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Polo Grounds [IV] / Brush Stadium (1911-1963)

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  • Originally posted by Anubis2051 View Post
    Is the polo grounds the only stadium in MLB history where you could see another MLB stadium from inside while both were active? Braves Field and Fenway faced away from each other, and Wrigley and Comiskey were on opposite sides of town.
    While the city (Boston) is correct, I believe that you actually meant the AL's Huntington Avenue Grounds and it's adjacent NL counterpart, the South End Grounds of the early 1900's.

    (Text and illustration from Baseball Memories 1900-1909 by Marc Okkonen)

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    • Here is that Daily News article:

      Originally posted by StanTheMan View Post
      Can't wait to see it! Thanks. It will probalby include nothing new for me (as I've read the book) but I'm still quite interested.

      Bryan in Indy

      A SHOT IN THE DARK. It's CSI: Polo Grounds as filmmaker searches for Bobby's ball
      Sunday, June 4th 2006, 1:32AM

      "The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again." -- Red Smith, Oct., 4, 1951

      Dan Austin is the assistant director of engineering at Lutheran All Faiths Cemetery, the sprawling graveyard in Queens that is the final resting place for more than a half-million deceased New Yorkers. He likes this gig because he has an insatiable interest in history, architecture and landmark preservation.

      But deep down, he'll always be a cop.

      Austin, a third-generation police officer, spent most of his 20-plus years on the New York Police Department as a crime-scene investigator, one of those detectives who can solve a murder by analyzing a speck of blood, some clothing fibers, a microscopic hair - the kind you see on TV. He retired from the job last year but he still appears regularly in court as a forensics expert.

      "I got out March 22, 2005. I miss the job dearly," says Austin, an American flag pin in the lapel of his suit jacket. "What a learning experience. You could never learn at any university what you learn as a city cop."

      Austin sits in a small office in the cemetery's administration building, talking excitedly over the roar of giant lawn mowers about his latest case with a filmmaker named Brian Biegel. Austin and Biegel have teamed up to solve a mystery that has baffled sports historians, memorabilia collectors and baseball fans for decades: What happened to the Ralph Branca fastball that Bobby Thomson drove over the left-field wall at the Polo Grounds on Oct. 3, 1951? Where is that Shot Heard 'Round the World, the ball that broke millions of Brooklyn hearts and gave the New York Giants the most unbelievable National League championship in history?

      "Finding that ball," Austin says, "would be like finding a slice of American history."

      In the famous picture by Daily News photographer Hank Olen - it shows Brooklyn outfielder Andy Pafko standing near the 315-foot sign, looking up as the crowd above him goes nuts - it appears a heavyset man in a dark jacket caught the ball. An editor at the Daily News even slapped an arrow that points to the chubby fan. But the guy has never been identified and he has never come forward with the ball.

      If he did, it would be like hitting the lottery: Mike Heffner, the president of Lelands auction house, says the ball would sell for at least $1 million - maybe even $3 million. "There's so much mythology around that home run," Heffner says.

      Biegel says his obsession began two years ago when he read a column by the Daily News' Vic Ziegel about how Lelands had launched a nationwide campaign to find Thomson's ball, guaranteeing at least $1 million to anybody who could produce it. "It was like a light bulb went on over my head," Biegel says. "I thought, 'The search for this ball would make a great documentary.'"

      "The Shot Heard 'Round the World," a film still in the making, was born that day. "As a filmmaker I like to tell big stories," Biegel says. "For me, there was no bigger story than finding the ball from the biggest home run in sports history."

      Heffner estimates the odds of actually locating Thomson's home run ball are an astronomical 1-in-200 million. And Biegel acknowledges he faces an uphill battle. That's why he called in the guys who know how to find needles in haystacks: New York's Finest.

      Biegel gave Olen's photo to Austin and another retired NYPD cop named Hal Sherman, one of the nation's leading forensics experts. Using the same techniques investigators use to solve crimes you might see on "CSI: New York" or "CSI: Miami", Austin and Sherman have developed a new theory about who caught the ball and where it might be today.

      Biegel then came to the Daily News with a request for help: He wants our readers to identify the people in Olen's photos, those who sat in sections 34 and 35 of the Polo Grounds during that historic game. He believes Daily News readers can help him locate witnesses who know what happened to Thomson's ball - and maybe even the ball itself.

      "Is it possible we'll find the ball?" asks Austin, gazing out at the ocean of graves in his cemetery. "Yeah, anything is possible. But even if somebody brings us a ball that fits all the criteria, we may never know for sure. Nothing is certain in life. The only thing that is 100% is we're all gonna die, just like the 537,000 people out here."

      In 1951, longtime New York sportscaster Sal Marciano was a 10-year-old boy growing up in what is now trendy Carroll Gardens. Fifty-five years ago, Marciano says, Brooklyn was a collection of ethnic enclaves, and the kids in his predominantly working-class Italian neighborhood rarely ventured far from home. The only thing he had in common with African-Americans kids in Bed-Stuy and Irish kids in Windsor Terrace was the Brooklyn Dodgers. "Brooklyn was very parochial back then," says the WPIX broadcaster, one of the voices in Biegel's film. "The first black man I ever saw was Jackie Robinson. But we didn't see him as a black man. We saw him as a Dodger."

      Like Brooklyn itself, the Dodgers were an ethnically diverse team with a blue-collar work ethic, regular guys who just happened to be able to hit .300 or throw 90-mph fastballs. "You'd see Gil Hodges in the supermarket," says Angelo Pomo, a 78-year-old longtime Brooklyn resident who was also interviewed for Biegel's film. "He lived on Bedford Ave., for crying out loud. He was one of us."

      New York City, of course, had two other Major League teams, but no self-respecting Brooklyn kid would ever root for them. The Yankees were a soulless pinstriped team that bought championships every year - and played in the inferior American League, to boot. The Giants represented everything Brooklyn was not: intellectuals, WASPs, people with money.

      "Giant fans? They were from Manhattan," Marciano says.

      Marciano was watching the game at home on his family's black-and-white television - one of the first TVs in the neighborhood - when Thomson crushed his young spirit that day. He remembers feeling like a zombie as he walked to an altar boy meeting later that evening.

      "Oct. 3, 1951," he says, "became seared in my brain as one of the worst days of my life."

      In Brooklyn, it is a date that went down in infamy: people who lived through it will always remember where they were and what they were doing. "I still cry when I think about it," says Pomo. "Fifty-five years later and I still can't get it out of my system. You have to understand, Gil Hodges and Jackie Robinson were like members of the family. When they lost that game, everybody in Brooklyn suffered together."

      The Brooklyn Dodgers, of course, had been perennial ne'er-do-wells for years, affectionately called "Dem Bums" by their fans. But they finally seemed to put all the pieces together in 1951, with a solid lineup that included Robinson, Hodges, Duke Snider and Roy Campanella as well as a pitching staff anchored by Don Newcombe, who won 20 games that season and Preacher Rowe, who won 22. By Aug. 11, 1951, the Dodgers had built a massive 131/2 -game lead over their hated rivals in upper Manhattan.

      The Dodgers compiled a respectable 26-22 record for the rest of the season. The Giants, however, went on an amazing tear, winning 37 of their last 44 games, including the last seven of the season (one reason for their surge, according to a 2001 story in the Wall Street Journal: The Giants developed an elaborate scheme at the Polo Grounds to steal opposing catchers' signs). On the last day of the season, both teams had posted 96-58 records. The National League pennant would be decided by a three-game playoff.

      The Giants won the first game, 3-1, at Ebbets Field, thanks to Thomson's two-run homer off Branca. The Dodgers took Game 2 when rookie Clem Labine threw a 10-0 shutout at the Polo Grounds.

      In Game 3, the Dodgers headed into the bottom of the ninth with what looked like a secure 4-1 lead. But the overworked Newcombe, pitching on just two days' rest, started to fall apart. He gave up a single to the Giants' Alvin Dark and another single to Don Mueller, which sent Dark to third. Monte Irvin, who led the National League with 121 RBI that year, blew his chance to drive in a run by popping out. But Whitey Lockman hit a double down the left-field line, scoring Dark. Mueller slid awkwardly into third, injuring his ankle. New York manager Leo Durocher sent Clint Hartung in as a pinch-runner.

      With the hard-slugging Thomson up and rookie sensation Willie Mays on deck, Brooklyn skipper Charlie Dressen decided to pull Newcombe, but didn't have many options. He'd burned out his pitching staff in the final week of the season. He gave the ball to Branca, who'd supplied Thomson with several of his 31 home runs that season.

      A lot of fans questioned Dressen's decision, but at least one was delighted: According to an Oct. 4, 1951, story in the Daily News, Branca's fiancee Ann Mulvey (now his wife), whose family owned 25% of the team, turned to club president Walter O'Malley and said, "Isn't it nice of Dressen to call in Ralphie to nail down the pennant?"

      Branca's first pitch was a fastball down the middle for a strike. His second pitch, intended to set up Thomson for a down-and-away breaking ball, was up and in. Thomson yanked the ball down the left-field line. Ann Mulvey fainted.

      "There's a long drive," WMCA-AM broadcaster Russ Hodges told his audience. "It's gonna be, I believe...THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! Bobby Thomson hits into the lower deck of the left-field stands! The Giants win the pennant and they're going crazy! Ohhhhh-oh!!!"

      The Giants lost the 1951 World Series to the Yankees, but Thomson's homer still represents a moment that sends tingles down baseball fans' spines. It inspired an episode of M*A*S*H and two books - "Underworld" and "Pafko at the Wall" by author Don Delillo. Sonny Corleone was listening to the game on his radio when he was shot to death at a Jersey toll booth in "The Godfather." Curator Ted Spencer uses Thomson to inspire the thousand of kids who visit the Baseball Hall of Fame every year: "Thomson was never going to be a Hall of Famer," Spencer says he tells his visitors. "But if you show up every day and do your job, you could go down in history."

      Big Apple baseball fans will never forget Oct. 3, 1951, says Sarah Henry, the chief curator of the Museum of the City of New York, because it symbolizes a perfect moment in the city's history, even for the losers. Sure, there were problems: New York boys were being sent to a bloody war in Korea, crazy Joe McCarthy was seeing Reds everywhere, the Soviets had just acquired the bomb and racial discrimination continued to haunt America.

      But for the generation that had survived the Great Depression and World War II, these were good times. Food and gas rationing had ended. The GI Bill gave veterans money to attend college and buy their own homes. "There had been a lot to recover from, and people were eager to embrace a normal life. Baseball was a big part of that," she says. "New York had three teams and they were all good. You could walk down the street and follow the games on the radio. Baseball epitomized the New York experience in the early '50s."

      Perhaps most important, New Yorkers had a sense that their kids would live better lives than they did. "Our parents had battled discrimination," Marciano says. "They had lived in poverty. They worked on the docks. We were privileged. We had food on the table. We went to school. It was a happy time and baseball was part of that."

      A few years later, it would be all over. The Dodgers and the Giants left New York for California. Drugs, racial tensions, red-lining banks and white flight turned New York into an urban wasteland. It took decades for the city to recover.

      And after all that, Bobby Thomson's famous home run ball is still missing.

      The conventional wisdom is that the heavyset guy nabbed the Thomson ball as it flew into the stands.

      According to a man named Bill Moore, Chubby gave the ball to a co-worker, who happened to be Moore's father. Moore sold the ball at a Leland's auction last year for more than $40,000.

      "It could have been the ball, but we can't prove it," Heffner says. "We do believe the ball came from that game. But it looks like our extensive campaign to locate the ball has come up empty-handed."

      There are others, too, who claim they have the ball. A man named Jack Bigel told Ziegel last year that he bought Thomson's ball for $2 at a Long Island Salvation Army. A man named Steve Fader says his uncle gave him the ball two days after the game.

      None of these people, however, have convinced Biegel.

      According to the filmmaker, the ball must have a Spalding logo and a stamp that includes the name of then-commissioner Ford Frick. It should be able to pass forensic testing. It should be accompanied with a ticket stub from Section 34 or 35 of the Polo Grounds. The bearer should be visible in Olen's photo - or be able to prove they are a relative or friend of somebody in the picture. Additional proof - celebratory photos taken with the ball at the Polo Grounds, for example - are welcome.

      There would be no mystery, of course, if Thomson had hit his home run decades later, in an era when Mark McGwire's 70th home run ball sold for $3 million and Nolan Ryan's jock strap went for $25,000. Fans would have brawled for the ball in the stands. The victor would have been interviewed by TV crews. The ball would have eventually wound up in an auction, where it would probably sell for far more than the $250,000 memorabilia dealers say Barry Bonds' 715th home run ball will fetch.

      But because Thomson hit his home run long before memorabilia collectors spent obscene amounts of money on grass-stained jerseys and splintered bats, it simply vanished from the public eye as soon as it cleared the wall at 3:57 that autumn afternoon 55 years ago.

      In November, Biegel brought Olen's Daily News photo to Austin and a city cop named Henry Rogan. The arrow, Austin says, threw them off; the arrow kept directing them to Chubby. So they started to look at other people in the picture. Austin followed their vision lines like they were gun shots. The vision lines all converged on one spot.

      Austin passed the picture to his pal Pat McCarthy, a sports photographer who tweaked the picture to give new perspectives the unsuspecting eye might not catch. Armed with the enhanced photo, Austin was able to find the ball, in mid-flight, among the leaping fans in a grainy black-and-white picture.

      Looking for a second opinion, Biegel brought the photo to Sherman. Sherman independently reached the same conclusion as Austin: The ball soared way over Chubby's outstretched arms, to a man two or three rows back. Unless he had concrete hands, it should have been an easy catch.

      And now Biegel wants your help in locating that man and finding Thomson's historic ball. "The success of the film does not depend on whether or not we find the Thomson ball," he says. "The real mystery is in the search. The real intrigue is in the hunt for this treasure."

      Do you know what happened to Bobby Thomson's famous home run ball? Do you recognize any of the people in the photographs or know anyone who was sitting in sections 34 or 35 in the Polo Grounds on Oct. 3, 1951? Please contact Tangerine Films at Or call them on their toll-free line:866-280-3906

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      • Originally posted by Lpeters199 View Post
        Jeff Chandler vs. Jersey Joe Walcott screen capture from Getty Footage video clip:
        It's no coincidence that Jeff Chandler would be promoting his movie at the Polo Grounds- he was a huge Giants fan over the years. Occasionally, he would work out with the team; one of the pictures I'm using for my upcoming book is one of Chandler in uniform at spring training with Mays and Johnny Antonelli. He sang the National Anthem before Game Four when the Giants won the World Series in 1954; John Daly made reference to that when Jeff was the Mystery Guest on "What's My Line" the following night. He was at the last game the New York Giants played at the Polo Grounds in September of 1957, too.Quite a fan.


        • That would be the city of Cleveland’s proposed domed stadium from the mid 80’s.

          Here is the same site from the same angle today.


          • Ron Burgandy... um - Will Farrell is guaranteed to play Dan Austin in the film version of Biegel's story.
            "Herman Franks to Sal Yvars to Bobby Thomson. Ralph Branca to Bobby Thomson to Helen Rita... cue Russ Hodges."


            • Originally posted by chip View Post
              That would be the city of Cleveland’s proposed domed stadium from the mid 80’s.

              Here is the same site from the same angle today.
              guess that would splain why it was in the Plain Dealer photo files. But how does Willie mean goodwill to Cleveland?


              • From NYPL site:

                Sorry if these are reposts.
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                • Handsome Structures Everywhere Built With Hy-Rib
                  I recently came across this cool old construction ad featuring the Polo Grounds. I don't have the exact year...but I'm guessing around 1910's.
                  Say hello on Twitter @BSmile & Facebook "Baseball by BSmile"


                  • Here's a beautiful aerial of upper Manhattan from Wiki that shows an overview of the Polo Grounds site--and two unidentified ballparks across the river.
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                    • President Eisenhower in 1945 from LIFE:
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                      Last edited by Lpeters199; 08-11-2009, 11:36 PM.


                      • Article on Robert Moses running the Giants out of NYC

                        I found this article (hope it was not posted before) where it shows that Robert Moses helped run a MLB team out of not that team in Brooklyn, but the Giants. I think this article is very interesting as it talks about the Mets, Titans/Jets, and Giants dealings with the Polo Grounds 1953-1964 including court trials . I pasted a small part of the article, with the link below it.

                        On November 6, 1953, Moses sent a letter to Horace Stoneham, owner of the Giants. Moses was not a baseball fan or an appreciator of spectator sports. The letter read as follows:

                        November 6, 1953
                        Mr. Horace C. Stoneham
                        National Exhibition Co.
                        100 West 42 Street
                        New York 36, N.Y.
                        Dear Mr. Stoneham:
                        The newspapers have carried numerous stories in the past year to the effect that various baseball clubs were considered transferring their franchises to other cities. While I have not read any announcement to that effect about the New York Giants, it seemed quite obvious from the attendance figures that the maintenance of a separate stadium must be a terrific drain on the ball club.You are familiar with the housing project which the City built just north of the Polo Grounds. The site, occupied by the Polo Grounds itself and the parking field adjacent thereto, being one of the last large open spaces in Manhattan, would make an excellent site for additional housing.
                        I have no direct knowledge about the matter, but it would seem to me that the owners of the New York Yankees would welcome the idea of having another club in a different league use their park as has been done successfully in other places. To an outsider, it would appear that it would certainly save money for both clubs.
                        I don't know how many years your lease has to go on the Coogan property or what other stumbling blocks there might be in the way of this proposal. I should like very much to know whether you have considered such a consolidation and whether you consider it feasible and desirable. Is there any possibility of such a consolidation becoming effective by the next baseball season?
                        Cordially, Robert Moses, Co-Ordinator

                        Feeley stated that this letter started the Giants in the direction of leaving New York.
                        Afterwards, Stoneham and Feeley visited Moses in his office on Randalls Island, a small island located in the East River between Manhattan and the Bronx. Moses stated that he wanted to put public housing on the Polo Grounds site. When Moses suggested that the Giants move into Yankee Stadium, Stoneham told him that such doubling-up was not the custom in baseball.
                        Feeley also pointed to an incident which happened in 1955. The Giants had leased a small parking lot on the north side of 155th Street. The City condemned the small parking lot to put a school there. Feeley described this as another sign that the Giants were insecure in their Polo Grounds home.
                        Attendance at Giants games declined in the 1950's as the team dropped in the standings after 1954. In 1956, home attendance was 707,579; in 1957 it was 700,279. The Giants also lost the rental paid by the football Giants after 1955. The average annual rent paid by the football Giants for the 1951-55 period was $53,480.
                        Feeley stated that the baseball Giants left New York primarily because they believed that the City was going to take the Polo Grounds; the meeting with Moses and the seizure of the parking lot on 155th Street were the source of this anxiety. Feeley said that Stoneham began serious consideration of leaving New York in 1956 or 1957. He also said that if the City had offered the Giants a municipal stadium, they would not have left.

                        There a lots of tid bits in the article that may be interesting to some on BF.



                        • As a comercial real estate appraiser I found that a very interesting article. Surprisingly in the end the Judge seemed to have the best handle on the value of the PG. I wonder what the zoning was back then.

                          Funny how Moses said the Giants should share a stadium with the Yankees who ended up sharing the Moses built Shea with the Mets two decades later.


                          • 1944 photo

                            Best old photo of the brush staircase on the left
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