Remembering the Polo Grounds

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There’s a great story by Richard Sandomir of the New York Times today, looking back at the history of the Polo Grounds.  Like many of the people quoted in is story, I was always struck by pictures of those wacko dimensions:

What stands out to fans and historians nearly 47 years since its demolition are its outfield dimensions, some of which changed with regularity. It was short down the lines (no more than 280 feet to left and 259 to right, and still shorter to the second decks); distant in the alleys (as much as 449 to one bullpen and 455 to the other); and as long as 505 to center field.

“That made it a strange ballpark,” said Jerry Liebowitz, a fan who began attending games there in 1943. “Someone like Johnny Mize hits it 450 to center field and it’s nothing but an out, but guys who couldn’t hit a damn were hitting pop-fly home runs to left and right.”

I used to play an old version of High Heat Baseball on my PC. There was a home run derby function on it, and you could choose the ballpark.  I would pick the Polo Grounds every time and use Barry Bonds, doing my best to yank line drives down the line.  It was wonderful.

My video game war stories aside, the Polo Grounds’ dimensions are important to keep in mind whenever people talk about the game being “transformed” by what went down in the 1990s.  The game has always had weird stuff about it, not the least of which have been oddball ballparks, rendering historical comparisons more of an art than a science.

Braves clinch NL East title

Ender Inciarte
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So much for a last-minute, nail-biting finish to this division race. The Braves cemented their division title with a dominant 5-3 finish over the Phillies on Saturday, laying claim to the NL East title for the first time since 2013.

The Braves asserted themselves right off the bat after amassing a four-run lead from Johan Camargo and Freddie Freeman, both of whom cleared the bases with two-run singles in the first two innings. Ronald Acuna Jr., meanwhile, found another way to make his presence known after swiping his 15th stolen base of the year and joining Alex Rodriguez, Orlando Cepeda, and Mike Trout as one of the youngest players to collect at least 25 home runs and 15 stolen bags in major league history.

Not to be outdone, Atlanta right-hander Mike Foltynewicz delivered one of the strongest starts of his season to date. The righty set down six innings of no-hit ball against the Phillies, and, with just 62 pitches under his belt, looked ready to go the distance before he lost his bid on Odubel Herrera‘s leadoff single in the seventh.

Unfortunately for the Braves, the Phillies not only upended Foltynewicz’s no-hit attempt, but the shutout as well. In the eighth inning, Cesar Hernandez and Rhys Hoskins wrestled two RBI singles from Atlanta’s bullpen and brought Philadelphia within one run of tying the game. Hoskins was the last Phillies batter to reach base, however, as Jonny Venters and Arodys Vizcaino tossed a combined 1 2/3 scoreless innings (backed by a final RBI hit from Kurt Suzuki in the bottom of the eighth) to cap the Braves’ win — and the NL East title.

With the loss, the Phillies sit seven games back of a wild card spot in the National League. They’ll need to outpace the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Cardinals in order to make 2018 their first postseason-qualifying year since 2011.