The Polo Grounds

The Polo Grounds was an iconic early stadium located in the Upper Manhattan neighborhood of New York City. It became particularly famous as a baseball stadium. However, it was actually used for American Football extensively up until the 1960s. The original facility dates back to 1876, but it was actually demolished in 1889. As the name might suggest, the original incarnation of this stadium was specifically built for polo. However, this particular sport fell out of favor with the mainstream audience, which seemed to prefer baseball and American football in terms of attendance and ticket sales. The location was located just north of the famous Central Park, the green lung of New York City. It was quite easy to reach the venue with public transport due to the great subway system, busses, and other means of transportation. When most people think of the Polo Grounds, they mostly reference the fourth incarnation of this particular facility. The second Polo Ground was replaced by a third, which was built in 1890. This stadium experienced some issues due to a fire, prompting some renovations in 1911. The venue was home to the infamous “Merkle’s Boner,” one of the most controversial games in the history of baseball, involving a rookie, Fred Markle, failing to advance second base on a sure-fire hit.

Among many amazing highlights The Polo Grounds is sadly famous for some deaths that occurred at this facility. Most notable, Ray Chapman, shortstop for the Cleveland Indians, was hit in the head by a pitch, which was thrown by Carl Mays of The Yankees. This happened in 1920s, and in those days, batters were not required to wear helmets, and it was actually highly unusual to do so. Ray Chapman was hit in the head unprotected, and unfortunately passed away from the hit nearly 12 hours later. Chapman holds the unfortunate (but reassuring) record of being the only players to ever die from an injury sustained during a major league baseball game. This accident prompted better safety standards for players. While the Polo Grounds had somewhat of a heyday during the 20s and 30s, it was actually quite run down during the 40s. The facility was maintained poorly, and it quickly became obsolete. In addition to that, the baseball Giants did not own the land on which the stadium stood, causing some bureaucratic concerns. By the 1950s, the whole neighborhood had acquired a negative reputation, having deteriorated significantly. All of these factors, coupled perhaps with the tension stemming by the second world war actually led the Giants to experience a relatively low attendance rate, drawing smaller crowds. The Giants decided to relocate to the Yankee Stadium, and the Polo Grounds were actually falling in a spiral of even greater obsolescence. At the end of the 50s, the Polo Grounds sat vacant, for almost 3 full years. The Titans of New York, which later changed their name to New York Jets, actually started to use the facility in 1960, and so did the Mets, while waiting for the completion of Shea Stadium, which was being constructed at the time. In 1961, however, the city of New York made the decision to claim the land by eminent domain, even though it was owned by the Coogan family. The city and condemned the stadium and the site eventually became home to a high-rise housing project. The latter is currently known as the Polo Grounds towers, in tribute to the facility, which had been on Coogan’s Buff for over 70 years by that point in time.