SABR

Polo Grounds stairway being renovated for 100th anniversary

From Paul Post at MLB.com on February 5, 2013:

Ed Lucas ran down the John T. Brush Stairway, behind the Polo Grounds, a little boy thrilled about going to his first big league ballgame.

He and his father, Ed Sr., a lifelong Giants fan, were making their way down from Coogan's Bluff, the hillside overlooking the horseshoe-shaped ballpark in Upper Manhattan.

Several years later, Lucas negotiated the steep concrete steps more slowly, because this time he couldn't see them. At 12 years old, he was blinded by a freak baseball sandlot accident while recreating Bobby Thomson's famed "Shot Heard Round the World," the pennant-winning homer hit on Oct. 3, 1951.

Now 18, his love for baseball hadn't dimmed. In fact, the anticipation was even greater because he was going to interview the New York Giants' greatest player, Willie Mays.

"That was 1957, the last year the Giants were in New York," said Lucas, of Union, N.J. "I remember holding on my uncle's arm and going down the steps very slowly from Coogan's Bluff so I could go into the Polo Grounds through the press gate. My uncle, Gene Furey, was carrying a large Pentron reel-to-reel tape recorder. The door we entered went right through to the dugout, because if you remember, the clubhouses at the Polo Grounds were in center field. We were greeted by an attendant named Barney O'Toole. He set the tape recorder up in the dugout and brought different players over -- Willie Mays, Bobby Thomson, Gail Harris, Whitey Lockman, Don Mueller."

Millions of fans used the John T. Brush Stairway from 1913 until the Mets, who played their first two seasons at the Polo Grounds, left Manhattan for Queens following the 1963 season. Few people have more vivid memories of the steps than Lucas, or a greater appreciation for their place in New York baseball history. For the past half-century, he's gained the admiration and respect of countless ballplayers as a blind sports journalist.

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For nearly a half-century, however, the stairway has played a different role, carrying tenants to a high-rise housing project that replaced the Polo Grounds, and until recently they had crumbled into a dim reminder of a once-proud, bygone era.

In 2011, the New York City Parks and Recreation Department launched a $950,000 restoration project and now the stairway is scheduled for a "soft opening" this spring. Major League Baseball gave $50,000 to the project, along with other old Polo Grounds tenants -- the San Francisco Giants; the Yankees, who played there from 1913-23; the Mets; the New York Jets (nee Titans), who played their first four AFL seasons there, and the New York football Giants, who played there from 1925-55.

Read the full article here: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130205&content_id=41404846&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

This page was last updated February 11, 2013 at 3:17 pm MST.

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