The times were changing -- as the stories of Stubing and Jones illustrate -- and the 1950s turned into a most tumultuous period for fans of the National League baseball teams in New York. Reports of the possible abandonment of the Polo Grounds had begun in the early 1950s. In the September 1953 Sport magazine, Jack Orr wrote, "There have been recent rumors that the Giants, at the expiration of their current lease in 1962, will turn the tables and become tenants of the Yankees." That fall, planner Robert Moses -- the "master builder" of New York City -- suggested that the Giants make the move even sooner so the Polo Grounds could be torn down and used for public housing.
Soon the uncertain future of the Polo Grounds was casting shadows on the future of the Giants in New York. The team wasn't averse to leaving the Polo Grounds. Parking had always been a problem, the stadium was becoming rundown, and the neighborhood was also deteriorating. (Before the start of an Independence Day doubleheader in 1950, a fan in the upper grandstand of the Polo Grounds was even killed by a stray bullet fired from outside the stadium.)
Moving into Yankee Stadium was one alternative. A new stadium, built by the city, was one that appealed even more to owner Horace Stoneham. Paul Ferrante, a sports memorabilia collector who became an expert on the Polo Grounds while tracking down remnants of the stadium, said a 470,000-square-foot tract of land in Manhattan, then occupied by the New York Central Railroad, was being considered for a new stadium in the spring of 1956. Bounded by West End Highway, 60th Street, West End Avenue, and 72nd Street, a triple-decked, roofed stadium would be built on stilts over the railroad tracks. The project -- estimated at $20 million -- never got beyond the proposal stage.
By the following year, Stoneham was talking about a city-owned stadium in Queens, near the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge. He was also making it clear that the Giants were no longer limiting their options to New York City.
Meanwhile, similar threats were being made in Brooklyn. Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley, also wanting a new stadium, was viewing the fertile territory on the West Coast as a possible place to play. In turn, Stoneham looked in the same direction. In late May of 1957, National League officials gave Brooklyn and New York the go-ahead to negotiate for a move to Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. Not long after, Stoneham said, "This is definitely our last year in New York."
Stoneham was also considering Minneapolis, where the Giants had their top minor league team, as a possible home. (The Minneapolis Millers were by this time playing their games in a new suburban stadium that had a cantilever design, free of posts that could obstruct views. The Minneapolis firm of Thorshov and Cerny, which had designed the stadium, had visited other stadiums across the country, looking specifically for defects they should avoid. The main defect they found in several of the stadiums, including the Polo Grounds, was the supporting posts that blocked the view of various parts of the playing field for many spectators. The modern stadium gave Midwest residents hope that they could lure the Giants to Minnesota.)
In the end, however, Stoneham opted for California, along with O'Malley and the Dodgers. The news left area fans in a state of melancholy. With the National League teams moving out, New York would be left with only the Yankees, hardly an acceptable team for Dodger and Giant loyalists to rally behind.
Used by permission of Temple University Press from "The Final Years" as it appears in Land of the Giants by Stew Thornley.
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