New York Giants

September 27, 1957 – The New York Giants Rent San Francisco’s Seals Stadium

Seals Stadium, San Francisco

On September 27, 1957, New York Giants majority owner Horace Stoneham signed an agreement to rent San Francisco’s Seals Stadium for the 1958 and 1959 seasons, during construction of their new home field, Candlestick Park.  The New York Giants would be no more.  After their last home game at the Polo Grounds on September 29, 1957, the team which began as the Gothams in 1883 would thereafter be known as the San Francisco Giants.  Walter O’Malley’s Dodgers were making the move to Los Angeles; O’Malley’s encouragement, and the welcome mat set out by the second of the two major venues in California, sealed the deal.

San Francisco Mayor George Christopher spearheaded the transition from East to West Coast for Stoneham and his team.  New York city officials had been less than helpful to the Giants organization in finding a new home to replace their crumbling old stadium.  After winning the World Series in 1954 – as underdogs sweeping the Cleveland Indians in four straight games, including “The Catch” by Willie Mays in Game 1 – the Giants had slipped in the rankings and attendance fell off significantly over the next three years.

Seals Stadium had a long history as a minor league ballpark.  The San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, a Boston Red Sox minor league affiliate, made it their home from 1931 until 1957.  After the Giant’s 1959 season, the stadium was demolished and its location at 16th and Bryant Streets was developed for retail business.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

August 17, 1957 – Phillies Hall-of-Famer Richie Ashburn’s Freak At-Bat

Phillie Richie Ashburn

On August 17, 1957, one of Philadelphia’s most loved baseball heroes fouled twice, striking the same spectator, in one at-bat.

Center-fielder Richie Ashburn, one of the 1950 National League Champion “Whiz Kids,” played outstanding ball for the Phillies from 1948 until 1959.  He led the league several times in batting and fielding statistics, retiring with a .308 lifetime batting average.  After his retirement from baseball in 1962, he joined the Phillies radio and TV broadcast team as a color commentator, a job he loved and held until his death in 1997.  A long campaign by Philadelphia fans resulted in his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995.  Over 25,000 local fans drove to Cooperstown for the ceremony – a day which must have meant much to the boy who grew up on a farm in Tilden, Nebraska, dreaming of his day in the big leagues.

But August 17th was not quite a day he had dreamed of.  In the second game of a four-game series against the New York Giants, which the Phillies won, 3-1, Richie fouled twice into the stands, striking spectator Alice Roth.  Alice was married to Philadelphia Bulletin Sports Editor Earl Roth.  The first errant ball broke her nose; the second struck her as she was being carried out of the stands on a stretcher.  Alice was a good sport and she and Richie remained friends for many years.

The Philadelphia Phillies retired Ashburn’s #1 in 1979.  The center-field entertainment area of Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies current stadium, is named Ashburn Alley in honor of Richie’s 47 years of service to the Phillies organization.

Image Credit: Chuck Hofmann/Madison County Museum

August 9, 1957 – The Chicago College All Star Game

On August 9, 1957, the Chicago College All Star Game was held at Soldier Field in Chicago.  Originated by the Chicago Tribune in the 1930s, the All Star Game pitted a team of the year’s most talented graduated-senior college football players against the previous season’s NFL championship team.  The game was held as a showcase for the best of both the college and professional football worlds, and as a fundraiser for local charities.

Player selections for the college stars – the incoming rookies for the next professional season – were made by public ballot.  In the thirties, college players were generally better than their pro counterparts, but the pro teams quickly established themselves as powerhouses to be dealt with.  The public loved the competition between the college stars and the pros and the all star game drew great crowds – in 1947, a whopping 105,840 people turned out at Soldier Field to watch the college all stars defeat the Chicago Bears 16-0.

The 1957 game featured the college all stars, including John Brodie of Stanford, Jim Brown of Syracuse, and Paul Hornung of Notre Dame, against the 1956 NFL Champions, the New York Giants.  As rain fell on Soldier Field, almost 75,000 fans watched an exciting game in which the lead changed several times.  Giants quarterback Chuck Conerly and Brodie both demonstrated their strong passing skills, but in the end the Giants defeated the all stars, 22-12.

Image Credit: The Chicago Tribune Charities

October 20, 1957 – NYC Mayor Robert Wagner’s Coney Island Campaign Stop

The Mayoral Debate: Catsup or Mustard? Photo: Eddie Hausner, The New York Times Photo Archives, available at the New York Times store

On October 20, 1957, incumbent New York City mayoral candidate Robert F. Wagner, Jr. stopped for a classic Coney Island treat – a All-American hot dog.  On his way to a second-term landslide victory, Democrat Wagner’s alignment with Carmine DeSapio’s Tammany Hall machine during his first election in 1953 instigated a intra-party feud between DeSapio and Presidential Widow Eleanor Roosevelt, whose husband Franklin had previously stripped the long-standing political society from federal patronage.  Tammany Hall’s 140-year influence over the city had begun to wane in the 1930’s, with the election of Republican Mayor Fiorello La Guardia on a Fusion ticket.  The 1953 DeSapio-Wagner alliance resulted in a brief resurgence of machine politics in the 1950’s.

Mayor Wagner, a Yale graduate and Scroll and Key member, was born in Manhattan in 1910, the son of U. S. Senator Robert Ferdinand Wagner, Sr.  During his tenure in Gotham he was instrumental in building public housing and schools, creating the City University of New York system, establishing the right of collective bargaining for city employees, and barring housing discrimination based on race, creed or color.  He is said to be the first mayor to pro-actively hire a significant number of people of color into city government positions.  The city’s performing arts jewel, the Lincoln Center, was developed while Wagner was in office.  The Public Theater’s New York Shakespeare Festival (now known as Shakespeare in the Park) also took shape during his tenure.  His administration’s inaction led to the out-of-town migration of the Giants and Dodgers baseball teams, although a subsequent commission he formed led to the birth of the New York Mets.

Wagner broke with DeSapio and Tammany Hall during his third-term mayoral campaign in 1961.  His victory set a milestone in New York City, and local machine politics thereafter entered a decline.