The end came in September 1957. On Sunday, September 29 -- just five days after the Dodgers had played their final game at Ebbets Field -- the New York Giants brought their history to a close. The crowd of 11,606 that turned out for the final game wasn't large considering that it was the final game of the New York Giants as well as what many presumed would be the last baseball game for the Polo Grounds. However, it was still well above what the Giants had been averaging that season, and it included a number of special guests. Blanche McGraw, widow of the Giants' legendary manager, showed up, as did former New York players Rube Marquard, George "Hooks" Wiltse, Moose McCormick, George "Kiddo" Davis, Rosy Ryan, Carl Hubbell, Red Murray, Hans Lobert, Willard Marshall, Sid Gordon, Prince Hal Schumacher, Billy Jurges, Monte Irvin, Buddy Kerr, and 86-year-old Jack Doyle, who had played for and managed the Giants in the 1890s. Another octogenarian, George Levy, was on hand to repeat his earlier practice from the pre-electronic era of announcing the lineups through a megaphone.
Manager Bill Rigney showed a nostalgic side by loading his lineup with players from the pennant-winning teams of 1951 and 1954. Don Mueller, Willie Mays, Dusty Rhodes, Bobby Thomson, Whitey Lockman, Wes Westrum, and Johnny Antonelli were among the starters for New York. The opponents, the Pittsburgh Pirates, weren't as sentimental about the event as they pounded the Giants, 9-1. The game, and a rich slice of history, came to an end at 4:35 P.M. when Dusty Rhodes -- one of the heroes of the 1954 World Series -- grounded to Pirates shortstop Dick Groat. Before Groat's throw had even settled into the glove of first baseman Frank Thomas, fans were leaping over fences and pouring onto the fields.
The Giants and Pirates tore across the Polo Grounds outfield toward the clubhouses, getting out of the path of the onrushing fans, many of who were determined to come away with a souvenir. One group went to work on extricating home plate from its mooring, while others scooped up the bases. In center field, the orange-lettered green sign reading "483 FEET" was pulled back and forth in an attempt to work it loose. Guards intervened before anyone could take the sign as a keepsake, but they weren't as successful at keeping the Eddie Grant plaque in place. Looters were able to pry the plaque off the stone monument, although police did nab the thieves.
Many fans were content to station themselves in the alcove and hope to get a glimpse of their departing heroes through the clubhouse windows. They chanted Willie Mays's name, but when Mays didn't appear, they began calling instead for Horace Stoneham --although for entirely different reasons. "We want Stoneham! We want Stoneham!" they bellowed, then -- to make sure their intentions weren't misunderstood -- modified the chant to "We want Stoneham-with a rope around his neck!" The crowd on the field finally had enough and left, but some remained in the stands. Fittingly, the last to leave -- still clutching a bouquet of roses that Rigney had presented to her before the game -- was Blanche McGraw.
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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