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.