THE NEW YORK GIANTS

One of New York’s two National League baseball clubs up to 1957, along with their fierce rivals, the BROOKLYN DODGERS. When the six-year-old league expanded in 1883, a New York franchise was awarded to John B. Day, who also owned the Metropolitans of the American Association. The new team, called the Gothams, shared a field with the Metropolitans near the north end of Central Park, at Fifth Avenue and 110th Street, formerly used for polo matches. Manager Jim Mutrie called them “my giants.” The monicker stuck, and the Giants, led by pitchers Tim Keefe and Mickey Welch, and hitting star Roger Connor, won World Champion- ships in 1888-89, defeating St. Louis and Brooklyn. During the 1890s the team fell on hard times, and moved uptown to the new POLO GROUNDS at Coogan’s Bluff, on 155th St, where they remained for 67 years, the only ballclub in Manhattan.

In 1903 the club was purchased for $125,000 by John T. “Tooth” Brush, who imported catcher Roger Bresnahan and pitcher Joe McGinnity from the Baltimore Orioles to join pitching great CHRISTY MATHEWSON. Under a fierce, brilliant manager, JOHN J. McGRAW, the Giants soared to second place in 1903, and first in 1904, but refused to play the Boston Red Sox in the still-unformalized World Series. In 1905, with the Series established, they beat Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics, as Mathewson hurled three shutouts.

McGraw’s Giants dominated baseball for a generation, winning ten pennants and three World Series between 1904 and 1924. In 1908, despite the addition of ace Rube Marquard, they lost the flag to the Cubs after rookie Fred Merkle failed to touch second base on an apparent winning hit; the Giants dropped a deciding playoff game amid rumors of bribery involving McGraw, who was cleared by a committee headed by his employer. It wasn’t the team’s last brush with scandal; two players were ejected from the sport for attempting to fix games in 1919, and in 1924 a player and a coach were thrown out for arranging a bribe.

When fire destroyed the original wooden grandstands of the Polo Grounds in 1911, the oddly-proportioned stadium was rebuilt in concrete, a symbol of the importance of baseball in New York. The team won four pennants there between 1911 and 1917, but no championship. Charles A. Stoneham purchased the Giants for $1 million in 1919, in a deal arranged by gambler Arnold Rothstein and McGraw, who received shares of the club. They proceeded to win four straight flags, 1921-24, and took two World Series from the Yankees.

Powered by slugger MEL OTT and the pitching of Carl Hubbell, the Giants won three pennants for player-manager Bill Terry, who succeeded McGraw in 1932. They defeated Washington in the 1933 World Series, but dropped two series to the Yankees in 1936-37.

Legendary play returned to Manhattan in 1951 with the “Miracle of Coogan’s Bluff,” as Bobby Thomson’s epic home run off Ralph Branca of the Dodgers won a playoff series and the flag for the Giants. Now managed by ex-Dodger Leo Durocher, the ’51 Giants were graced with pitcher Sal Maglie and rookie centerfielder Willie Mays. Emerging as the most electrifying player of the era, Mays, the “Say Hey Kid,” hit .341 with 41 homers in 1954, as the Giants won another pennant and their eighth World Championship, a stunning upset sweep of the Cleveland Indians. After the 1957 season, as the Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles, Horace Stoneham moved the Giants, and future Hall-of-Famer Mays, to San Francisco.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Thorn, J., and Palmer, P., Total Baseball. Warner Books, 1989.
Seymour, H. Baseball: The Early Years. Oxford U. Press, 1960.
Seymour, H. Baseball: The Golden Age. Oxford U. Press, 1971.
Frommer, H. Primitive Baseball: The First Quarter-Century of the National Pastime. Atheneum, 1988.
Selzer, J. Baseball in the Nineteenth Century: An Overview. Society for American Baseball Research, 1986.