/Jets

The ballpark then sat largely vacant for the next three years, until the newly-formed Titans and then the newly-formed Mets moved in, using the Polo Grounds as an interim home while Shea Stadium was being built. (As a 1962 baseball magazine noted, "The Mets will have to play in the Polo Grounds, hardly the last word in 20th Century stadia.") On September 11, 1960, the Titans won their first game at the Polo Grounds, beating Buffalo in the rain 27-3. Attendance was 10,200, but only 5,727 actually paid. The Titans suuposedly drew just 114,682 total admissions for the league's entire initial season in 1960; by 1962 this number had dwindled to a mere 36,161, but owner Harry Wismer often wildly exaggerated attendance figures. The low atttendances eventually forced Wismer to sell the club to a consortium including Sonny Werblin and Leon Hess. After the 1963 season, they moved the now-renamed Jets to Shea Stadium.

The End

The final incarnation of the stadium was indeed demolished in 1964, and a public housing project was erected on the site. Demolition of the Polo Grounds began in April of that year with the same wrecking ball that had been used four years earlier on Ebbets Field. The wrecking crew wore Giants jerseys and tipped their hard hats to the historic stadium as they began the dismantling. It took a crew of 60 workers more than four months to level the structure

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