Monday, November 11, 2013

Joey's World Tour: These Used To Be Our Playgrounds

Hi, everyone!  This is your fav'rit Studious Metsimus roving reporter, Joey Beartran.  The Mets haven't played a baseball game in six weeks, but since when has a small detail like that kept me from visiting a baseball stadium or two?

In recent years, we've used the offseason to visit various ballparks.  The end of the 2011 season saw my colleagues and I taking a tour of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore.  A few weeks later, we went out west, visiting Petco Park in San Diego and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Our trip to Dodger Stadium made me think of when New York had two National League teams instead of the current one.  Prior to 1958, the Dodgers and Giants called the Big Apple home, playing at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn and the Polo Grounds in Manhattan, respectively.  Both parks are long gone, but there are still a few reminders to young whippersnappers such as myself of the golden era of baseball in New York.

First, we hopped the trolley to Flatbush.  (Okay, so it was more like the 2 train, but just humor me here.)  We got off at President Street, walked two long blocks to the west, and made a left turn onto Bedford Avenue.  As we walked past Medgar Evers College, we approached Montgomery Street, which is now the northern border of the Ebbets Field Apartments.  But prior to 1958, Montgomery Street was just a few feet behind left field at Ebbets Field.

Just before reaching Sullivan Street, we saw the only mentions of what used to be the home of Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese and of course, Jackie Robinson.  My photographer stopped to snap these photos of the only reminders of Ebbets Field.  (All photos can be viewed at a higher resolution by clicking on them.  In layman's terms, that means I get bigger if you click on the photos.)

Across the street from the Ebbets Field Apartments is a Rite-Aid pharmacy, which would normally not attract my attention.  However, there was a mural on the side of the building which paid homage to the great Jackie Robinson and the ballpark that used to be across the street.

We didn't need to get any prescriptions filled, but we did need to take a few photos by these lovely works of art, which you can see below.

Prior to the team winning its first World Series championship in 1955, fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers used to say "wait till next year" after each season ended without a title.  Well, we didn't have to wait that long to continue my quest to visit the two former sites of National League baseball in New York.  It only took a day before we traveled to Coogan's Bluff, in the northeast part of Manhattan, to visit the area that now is home to the Polo Grounds Towers.  But before there were apartment towers there, it was just the Polo Grounds - a place the Giants, Mets and Yankees called home.

As we walked between the buildings, we came across a playground in front of the hill known as Coogan's Bluff.  Opposite that playground is an apartment building with a sign that reminds all who enter of the Hall of Fame center fielder who used to make brilliant catches with ease (see photo below, center).  Walking past that sign, we came across the final building in the complex, which was constructed on top of what used to be home plate at the old Polo Grounds.  A sign reminds us of this, and also informs us of the championships won by the Giants during the time they played there, plus the years in which the Yankees and Mets called the park home (see photo below, right).

In Brooklyn, there's really nothing left standing from Ebbets Field from the time it was still in use.  But unlike the Ebbets Field Apartments, there is still one thing left standing from the area around the Polo Grounds.

The John T. Brush Stairway, which would lead Giants fans down from Coogan's Bluff to the Polo Grounds, was never torn down when the Polo Grounds ceased to be.  However, the stairs (which were dedicated by the Giants to their owner, John T. Brush, in 1913, just months after his passing) were left in a state of disrepair for many years and were all but forgotten.  But the city of New York is now repairing the stairway, although they're taking their sweet time.

The stairway should have been re-opened in time for the 100th anniversary of its original dedication, but as you can see from the photos below, that clearly wasn't the case.  According to the New York City Parks Department sign (seen in the photo below, right) the expected completion date of the project was supposed to be in the summer of 2012.  Oops.

Despite the area being fenced in to keep the public out, that didn't stop me and my photographer from entering the wooded area around the site to take some exclusive photos of the stairway.  It was a little risky, but seriously, who was going to keep a bear away from his natural habitat in the woods?

Oh, and in the event you couldn't read it clearly, the platform on the stairway at the point where it makes a 90-degree turn says "The John T. Brush Stairway presented by the New York Giants".  To see what the stairway used to look like before its restoration, please click here.

That's all for this special edition of Joey's World's Tour.  I'd like to thank my photographer for accompanying me on my trip to Brooklyn and Upper Manhattan, and for not chickening out when I asked him to join me in the steep wooded area around the John T. Brush Stairway.  He gets two paws up for that.

I'd also like to thank you, the readers, for making these trips worth it.  I may just be a blogging bear, but it's because of people like you that I take great pleasure in touring current and long-gone ballparks.  Until next time, this is Joey Beartran.  Enjoy your offseason!

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