Polo Grounds was the name given to four different
stadiums in Upper
Manhattan, New York
City used by baseball's New York Metropolitans from 1880 until 1885, New
York Giants from 1883 until
1957, the New York Yankees from 1912 until 1922, and by the New York Mets in their first two seasons of
1962 and 1963.
hosted the 1934
and 1942 Major League Baseball
As its name suggests, the original Polo Grounds was built in 1876
for the sport of polo
. Of the four stadiums
that carried this name over the years, the original structure was
the only one 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. Bounded on the south and north by 110th and 112th
Streets, and the east and west by Fifth and Sixth Avenues, just uptown of Central Park, 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
, and the name stuck for each subsequent
stadium of the Giants.
and final Polo Grounds, which was the Giants home until they moved
Francisco after the
1957 season, and which was also a temporary home for the Yankees
(1913-1922) and the Mets (1962-1963), was the most famous, and is
the one most people mean when they refer to the Polo
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 final version of the structure was noted for its distinctive
bathtub shape, with very short distances to the left and right
field walls, but an unusually deep center field.
Left field also had an upper deck ("the short porch") which
extended out over the field (after its 1923 extension), reducing
the distance from 279 feet (85 m) to about 250 feet (76 m). That
meant it was technically rather difficult to hit a home run
into the lower deck of the left field
stands, unless it was a line drive such as Bobby Thomson
's famous home run -- "the Shot Heard 'Round
-- in 1951.
No player ever hit a fly ball
the 483-foot (147 m) distant center-field wall, which fronted a
part of the clubhouse which overhung the field. Given that
overhang, it was not inherently clear what the actual "home run
line" would have been in straightaway center. Some sources listed
the center field
distance as 505, which
suggests that was where the true home run line would have been, at
the back of the clubhouse overhang. But if there were any ground
rules governing such a situation, they never had to be applied. The
last sporting event played was between the New York Titans
and the Buffalo Bills
The first Polo Grounds, Opening Day,
Polo Grounds I
original Polo Grounds stood at 110th Street between Fifth Avenue
and Sixth (now Lenox) Avenue, directly across 110th Street from the
northeast corner of Central
The venue's original purpose was for the
sport of polo
, and its name was initially
merely descriptive, not a formal name, often rendered as "the polo
grounds" in newspapers. The Metropolitans
, an independent team of
roughly major-league caliber, were the first professional baseball
team to play there, beginning in September 1880, and remained the
sole professional occupant through the 1882 season. At that time
the Metropolitans' ownership had the opportunity to bring them into
the National League
, but elected
instead to organize a new team, the New
(who soon came to be known as the Giants), mainly
using players from the Metropolitans and the newly defunct Troy Trojans
, and entered it in the
National League, while bringing what remained of the Metropolitan
club into the competing American Association
For this purpose the ownership built a second diamond
and grandstand at the park,
dividing it into eastern and western fields for use by the Giants
and Metropolitans respectively. Polo Grounds I thus hosted its
first Major League Baseball games in 1883 as the home stadium of
two teams, the American Association Metropolitans and the National
League Gothams. The dual-fields arrangement proved unworkable
because of faulty surfacing of the western field, and after various
other arrangements were tried, the Metropolitans and Giants
alternated play on the eastern field in later years until the
Metropolitans moved to the St. George Cricket Grounds on Staten
Island in 1886.
Earliest known image of Polo Grounds
I, from 1882
An early highlight of Giants' play at the Polo Grounds was Roger Connor
's home run over the right-field
wall and into 112th Street; visitors to the site today can judge
for themselves that this was an impressively long home run for its
time or any time. Connor eventually held the record for career home
runs that Babe Ruth
would break in
The original Polo Grounds was used not only for polo and
professional baseball, but often for college baseball and football
as well -- even by teams outside New York. The earliest known
surviving image of the field is an engraving of a baseball game
and Princeton University
on Decoration Day
(May 30), 1882.: Yale and
Harvard also played their traditional Thanksgiving Day
game there on November 29,
1883 and November 24, 1887. (See "American football" below.)
Polo Grounds II
The original Polo Grounds ceased to exist in 1889 when New York
City, in the process of turning the theoretical street grid that
had existed on maps for years into a reality in its uptown reaches,
extended West 111th Street through the grounds of the park. City
workers are said to have shown up suddenly one day and begun
cutting through the fence at the appropriate point for the new
street. There was significant sentiment in the city against this
move (the Giants had won the National League pennant the year
before and had a very enthusiastic following), and a bill was even
passed by the state legislature to give the Giants a variance on
the grid extension and allow the park to stand; but sitting
governor David B. Hill
, who had campaigned for office on a "home
rule" pledge, vetoed the bill on the grounds that whatever he might
think of the forced destruction of the park, the will of the city
government was to be respected. The loss of their park forced the
Giants to look quickly for alternative grounds.
The Giants opened the 1889 season at a ballfield in Jersey City
called Oakdale Park, playing their first two games there. Four days
later, they moved to the St. George Cricket Grounds (where the
Metropolitans had continued to play until their demise in 1887), as
an interim home for the next couple of months.
The Giants finally located another site within Manhattan, and moved
uptown to the far terminus of the then Ninth Avenue Elevated at
155th Street and Eighth Avenue. (For the Ninth Avenue Elevated and its
terminus at 155th Street and Eighth Avenue see abandoned subway stations (nysubway.org); see
also IRT Ninth Avenue
Line.) After closing out the St. George Grounds on June
14, the Giants played on the road for the next three weeks, and
finally opened their new facility on July 8.
vagabond existence in 1889, the Giants managed to win the pennant
and the World Series for the second consecutive year.
later Polo Grounds were located at 155th Street and Eighth Avenue
Douglass Boulevard) at the northwest corner.
The site, on which
a public housing project
stands, is overlooked to the north and west by a steep promontory
known as Coogan's Bluff
. The ballpark
itself was thus in the bottomland, or Coogan's Hollow. Polo Grounds
II was located in the southern portion of Coogan's Hollow. The land
remained in the Coogan estate, and the Giants were renters for
their entire duration at the ballpark. The grandstand of the second
Polo Grounds had a conventional curve around the infield, but the
shape of the property left the center field area actually closer
than left center or right center. This was not much of an issue in
the "dead ball era
" of baseball.
The Brooklyn Dodgers played a pair of home series at this ballpark
in late July and early August of 1890.
After the National League version of the New York Giants moved into
Polo Grounds III in 1891, Polo Grounds II was referred to as
, and was converted for other
sports such as football and track-and-field. It still existed as a
structure for nearly 20 more years. Babe Ruth's first home run as a
, on May 1, 1920, was characterized by
the New York Times
reporter as a "sockdolager" (i.e. a
decisive blow), and was described as traveling "over the right
field grand stand into Manhattan Field". Bill Jenkinson's modern
research indicates the ball traveled about 500 feet in total, after
clearing the Polo Grounds double decked right field stand.
Manhattan Field was a playground or vacant lot by then. Some years
later, the area was paved over, to serve as a parking lot for the
Polo Grounds III
The "third" and "fourth" Polo Grounds were actually the same
ballfield. The 1890 structure, Polo Grounds III, initially had a
totally open outfield bounded by just the outer fence, but bleachers
were gradually added. By the early
1900s, some bleacher sections encroached on the field from the foul
lines about halfway along left and right field. Additionally, there
was a pair of "cigar box" bleachers on either side of the "batter's eye
" in center field. The expansive
outfield was cut down somewhat by a rope fence behind which
(and early automobiles
) were allowed to park. By 1910,
bleachers enclosed the outfield, and the carriage ropes were gone.
The hodge-podge approach to the bleacher construction formed a
multi-faceted outfield area. There were a couple of gaps between
some of the sections, and that would prove significant in
Polo Grounds III opened for business in 1890 as the home stadium
for a second New York Giants
, the Players' League
version. The Players' League was a creation of Major League
Baseball's first union, the Brotherhood of Professional Base-Ball
Players. After failing to win concessions from National League
owners, the Brotherhood founded its own league in 1890. The
Players' League Giants played in a new stadium called Brotherhood
Park, located in the northern half of Coogan's Hollow, next door to
the old Polo Grounds II, otherwise bounded by rail yards and the
bluff. Brotherhood Park hosted its first game on April 19, 1890.
For one year the two editions of the Giants were neighbors, with
the National League Giants still playing in Polo Grounds II. If the
teams played on the same day, fans in the upper decks could watch
each others' games, and home run balls hit in one park might land
on the other team's playing field. After only one season the
Players' League folded and the Brotherhood's members went back to
the National League. The National League Giants then moved out of
Polo Grounds II and into Brotherhood Park, which was bigger. They
took their stadium's name with them, turning Brotherhood Park into
the Polo Grounds--Polo Grounds III. They stayed there for 67
Polo Grounds IV
On Friday, April 14, 1911, a fire of unknown origin swept through
of the grandstand portion of
Polo Grounds III, consuming the wood and leaving only the steel
uprights in place. The gaps between some sections of the stands
saved a good portion of the outfield seating, as well as the
clubhouse, from destruction. Giants owner John T. Brush decided to
Park from the Yankees while rebuilding the Polo Grounds
with concrete and steel.
The stadium's reconstruction was sufficiently far along to allow
the Polo Grounds to re-open on June 28, 1911, the date from which
later baseball guides dated the structure, now sometimes retronamed
as "Polo Grounds IV." The new structure was the sixth
concrete-and-steel stadium in the majors (and the second in the
National League, behind Forbes Field).
The new seating areas were rebuilt during
the season while the games went on. The new structure stretched in
roughly the same semi-circle as before from the left field corner
around home plate to the right field corner, and was also extended
into deep right-center field. The surviving bleachers were retained
pretty much as they were, with gaps remaining between the bleachers
and the new fireproof
The Giants rose from the ashes along with their ballpark, winning
the National League pennant in 1911 (as they also would in 1912 and
1913). As evidenced from the World Series programs, the team tried
to rename the new structure Brush Stadium
of their then-owner John T. Brush, but the name did not stick, and
it died with him. The remaining old bleachers were demolished
during the 1923
when the permanent double-deck was extended around most
of the rest of the field and new bleachers and clubhouse were
constructed across center field.
Polo Grounds ca.1922
Polo Grounds ca.1923
This version of the ballpark had its share of quirks. The
"unofficial" distances (never marked on the wall) down the left and
right field lines were 279 and 258 feet respectively, but there was
a 21 foot overhang in left field, which often intercepted fly balls
which would otherwise have been catchable and turned them into home
runs. Contrasting with the short distances down the lines were the
450-some foot distances in the gaps, with straightaway center field
483 feet distant from home plate
corners of the bleachers on either side of the clubhouse runway
were about 425 feet. The catch
that Willie Mays
made in the 1954 World Series
against Vic Wertz
of the Cleveland Indians
would have been a home
run in many other ballparks of the time. The bullpens
were actually in play, in the left and
right center field gaps. The outfield sloped downward from the
infield, and people in the dugouts often could only see the top
half of the outfielders.
New York Yankees sublet the Polo
Grounds from the Giants during 1913–1922 after their lease on
Park expired. After the 1922 season, the Yankees built
Stadium directly across the Harlem River from the Polo Grounds, a situation which spurred
the Giants to expand their park to reach a seating capacity comparable to the Stadium,
to stay competitive.
However, since nearly all the new
seating was in the outfield, the Stadium still had a lot more
"good" seats than did the Polo Grounds, at least for baseball. At
that point, the Polo Grounds most notably became better suited for
than it had been previously.
The Giants' first night game
stadium was played on May 24, 1940.
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.
football in the original 110th Street Polo Grounds in the 19th
century, for some games which were expected to draw large crowds,
including the Thanksgiving contests in
1883 and 1887.
(See also List of Harvard-Yale
In the 20th century, both the New York
of the National
and the New York
(then known as the Titans) of the American Football League
Polo Grounds as their home field before moving on to other sites.
Giants moved initially to Yankee Stadium in 1956 while the Jets, founded in 1960, followed
the New York Mets to Shea Stadium in 1964.
The grounds were also used for many games by New York-area college football
teams such as Fordham
. An upset victory by the
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
in the 1910s and 1920s.
The football Giants hosted the 1934
, 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
The Polo Grounds was the site of many famous boxing
matches as well, most notably the legendary
bout between Jack
and Luis Firpo
The Polo Grounds has held its fair share of international soccer
matches as well over the years. In 1926, Hakoah, an all-Jewish
side from Vienna, Austria, "drew the largest crowds ever to watch soccer in
America up to that time: three successive games drew 25,000,
30,000, and 36,000 spectators.
The highlight of the tour was
a May 1, 1926 exhibition game between Hakoah and an American Soccer League
team which drew 46,000 fans to the Polo Grounds in New York." (The
ASL team won 3–0.)
The first soccer played at the Polo Grounds was as far back as 1894
when the owners of the various major Baseball clubs thought it
would be a great way to fill their stadiums in the off season. Six
famous baseball franchises
era formed Association Football sections and fans were told that
many would be fielding their baseball stars on the Football field
in the opening season. The New
soccer team took the field in an all white kit with
black socks and played six games before the threat of a rival
baseball league being formed diverted the owner's attention away
from their new venture and caused it to be suspended mid-season.
The Giants lay third in the league after six games with two
victories, having played their matches in midweek in front of
attendances in the high hundreds paying 25 cents a game. Although
the owners remained positive about the venture and wanted to run it
again the following season this never happened and the Giants'
soccer team were no more.
On May 19
1935, the Scotland
National Football Team toured the United States, and in their first game played against an ASL
All-Star squad which was unofficially representing the United
Scotland won 5–1 in front of 25,000 people at the
Polo Grounds. In 1939, the Scots returned to America for another
tour, and played at the Polo Grounds twice. In their first game at
the Polo Grounds on May 21, 1939, Scotland tied the Eastern USA
All-Stars 1–1 in front of 25,072 fans. In their second game at the
Polo Grounds on June 18, 1939, Scotland beat the American League
Following World War II
, on September
26, 1948, the USA
3–1 in their first ever
game since independence before 25,000 fans at the Polo Grounds. On
June 9, 1950, a crowd of 21,000 fans came to the Polo Grounds to
watch a 'International Dream Double Header'. Beşiktaş J.K. of Turkey defeated the
American Soccer League All-Stars 3–1, and then Manchester United defeated Jönköping (the top amateur team in Sweden) 4–0.
17, 1960, Birmingham City of
England played Third Lanark of
Scotland and lost 4–1 at the Polo Grounds in New York
City. On August 6 of the same year, 25,440 patrons
showed up at the Polo Grounds to watch the inaugural International
Soccer League Final which saw Bangu of Brazil edge out
Kilmarnock FC of Scotland 2–0.
The following year, 1961, may have been the last year documented
that soccer was played at the Polo Grounds. The second edition of
the International Soccer League held most of its game at the Polo
Grounds, with a few games held in Montreal.
On July 16, 1961 Shamrock Rovers
beat Red Star Belgrade
5–1, on August 9,
7–0, and 4 days later on August 13,
Dukla Prague beat Everton again 2–0, thus winning the Dwight D.
Eisenhower Trophy. The combined attendance for both games at the
Polo Grounds was 31,627. In domestic league soccer, the Polo
Grounds was the home to the New
of the American Soccer League
On September 14
, the Polo Grounds hosted the final of the All-Ireland Senior
It was decided that New York would host this match as a
commemoration of the 1847 Irish famine
which forced a large number of Irish
to emigrate to America. This novel location for the game
was chosen for the benefit of New York's large Irish immigrant
population. It was the only time
that the final has been played outside of Ireland.
Willie Mays, The Catch and the 483
sign in 1954.
In Game 1 of the 1954 World
, Giants outfielder Willie
made a sensational
of a fly ball hit by the Cleveland Indians
' Vic Wertz
into deep center field, a catch which,
in the words of radio announcer Jack
, "must have looked like an optical illusion
to a lot of people", and
which turned the tide of that Series in the Giants' favor.
Babe Ruth hit many of his early signature blasts at the Polo
Grounds, reaching the center field seats on several occasions. His
longest blast at the grounds, over the right-center upper deck in
1921, was estimated at over 550 feet. Had Ruth played regularly in
the remodeled Polo Grounds, he would have been capable of hitting
the clubhouse if conditions were right. Neither he nor anyone else
ever did, but a few came close.
After the 1923 remodeling, only four players ever hit a home run
into the center field stands:
Brock, a member of the Chicago Cubs
the time, is the surprising name on that list (accomplishing the
feat on his 23rd birthday), as he was noted mostly for hits
(especially after being traded to the Cardinals in
), but he displayed
power-hitting capability from time to time, and one season hit 20
home runs, with a personal high of 21 in 1967
The final years
Part of the problem was that the stadium was not well maintained
from the late 1940s onward; while the baseball Giants owned the
stadium, they did not own the parcel where it stood. Also, the
neighborhood around the stadium was in decline by the early 1950s.
All of this combined to severely hold down ticket sales, even when
the Giants played well. In 1954, for instance, the baseball Giants
only drew 1.1 million fans (compared to over 2 million for the
) even as they won
the World Series.
The football Giants left for Yankee Stadium following the 1955 NFL season
, and the baseball Giants'
disastrous 1956 season (most of which they spent 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 San
The Giants, who won five World Series
championships in the Polo Grounds, have won zero World Series after
making the move to San Francisco.
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
In 1961, the city of New York decided to claim the land under
eminent domain, for the purpose of condemning the stadium and
building high-rise housing on the site. The Coogan family, which
still owned the property, fought this effort until it was finally
settled in the city's favor in 1967. (Stew Thornley, Land of
In the 1992 book The Gospel According to Casey
, by Ira
Berkow and Jim Kaplan, it is reported (p.62) that in 1963, Mets
manager Casey Stengel
, who had
bittersweet memories of his playing days at the Polo Grounds, had
this to say during a rough outing to pitcher
, whose greatest claim
to fame had been giving up Roger Maris
61st homer in 1961
: "At the end of
this season, they're gonna tear this joint down. The way you're
pitchin', the right field section will be gone already!"
incarnation of the stadium was indeed demolished in 1964, and the
Towers public housing project opened on the site in
1968. Demolition of the Polo Grounds began in
April of that year with the same wrecking
ball (painted to look like a baseball) 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.
Timeline and teams
- Polo Grounds I
- Polo Grounds II (otherwise known as Manhattan Field)
- Polo Grounds III (originally called Brotherhood Park)
- Polo Grounds IV (also known as Brush Stadium from 1911 to 1919)
- Giants (NL), 1911-1957
- Yankees (American League),
- Giants (NFL),
- Bulldogs (NFL) 1949
- Titans/Jets (AFL),
- Mets (NL), 1962-1963
Diagram of the Polo Grounds drawn in
Compiled from various photos, baseball annuals, The Official
Encyclopedia of Baseball
(Turkin & Thompson, 1951) and
by Phil Lowry.
- Left Field Line - 335 ft. (not posted)
- Center Field - 500 ft. (not posted)
- Right Field Line - 335 ft. (not posted)
- Left Field Line - 277 ft. (not posted)
- Center Field - 433 ft. (not posted)
- Right Field Line - 258 ft. (not posted)
- Left Field Line - 279 ft. (not posted - sometimes listed as
- Left Field Upper Deck Overhang - about 250 ft.
- Shallow Left Center - 315 ft.
- Left Center 1 - 360 ft.
- Left Center 2 - 414 ft.
- Deep Left Center - 447 ft. left of bullpen curve
- Deep Left Center - 455 ft. right of bullpen curve
- Center Field - approx. 425 ft. (unposted) corners of
- Center Field - 483 ft. posted on front of clubhouse balcony,
sometimes 475 ft.
- Center Field - 505 ft. (unposted) sometimes given as total C.F.
- Deep Right Center - 455 ft. left of bullpen curve
- Deep Right Center - 449 ft. right of bullpen curve
- Right Center 2 - 395 ft.
- Right Center 1 - 338 ft.
- Shallow Right Center - 294 ft.
- Right Field Line - 257 ft. 3 3/8 in. (not posted - sometimes
listed as 258)
- Backstop - 65 ft. sometimes also given as 74 ft.
The disparities in some of the posted distances, notably
straightaway center, have not been fully reconciled by researchers.
The closest object in straight center field was the Grant Memorial,
followed by the post supporting the overhang of the clubhouse
(above which the 483 or 475 signs were posted), and a roll-up door
several feet behind the overhang at ground level. The roof of the
protruding part of the clubhouse sloped back and met the vertical
wall of the larger part of the clubhouse. The exact objects
referred to by the numbers 475, 483 and 505 can be speculated but
- Benson, Michael. Ballparks of North America.
- Bergin, Thomas G. The Game: The Harvard-Yale Football
Rivalry. Yale Press, 1984.
- Harper's Young People. "A Game of Base-Ball at the
Polo Grounds, New York City, on Decoration Day — Yale vs.
Princeton." , v. III (1882), p. 524.
- Lowry, Philip J. Green Cathedrals.
- Thornley, Stew. Land of the
Giants: New York's Polo Grounds.
- Ziegel, Vic (text), New York
Daily News (photos), Guglberger, Claus (ed.) Summer in
the City. pp.8,71,126,184 provide good documentation of the
distance-markers on the walls
- SABR Biography
- Harper's Young People, v. III (1882), p. 524.
- Bergin, The Game, p. 308
- Oakdale Park
- St. George Cricket Grounds
- 1889 game log
- 1890 Brooklyn Dodgers schedule
- Schedule for 1890 Players' League Giants
- Polo Grounds at ballparks.com
- Soccer at the Polo Grounds
- Baseball Almanac: Polo Grounds