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So Long, Farewell
2008-09-04 08:02
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

In the coming weeks, we'll see more than our fair share of tributes to Yankee Stadium. Here are a couple of excellent farewells to the old Polo Grounds... Untitled 

Arnold Hano, who wrote the terrific account of Game One of the 1954 World Serious, A Day in the Bleachers, was on hand for the Giants last game at the Polo Grounds. He wrote about the experience for Sports Illustrated:

It was a few minutes before one o'clock in the afternoon, and Willie Mays and Valmy Thomas were socializing in center field of the Polo Grounds with Pittsburgh Pirate Outfielder Jim Pendleton, against all the rules of the game. It was obviously going to be that sort of day.

Wafted across the field, through the gravel-throated public-address system, sweet music entertained the early crowd. A fan sang softly, "Sweetheart, if you should stray/A million miles away/I'll always be in love with you." It was that sort of day.

The sky was gray, and there was a ring around a hazy yellow sun. It was also that sort of day. A fan walked through the bleachers. "Wanna buy a crying towel?" he said. "Buy a set of crying towels." There were no other vendors. You couldn't buy a scorecard in the bleachers. You couldn't buy a hot dog or coffee. The vendors hadn't showed up. The concession stand was open, though. You could get a beer. There are two big signs in the Polo Grounds that read: "Have a Knick." The concession man was selling Ballantine's.

At 1:32 the public-address announcer said, "Will the guests of the Giants assemble at home plate?" A fan near the third-base boxes snarled, "We're the guests, you jerks.

Six-and-a-half years later, Roger Angell said goodbye to the Polo Grounds in a short essay for The New Yorker:

What does depress me about the decease of the bony, misshapen old playground is the attendant irrevocable deprivation of habit--the amputation of so many private, and easily renewable small familiarities.  The things I liked best about the Polo Grounds were wights and emotions so inconsequential that they will surely slide out of my recollection.  A flight of pigeons flashing out of the barn-shadow of the upper stands, wheeling past the right-field foul pole, and disappearing above the inert, heat-heavy flags on the roof.  The steepness of the ramp descending from the Speedway toward the upper-stand gates, which pushed your toes into your shoe tips as you approached the park, tasting sweet anticipation and getting out your change to buy a program.  The unmistakable, final "Plock!" of a line drive hitting the green wooden barrier above the stands in deep left field.  The gentle, rockerlike swing of the tloop of rusty chain you rested your arm upon in a box seat, and the heat of the sun-warmed iron coming through your shirtsleeve under your elbow.  At a night game, the moon rising out of the scoreboard like a spongy, day-old orange balllon and when the whitening over the waves of noise and the slow, shifting clouds of floodlit cigarette smoke.  All these I mourn, for their loss constitutes the death of still another neighbhorhood--a small landscape of distinctive and reassuring familiarity.  Demolition and alteration are a painful city commonplace, but as our surroundings become more undistinguished and indistinguishable, we sense, at last, that we may not possess the scorecards and record books to help us remember who we are and what we have seen and loved.

Man, how I wish I could have seen that joint up close.

Comments
2008-09-04 08:27:57
1.   Cliff Corcoran
Angell, of course, nails what I'll miss about Yankee Stadium, those small familiarities, both of the place and the people in it. The new Stadium, which caters to the super rich, won't compare when it comes to that neighborhood effect, which has always been one of my favorite aspects of the old park.
2008-09-04 09:15:38
2.   Shaun P
This is wonderful stuff, Alex! Thank you for sharing it. Its too bad the Polo Grounds is gone, I would have loved to see it too. But I think you and I and everyone else who feel that way really want a time machine, to see it as it was in the 50s and 60s. Had the Polo Grounds lasted to today, I imagine it would be quite different, just as the Fenway of today is remarkably different from the Fenway of even 20 years ago. I think the same can be said of the Stadium v1.1, but I'm the last guy to be able to make that comparison. I know what I know from TV, not being there.
2008-09-04 09:36:55
3.   Alex Belth
Yeah, I like Angell less and less as I've gotten older, but there are times when he's just so damn on the money it hurts. I agree with Cliff, his obervations about habits, about the small, inconsequential things being the biggest loss, is right on.
2008-09-04 09:43:17
4.   pistolpete
1 Although looking at the virtual seat viewer for the new park, it looks amazingly familiar to what we have now. The only adjustment we'll all have to make (visually, anyway) is that gi-normous screen out in center — and of course the sports bar...

But why we need "YANKEE STADIUM" in huge letters staring back at us is beyond me, though. How would I not know my whereabouts unless someone knocked me unconscious, threw me in the trunk of a car and dragged here without my knowing...?

Anyway, the 'neighborhood' feel of the Stadium ceased to be relevant when the payroll cracked $150 million. I guarantee that somewhere around 2004 or 2005, this project got put on the front burner, when it became clear that the next championship might be harder to get that the last 4. So why not boost attendance by way of a spiffy new ballpark?

Hey, it worked for Baltimore for a while...

Anyway, commenting on the article — great stuff as usual, Mr. Belth. My grandfather followed the Giants somewhat in his heyday, and mostly because he actually tried out for the team. There's an old flannel uniform somewhere in my grandmother's attic as evidence.

Living in the city at a time when there were 3 teams to root for? That's a baseball lover's paradise, my friends.

2008-09-04 09:44:58
5.   pistolpete
3 I'm re-reading 'Season Ticket' right now, and it does seem that Angell can get into the most trivial of details at times.

But like you said, when he's on, you can almost smell the peanuts roasting...

2008-09-04 10:05:58
6.   Raf
4 3 ML teams, and it should be mentioned, several minor league teams in NJ & CT.
2008-09-04 10:17:43
7.   pistolpete
6 Is there somewhere to look up what the minor-league teams were? All I have in my area now (that I know of, anwyay) are the Bridgeport Bluefish. I'd have to go all the way up the line to Norwich to get to the next team...
2008-09-04 13:23:41
8.   Raf
7 List of defunct International League teams (1912-)
http://tinyurl.com/5lxp56

Defunct Eastern League teams
http://tinyurl.com/55bp4c

Defunct New York - Penn League teams
http://tinyurl.com/63j3r4

Connecticut League
http://tinyurl.com/6aj8kv

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