Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds

Polo Grounds (Upper)
Yankee Stadium (Lower)
So Close Together in Space;
So Far Away from Each other in Results.

Although most of you know about it, maybe some of you are also like me. Having not grown up around the Polo Grounds and the original Yankee Stadium, and even though I have enough age to me that I could have been a regular ticket buying customer of both places in my youth, that absence of direct contact with either venue was never offset by the reading I had done on each place during and after the physical disappearance of both places as a close physical pairing. That potential perspective was destroyed in 1964 when the old Polo Grounds was demolished as an entity, save for the John T. Brush Stairway that lived on as a change-of-purpose pedestrian travel path for residents of the immediate neighborhood.

It wasn’t until I started looking at photos that contained both ballparks as the shared content that it really came home to me how close these two great icons of the game really were to each other. The featured photo that mastheads this column is probably the best I’ve ever seen for showing how close these two physical space neighbors actually were.

In a photo that appears to have been taken in either the late 1920s or early 1930s, that’s the original Yankee Stadium on the southeast side Bronx side of the Harlem River and the Polo Grounds on the northeast Upper Manhattan side of the same water channel.

After years of cohabitation as tenants of the NL Giants at the Polo Grounds, the growing tensions between the Al Yankees and their landlord hosts got the break they both needed when the latter club moved to their new 58,000 seat edifice in 1923. Babe Ruth would get credit early for the first home run ever hit in Yankee Stadium and he did it in the very first regular season game ever played on the new Bronx field. Leave it to future Hall of Fame Yankee Manager Casey Stengel, however, to bite a little of Babe’s thunder in the World Series meeting between the two clubs in that first 1923 Yankee Stadium season. As an all out hustling outfielder and premier character player for the Giants at that time, Stengel would bang out an inside the park round tripper in the 9th inning of Game 1 to capture both the game, 5-4, and to register his name in the books as the man to hit the first World Series homer at the new 1923 park. The Yankees would take their first World Series title in that maiden voyage year in “The House That Ruth Built.” As we all know now, the Yankees were just getting started as the greatest championship dynasty team in the history of all American club sports.

Stuff happens. In the 20th century, however,  if we’re talking about long-term championship runs, stuff mainly happened in the Bronx. And not so much at the nearby park across the river at Coogan’s Bluff.

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

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3 Responses to “Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds”

  1. Cliff Blau Says:

    Must be later than early 30s, since the RF grandstand extends to fair territory.

  2. Tom Hunter Says:

    Like you, Bill, it wasn’t until the 1980s while looking at an aerial photo with the Polo Grounds in the foreground and Yankee Stadium in the distance that I realized how close the two ballparks were.

  3. gregclucas Says:

    I agree it appears it has to be later than the 1930s since I think I detect light towers on top of Yankee Stadium in addition to construction changes from he early days. A minor point, of course, the story was truly how close to each other the stadiums were located.

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