|50th anniversary of Giants' last home game in New York|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 29 September 2007 09:43|
NEW YORK (AP) -Several thousand fans gathered on the field in front of the Giants' office above the center-field clubhouse.
Some fans carried signs that read: ``Stay, Team, Stay.'' Others read: ``Don't Go, Giants.'' A trio playing two trumpets and a trombone sat in the visitors' bullpen in left field, playing the ``Giant Victory March.''
Before a crowd of 11,606, the Giants said goodbye to New York after 75 seasons with a 9-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at the Polo Grounds on Sept. 29, 1957.
Bob Friend pitched a six-hitter for the Pirates. Johnny Antonelli started and lost for the Giants, lasting just two innings. Pittsburgh's John Powers hit the final Polo Grounds homer with the Giants as the home team, a drive off Ramon Monzant that landed on the right-field roof in the ninth inning.
Willie Mays led off the bottom of the ninth and bounced back to Friend. After running out the grounder, Mays turned for the Giants dugout and received a standing ovation.
Mays was the last in the line of New York Giants' greats that included Christy Mathewson, manager John McGraw, Bill Terry, Mel Ott and Carl Hubbell.
The Giants dominated New York baseball for much of the first quarter of the 20th century, winning 10 pennants by 1925, then adding more in 1933, 1936, 1937, 1951 and 1954. The team also won five World Series championships in the 20th century after winning two of the 19th century version.
Despite all that success, on Aug. 19, 1957, the Giants announced they were moving to San Francisco for the 1958 season. On Oct. 8, the Brooklyn Dodgers said they would join the Giants in the promised land of California and relocate to Los Angeles.
``Lack of attendance,'' Giants owner Horace Stoneham said when asked what prompted the move. ``We're sorry to disappoint the kids of New York, but we didn't see many of their parents out there at the Polo Grounds in recent years.''
The Giants drew just 653,923 fans to the Polo Grounds that year, an average of 8,493 that was the lowest among the eight National League teams. Walter O'Malley, whose Brooklyn Dodgers drew 1,028,258 to Ebbets Field, was vilified perhaps even more than Stoneham.
It was a different era: There were 16 major league teams in 13 markets, with Kansas City the westernmost team and Washington at the southern edge. The NFL had just 12 teams, the NBA eight and the NHL six.
Baseball's expansion to the West Coast boosted the featured weekend game on network television.
Baseball would add two AL expansion teams in 1961 and two more, including the New York Mets, a replacement for the departed Giants and Dodgers.
Oddly, it was the arrogance and intransigence of the administration of Mayor Robert Wagner that caused both teams to leave New York.
Almost immediately following the Giants' surprising 1954 World Series sweep of the Cleveland Indians, the city announced it was confiscating a sizable part of the Polo Grounds parking area for a new school.
Stoneham was furious, knowing that his fans had been moving to the northern and western suburbs and that parking was critical to the Giants' survival. His pleas fell on unhearing ears at City Hall and he determined to leave.
At the end of the 1955 NFL season, the football Giants announced they were crossing the Harlem River to Yankee Stadium after 31 seasons in the Polo Grounds, since they could ``no longer be assured that the baseball team would remain'' in the Polo Grounds.
Meanwhile, O'Malley was meeting the same resistance at City Hall in his efforts to build a new ballpark atop the Long Island Rail Road terminal in downtown Brooklyn, a site he felt was needed to serve a fan base starting to shift to Long Island.
Despite O'Malley's pledge to pay for a new ballpark, the city declined to exercise eminent domain authority over the area, which is currently proposed for a development that would include a new arena for the NBA's New Jersey Nets.
In retrospect, the shift of two NL teams out of the nation's largest market at the same time did much more than take major league baseball to the Pacific Coast. The shock waves the moves generated altered the mind-set of American professional sports.
By their actions, Stoneham and O'Malley not only changed the baseball map and made national network sports television viable, they created the pressure for expansion that has since brought major sports to many parts of the country.