When watching baseball, my father would occasionally complain about what happened in the 1954 World Series between the Indians and the New York Giants especially in game 1 where the Indians who went 111-43 in the regular season lost the game due to the unusual shape of the Polo Grounds where the game was played; an event that cost him a lot of money.
This week, I was looking at you tube and noticed a new video posted by Power Salad, a group which had the number one song on the Dr Demento show a few years ago and one that features a lead singer who is older than me as opposed to the many who are from 8-13 years younger. Along with people spelling lose as loose, the song is about Cleveland sports futility and the way their sports teams lost famously over the years. After hearing the song, my first thought was why no mention of 1954 then I realized those who were alive then are now very old and would not get it.
I then decided to analyze the two significant plays from that game one being the Willie Mays famous over the shoulder catch.
Most people have seen video the play or this picture.
The other one is the game winning tenth inning home run by pitch hitter Dusty Rhodes (no relation to the wrestler). Thanks to you tube, I saw the video and as my dad described it, it barely cleared the wall down the right field line.
So what does the Polo Grounds have to do with this? The ballpark is shaped like a paper clip with the batter standing at the end of one curve and centerfield at the other. This made the foul poles at 275 in left (with the upper deck haning over the field at 250 feet) and the right field line at 258 feet. In every other park, including Cleveland's the ball is caught easily in the field of play. No current park is allowed to have a foul line under 300 feet and this guideline prevented Indianapolis in the 1990s from attempting to have a team play in the RCA dome since that field would have had a 290 foot one.
What made up for the short foul lines was center field. Dead center was 483 feet from the plate and where mays caught the ball the wall was 430 feet away. That ball would have been a home run in most other parks and in all but two today.
Here is a diagram of where those balls landed in the Polo Grounds and about where they would have been in Cleveland:
As with many things, timing is the most important aspect of all.