Don’t ask me how I wound up on the Polo Grounds’ Wikipedia page, but I did. And while there, reading about the O.G. Polo Grounds on the north end of Central Park — the only version of the Polo Grounds where people actually played polo — I saw this:
An early highlight of Giants’ play at the Polo Grounds was Roger Connor‘s home run over the right-field wall and into 112th Street; visitors to the site today can judge for themselves that this was an impressively long home run for its time or any time.
There’s not much in the way of a citation for the fact on the page, but a Googling led me to this excerpt from Roy Kerr’s book about Connor:
The Giants, New York’s National League team, were making their first appearance at home since mid-August, having just returned from a disastrous road trip that included seven consecutive losses to the league leaders, Chicago and Detroit. Boston’s ace, Charley “Old Hoss” Radbourn, son of an immigrant English butcher, was in the pitching box (there was as yet no”pitching mound”) in the first inning as a tall, powerfully built left-handed Giants hitter who hailed from Waterbury, Connecticut strode to the plate. Games accounts report that Radbourn gave the towering batsman a “good ball,” which was met squarely, and then “it soared upward with the speed of a carrier pigeon. All eyes were turned on the tiny sphere as it flew over the head of Buffington, in right field, and when it finally disappeared over the fence a shout of joy went up from the 2,600 spectators.” It was the only ball ever hit out of the original Polo Grounds, sailing over “an eight foot wall surmounted by a sixteen foot fence,” and landing in a field on 112th Street. The Giants slugger “trotted the circuit around the bases, and when he finally reached home base he looked at the fence and appeared happy. The members of the team shook the hand of the successful batsman, and he was gazed upon in wonderment by Radbourn and the other members of the Boston team.”
The book later estimates the shot at 435 feet, so nothing outrageous by today’s standards — though still pretty awesome — and probably utterly crazy in 1886. This Hardball Times post suggests home plate was around the corner of 5th Ave. and 110th St., for anyone interested in walking out Connor’s shot.
This post at NYCStrayCat.com passes along the account from the Sporting News that “members of the New York Stock Exchange, occupying box seats, were so smitten by the Herculean clout that they took a collection for the slugger. When the contributions were totaled, the fans were able to present a $500 gold watch to their hero.”
What’s certain is that Roger Connor had an amazing mustache:
He was also awesome at baseball.