Nowels: History travels west as Polo Grounds light towers illuminate Arizona State’s baseball stadium

From Michael Nowels at on April 3, 2015, with mention of SABR members Ed Logan Jr., Steve Rothschild, and Stew Thornley:

At Arizona State baseball’s new-again home, relics of the past reach high into the dry, dusty desert air. Ten 75-year-old light poles hoist bulbs that illuminate Phoenix Municipal Stadium. But the steel beams weren’t always in the middle of the Mojave.

In the shadow of these light poles, Mel Ott used his trademark leg kick to smack the 511th and final home run of his career on Opening Day 1946. Bobby Thomson hit his 1951 pennant-clinching “Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” Willie Mays chased down a fly ball off the bat of Vic Wertz in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series to make one of the most iconic catches in baseball history.

Before finding a home in the desert, the 160-ton, 150-foot towers brought light to the Polo Grounds, home of the New York Giants, beginning on May 24, 1940. That night, Bill Terry’s Giants defeated Casey Stengel’s Boston Bees 8-1 in the stadium’s first night baseball game. The lights replaced low-altitude football lights that were unsuited for baseball.

“Back then, they made things to last,” Phoenix Municipal Stadium manager James Vujs said of the light poles that have stood among Phoenix’s Papago Buttes for more than a half century after a 25-year stay across the Harlem River from Yankee Stadium.

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Originally published: April 3, 2015. Last Updated: April 3, 2015.