Sep 18, 2016

Remembering Mets History: (1963) Mets Play Last Regular Season Baseball Game In the Polo Grounds

Wednesday September 18th, 1963: For 74 years the Polo Grounds stood at 155th St & 8th Ave below an area of elevation known as Coogan's Bluff. The original site was at 110th St & 5th Ave but as the City of New York extended its street grid, the Polo Grounds had to find a new home.

In 1889 the New York Giants began playing there. The Stadium went through some changes, most notably after a fire destroyed the wooden horse shoe shape grandstand in 1911. It dimensions were legendary, 483 feet to dead center field, 450 feet in the left & right center field gaps, 279 down the left field line & 258 feet down the right field line.

The ballpark was home to the New York Baseball Giants from 1883 to 1957, hosting 16 Giants World Series & two All Star Games (1934 / 1942). It was home for the most famous catch in baseball history, as Willie Mays made "the catch' in the 1954 World Series in dead center field.

It also was home to the most famous HR in MLB history, when Bobby Thompson hit "the shot heard round the world" as the Giants won the 1951 pennant, walk off style.

The New York Football Giants played there for 50 years from 1925-1955. The cross town, A.L. New York club played there (1913-1922) as did the New York Football Titans who became the Jets (1960-1963).

The New York Mets played at the Polo Grounds in the clubs first two seasons as they awaited Shea Stadium to be built in Queens, New York. On September 18th 1963 the last major league game was played there.

Casey Stengel's last place Mets (49-104) hosted Gene Mauch's fourth place Philadelphia Phillies (81-72) in front of a tiny crowd of 1,752. There was not much fan fare & not many people took notice that the Polo Grounds was hosting it's last game.

The starting pitchers were Craig Anderson for New York & Chris Short for Philadelphia. Anderson had led the 1962 Mets in appearances but was at AAA Buffalo most of 1963 & this was his first start of the season.

Quotes: Craig Anderson "Nobody said anything to me. It’s funny, but I don’t remember any fanfare of it being the last game at the Polo Grounds."

The Mets took a 5-1 loss that day, with Jim Hickman providing the only Mets run. It was a solo HR & the last to be hit in the Polo Grounds. In the bottom of the 9th inning, the Mets Tim Harkness flied out to center field for the first out. 

Next, Rod Kanehl singled & Chico Fernandez singled as well for the last hit in the old Polo Grounds. Next, Chris Short pitched the ball park's final batter; Brooklyn born, Ted Schreiber. He grounded into a double play for the final out in the old ball park at 4:21 PM.

Quotes: Ted Schreiber said in 2011- "Sure I remember the game, because I made the last two outs, I thought I had a hit because I hit it up the middle, but Cookie Rojas made a great play on it. That’s why I’m in the Hall of Fame; they put the ball there because the stadium was closed after that. I knew that was the last game; I didn’t realize I made the last out until later.”

Another Mets player that day, Frank Thomas had been the first baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates back in 1957 when the New York Giants played their final game at the Polo Grounds. Thomas caught a throw from second baseman Dick Groat & made the last put out at first base on that historic day.

After the Mets final home game of 1963, Casey Stengel waved his cap in the air to the few fans left & they cheered as the Public address system played "Auld Lang Syne".

Trivia: The Jets would play the last football game at the Polo Grounds in December losing to the Buffalo Bills 19-10. In October the actual final game was a an exhibition game, a Latin American All Star game that included many major leaguer's.

1 comment:

lanzarishi said...

This is the very reason why I love this website. Nowhere would we be able to find such a great article on Mets trivia such as this. I was very young at the time but I do remember the Mets from the '62 -'63 Polo Grounds. Thanks so much!