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Uptown with Willie Mays: Memories of the Polo Grounds, where it all happened

We can add little to the tributes to Willie Mays, the greatest man ever to play on the diamond. Our colleagues on the sports pages, led by baseball scribe Bill Madden, know much more about Mays the player and the man. What we would like to focus on is his impact on New York.

It was here, when the Giants’ home was the Polo Grounds, where Mays won his only World Series, in 1954. The first game is where he made his spectacular putout of Vic Wertz’s deep fly ball to keep Cleveland from scoring and letting the Jints take the game (and the next three in a row for the sweep).

The Giants soon moved to San Fran and the Polo Grounds is long gone, but the legacy and that of Mays remains. Thanks to the efforts of the Giants and the four other pro sports teams that called it home (as encouraged by this page), the last Polo Grounds remnant, an historic stairway from 1913, was restored.

Nearby, not just one, but two streets in the neighborhood, are named for the man. There is Willie Mays Place (where he lived) and Willie Mays Way (where he played).

We were lucky enough to be there when Mays came to visit the kids at Public School 46 (built on the site of the Polo Grounds) in January 2011, following the 2010 World Series, which was the Giants’ first Fall Classic win since 1954.

His greatness was overshadowed by his humanity. New York was lucky to have had him all those years ago.


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