Thursday, October 14, 2010

GIANTS of the City; Kings of Baseball

Five years after the famous "ground-breaking" of Baseball by the New York Knickerbocker Ball Club in Hoboken, N.J. on Elysian Field, the Knickerbockers accepted a challenge to play the Washington Baseball Club of New York.  This game was played June 3rd, 1851 at the RED HOUSE GROUNDS located at 106th Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan, NYC.

The Knickebockers won that game 21-11 in 8 innings.  The rematch was played two weeks later in Hoboken.  The Knickebockers beat the Washington Club again, this time 22-20 in 10 innings.

In April, 1852, the Washington Baseball Club was reorganized and The Gothams Baseball Club of New York is formed.  Their team offices were in the Bowery section of lower Manhattan and their home field would now be located in Staten Island at the St. George Cricket Club.

The Gothams played the New York Knickerbockers 5 more times over the next 3 years.

In April 1853 the first newspaper article covering baseball was written.  The author of that article was Senator William Cauldwell; owner and editor of the New York Sunday Mercury.  From then on, Baseball would be covered by local newspapers.  The article itself was to promote an upcoming match between the Knickerbockers and the Gothams.  The game mentioned in that article was finally played in New York City on October 26, 1854.

That game is significant for two reasons.  It was the first match to result in a tie as sunset and darkness arrived.  It was also the first match to be scored by individual innings played (versus the sum total of the match).

Scene on Broadway and Broome St., circa 1860's,
site of the first Baseball Convention.

The first Baseball Convention met at Smith's Hotel on the corner of Broadway and Broome Street in today's SoHo neighborhood of Lower Manhattan.  On March 10, 1858, the GRAND CONVENTION took place "open to all clubs".  William H. Van Cott (left) of the Gothams BBC of NY was named the convention's first officer and President. (click to enlarge).

Twenty -five clubs were represented at the convention which formed the National Association of Amateur Baseball Players; the first over-seeing body of Baseball prior to 1871 and the age of Professionalism.

This team fell to uncompetitive levels in the new age of professionalism.  But by the 1870's they reorganized themselves again.  They absorbed players from the recently folded Troy Haymakers and remained a viable operation as they joined the National League in 1883.

1884 Gothams BBC of New York;  Member National League

In 1883 they also moved into their new home field.  The grounds were owned by James Gordon Bennett who was a publisher of the New York Herald.  The park had been in operation since 1880 and was used to host polo matches.

In 1889, the Gothams were forced to vacate the premises for a season.  The city pulled eminent domain at the location because they wanted to run 115th Street from 5th to 6th Avenues.  So they went back to the St. George Cricket Club in Staten Island until the new field was reconstructed.

1883 Polo Grounds

With the completion of their new home, the team also re-branded itself.  They were now the NEW YORK GIANTS and their home was the POLO GROUNDS.

At the turn of the century the Manhattan ball club would bring in a smallish figure from Baltimore who would turn out to be a Titan of the city..  He was truly a Giant among men; more disliked and feared than respected.  He was absolute ruler of his domain and NYC was his Empire (City).  He was John McGraw and he was manager of NYC's first modern dynasty.

Under John McGraw the New York Giants won National League Titles in 1904, 1905, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1917, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1933.  The Giants won five championships for their manager winning in 1904, 1905, 1921, 1922 and 1933.

Fans exiting Polo Grounds; 1913 World Series

In 1951 the Giants faced off against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the famous N.L. Playoff series.  That series culminated in Bobby Thompson's "Shot Heard 'Round The World" that catapulted the Giants into the World Series against the cross town Yankees.

Those were the "Say Hey" days of Willie Mays.  Those were the days of "The Catch" against Vic Wertz and  the Indians in the 1954 World Series.  These were the days when NYC was the center of the Baseball Universe.

The Giants; the New York Giants, unlike my beloved Ghosts ~ the Brooklyn Dodgers, and unlike the come-lately team from Baltimore who became the Yankees; it was the Giants who ruled this town to all a New Yorker's delight early in the new twentieth century.

Joltin' Joe DiMaggio at-bat versus Giants in World Series.

It was this team and John McGraw who made policy in this town.  John McGraw evicted the Yankees from the Polo Grounds; his realm.  The branch of NYC Baseball history that ensues in the Bronx as a result of McGraw's eviction is for another time.  But know, the iconic frieze which adorns the upper deck of Yankee Stadium past and present, IS, from the Polo Grounds.  Monuments and plaques of honor in center field IS from the Polo Grounds, first, before anywhere else.

By the end of 1957, they were gone. 

Mr. Stoneham was already in talks with Minneapolis to move the team there.  He, like Walter O'Malley of the Dodgers, was in discussions with the city (NYC) for a new ball park.  As MLB would not allow the Dodgers to move to the west coast alone, San Fransisco, having had discussions with Mr. Stoneham already, struck a deal with him and the Giants along with the Dodgers headed west.

Now, the San Francisco Giants are making their 9th playoff appearance since moving to California 53 years ago and will be facing, an over one-century old Philadelphia Phillies team for the National League Pennant.

The oldest baseball team in existence today has not won a World Series title since they left New York City.  Their last came in 1954.  These days, as denizens of San Francisco, they will try to correct that little fact in their long team history.

The Cincinnati Reds might be the first openly Professional team established in 1869 which would make them the oldest team in that regard.  But the Giants predate even those days.  The Giants, formally the Gotham Baseball Club of New York, after the New York Knickerbockers, were the second team....EVER.

My how time flies.


Enjoy the Championship Series!



  1. I hate the Giants, but I can appreciate the history. Thanks.

  2. I think the rivalry is just as intense out west as it was here. You guys really do hate each other, I see. I can explain the NYC phenomenon...but why do L.A. and San Fran hate each other so much? I'm told a lot of the old Giants fans never jumped on the Yanks and Mets bandwagons; unlike the Dodger fans who lined up to become Met fans. They, more than the Dodgers fans just faded away, not following any team.

  3. Koosman36699:43 PM

    Mike, Great Job collecting all this. Love NY baseball History.

  4. Thank you KOOS! Great to hear from you. Hope you have been well.


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