This Date in Mets History: September 18 - Pulling Out of the Polo Grounds

The fourth and final Polo Grounds, c. 1923. (Wikicommons)

The Mets were born in Harlem. Both the Metropolitans of the 19th century and the Mets franchise of Seaver and Wright took their first steps, as it were, at 110th street and Lennox Avenue. The fourth and final iteration of the Polo Grounds was built for the Giants in 1911. (In 1923 an expansion gave the stadium its wrap-around "bathtub" shape.) Just 279' and 258' down the left and right field lines, respectively, dead center was another story. The wall stretched a never-once-reached 483 feet from home plate, so distant that bullpens in the right and left gaps were in play. This was the wind, windy pasture of Willie Mays.

On this date, 1963, the cellar-dwelling Mets played the last pro baseball game on Manhattan Island. Only 1,752 attending fans marked the occasion. Robert Moses had built the team a shiny modern stadium due east in what had once been the Corona Ash Dumps. Meanwhile, the Mets' two-year stay at the Polo Ground -- only one had been anticipated -- was at an end. The Mets lost to the Phillies, 5-1.

Birthday

  • Yo homes! Roger Mason was born in Bellair, Mich., 55 years ago, debuted with Tigers 28 years ago, and pitched 51.1 innings of relief for the '94 Mets in his final year in the bigs. He came on board with a 0.49 ERA in 18.1 postseason innings -- not a useful skillset for the '94 Mets.
  • Scott Holman (turns 54), a 6-foot-1 right hander, pitched to a 3.34 ERA splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen in 1980, 1982, and 1983. However, he walked more batters than he struck out and spent no other seasons in the big leagues.

Game of Note

Jon Matlack pitched a complete game shut out; the Mets held their fire to the bottom of the ninth. Only 15,000 fans saw the Mets play the Pirates on September 18, 1972, but they were the wise ones. Pitching duels were something else in the era of complete games. Two pitchers, 18 half-innings, one run. Matlack had a strikeout less and a walk more than his opponent, Nelson Briles, but in the home ninth, Briles fell victim to small ball. A single by Rusty Staub, a buny you just can't argue with, and an intentional pass to Ed Kranepool brought the bat into Duffy Dyer's hands. With a single to left, he'd won the game.

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection

On this date, 1945, General Douglas McArthur moved his command headquarters to Tokyo, sixteen days after formal terms of surrender were signed on behalf of Japanese Emperor Hirohito. Contrary to what you might guess, it wasn't America's post-War presence in Japan that popularized baseball there; the two nations had long shared the passion, with roots back to the 19th century. The Mets have had 10 Japanese-born players, nearly a quarter of all who have played in the major leagues.

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