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Given up for dead more times than an alley cat, New York’s historic landmark, the Polo Grounds, at long last is ready for its final interment.

The end was signaled last night when, as the sun was setting behind Coogan’s Bluff, the New York Mets, occupants of the arena for the last two years, finished moving the last of their personal belongings from the ancient clubhouse on Eighth Avenue.

With this move, the Mets committed themselves, come hell or high water right out of Flushing Bay, to open their 1964 National League season next April in Shea Stadium, their new home in Flushing Meadow.

The Oldest Ball Park

The passing of the Polo Grounds, nestled snugly these many years under the lee of Coogan’s Bluff, marks the end of an era. Few sports arenas match it in historical background. Certainly no major league baseball plant today matches it in years.

It was built in 1889 under circumstances most unusual. Even its name is unusual, because they never played polo at the Polo Grounds.

The New York Giants of the eighteeneighties made their home in a dinky little park on 110th Street and Fifth Avenue. Polo was played there, by the way. The Giants’ owners, John B. Day, a wealthy manufacturer, wasn’t interested in polo, however, and he didn’t like the fact that half the crowd of 12,000 that turned out for the Giants’ opening game could not be seated.

So, in 1888, the Giants pulled out. They played some of their games in Jersey City. They even tried St. George, Staten Island, the site of the B. O. yards where Buffalo Bill and the circus people occasionally pitched their tents.

In 1889, there developed an “outlaw” baseball war with the Brotherhood League setting itself up as a rival to the already established National League. New York now had two clubs, and that inspired the building of the new Polo Grounds at 155th Street and Eighth Avenue.

2 Clubs in 1 Park

In 1890, both New York clubs occupied the park. The following winter, the Brotherhood League folded and the Giants took over as sole occupants of the Polo Grounds. It was to remain their home for the next 67 years.

However, it wasn’t until 1902 that the Polo Grounds really began taking on stature. That year the flaming spirit of John J. McGraw burst out of Baltimore to take over as manager of the Giants, and for the next thirty years Coogan’s Bluff was to resound to the feats of the Little Napoleon.

When McGraw took over in 1902, the Giants were hopeless tailenders much as are the Mets today. By 1903, he had

Tempest and turmoil followed the fiery leader with almost every move. In 1908,
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he became involved in a terrific row that ended in a playoff that the Giants lost to their arch foes, the Cubs. Those were the Cubs of the TinkerstoEverstoChance days. Christy Mathewson, Joe McGinnity, Rube Marquard and Chief Meyers were the Giant mainstays.

Fire Destroys Stands

In 1909, the wooden stands of the picturesque park, with its carriage drive circling the outfield, were demolished by fire. In its wake rose the steel and concrete structure that eventually took its present shape.

In 1913, the Giants made a move that was to shape their destiny in the years that followed. They took in as tenants the New York Yankees, a rather bedraggled outfit that had been struggling along in their Hilltop park on 165th Street.

But in 1920 those Yanks brought in a fellow named Ruth. The Babe exploded 54 home runs that year, many of them sailing high over the towering rightfield roof of the Polo Grounds.

McGraw boiled, but there was nothing he could do about it. His Giants won four straight pennants from 1921 through 1924, but Ruth continued to steal his thunder. McGraw had had enough, and forced the Yankees to build their own home. They did, and in 1923 moved into their own magnificent Stadium where they are still doing business.

With the Yankees moving into ascendancy, the Giant fortunes waned, but the Polo Grounds lost none of their glamour.

The Days of Durocher

During the nineteenthirties, Bill Terry, with Carl Hubbell and Ott, won three pennants. Then came more lean years. Finally, in 1951, the Giants of Leo Durocher toppled the Dodgers in the historic Polo Grounds playoff that was decided on Bobby Thomson’s ninthinning homer.

Another pennant was to fol

At the close of the 1957 season came that dark day when the Giants bade farewell to the Polo Grounds and moved to San Francisco.

In 1962, the Mets, with Casey Stengel, another famous figure in the Giants’ triumphs in the early nineteentwenties, strove manfully to pump new life into the ancient arena. Indeed, forced to remain through 1963, they accomplished something of a miracle of their own when, despite another dead lastplace finish, they drew more than a million fans into the old ball park.

Baseball, of course, did not provide all of the glittering highlights that made history there.

In 1923, it was the scene of the memorable DempseyFirpo fight. In 1925, George Halas and his Chicago Bears came into the Polo Grounds to play the football Giants. Red Grange’s spectacular play for the Bears that day virtuallyy gave birth to professional football as it is known today.

The year before that, 1924. Notre Dame had unleashed its famous Four Horsemen against Army. Fordham’s great football games were staged in the Polo Grounds,
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and in 1934 the Giants and Bears played their nevertobeforgotten “sneaker game.”