My overall assessment is that this stadium would’ve been a nightmare for ballhawks. Take a look at the following aerial view, and then I’ll start explaining why:
See those little red numbers? Here are the distances to those spots:
1) 279 feet
2) 455 feet
3) 483 feet
4) 449 feet
5) 258 feet
Ordinarily, small dimensions are great for ballhawks — a ton of balls reach the seats — but in this case, because the outfield wall jutted back at such a crazy angle, the dimensions got deep in a hurry. In other words, there were probably some great home-run-catching opportunities down the lines, but the rest of the stadium would’ve been a waste.
Here’s another aerial view (taken after the rail yard was replaced by an apartment complex) that shows a couple interesting things:
In the photo above, the arrow is pointing at a fabulous corner spot down the left field line. There would’ve been some foul ball opportunities there — before and during games — and if any players DID throw balls to the fans, that clearly would’ve been the place to snag one.
Also, in the photo above, do you see where I’ve placed two red dots in the stands? Do you see the slightly curved white line that connects them? (The line extends past the dots on both sides.) That line is a cross-aisle, and although it appears to be rather narrow, it would’ve been a good spot to run back and forth for foul balls.
In case you can’t tell from the photo above, there was an awful lot of foul territory on the field. Good for the pitchers. Bad for the ballhawks. Check it out:
In the photo above, the arrow is pointing at the low wall in right center field. Granted, this section was a loooooong way from home plate, and the wall was probably a bit too high for fans to reach over and pick up baseballs off the warning track, but there were probably some ground-rule doubles that reached the first few rows. Also, in the photo above, do you see the rolled up tarp down the right field foul line? That was another corner spot. And if you look at the front row just to the right of the tarp, it seems that the railing was pretty low. The fans sitting there probably would’ve been able to reach over and scoop up foul grounders during the game. That was probably the best opportunity of all.
Speaking of wall height, look how ridiculous it was in left field:
One of the most famous home runs of all time landed in the lower deck down the left field line. I’m talking about The Shot Heard ‘Round the World
— Bobby Thomson’s blast off Ralph Branca in 1951, which sent the Giants to the World Series.
The next photo is going to show you how unlikely it was for that ball (or any ball) to land in the lower deck. Ready? It shows the upper deck overhanging the field (as seen from foul territory in the left field corner):
The upper deck would’ve been good for home runs, but only near the foul poles.
In the photo above, do you see the chains in the foreground? Those, unfortunately, were not limited to the outfield sections. See here:
Those chains would’ve made it nearly impossible to run for balls.
In the photo above, I have once again drawn two red dots. If you look closely, you can see a dark line that connects them. This is further proof of the existence of a cross-aisle.
The two arrows pointing up show the protective screen, which completely covered the seats behind the plate. (Not good.) But on a positive note, there was a tunnel in the second deck, positioned just to the side of the screen. Although it doesn’t appear that there was much room to run in the second deck, that tunnel probably saw some action when lefties were at bat.
Did foul balls ever fly completely over the grandstand and land outside the stadium? I have no idea, but it sure seems possible. There’s a chance that some home runs (if hit very far directly down the lines) cleared the roof as well.
Anyway, there you have it.
Snagging baseballs at the Polo Grounds.
Not easy, but not impossible.