It is jarring. You don't expect it. You're watching the ball jump off the bat and your brain is conditioned to think it is a routine flyball. As the camera pans to the right, it just appears. The right field stands at the Polo Grounds. That is where Duke Snider's 399th career homerun landed in an unearthed video clip from MLB.com.
This isn't the only homerun we've ever seen in the Polo Grounds, however (to my knowledge) it is the only broadcast footage of a homerun in the iconic stadium. The Polo Grounds was the home of the New York Yankees until 1922, the Giants until 1957 and the Mets for the 1962 and 1963 seasons. The ballpark hosted two All-Star games, neither televised and the 1951 and 1954 World Series, both of which were televised but no broadcast material survives. Probably the most famous game ever played at The Grounds was Game 3 of the 1951 NL Playoff. Despite the WPIX broadcast being transmitted coast-to-coast by NBC, no broadcast footage from this game survives either.
After the jump, we will talk about the game, the call and the true star of the clip: the ballpark.
The homerun Snider hit, off of Cardinals reliever Diomedes Olivo, left the field about 260 feet away from homeplate. To put that into modern perspective, the shortest right field distance you will find in a current ballpark is still 40 feet deeper. Fans watching in the rightfield corner are literally sitting where most modern right fielders stand when there is a runner at 3rd and less than 2 outs.
Leading up to that homerun off the oldest player in the National League, the Cardinals had played a fairly taught game. Facing future Cardinal, Al Jackson, the Redbirds lead 2-0 off of back-to-back doubles by Curt Flood and Dick Groat to start the game and a solo homerun by Ken Boyer in the 4th. Starter Ron Taylor had given up two hits to the Mets in the 2nd inning but held them without another baserunner going into the 9th.
The Mets picked up a one out single by Frank Thomas and a walk by Ron Hunt, to chase Taylor from the ballgame and bring Snider to the plate. Rod Kanehl pinch ran for Thomas and moved to 3rd when Olivo uncorked a wild pitch. With the tying run now at 2nd base and a 2-2 count, Snider lined a ball into the 2nd deck for his 8th career walk-off homerun and the Mets won the 21st of their 51 victories on the season.
The videotape of the June 7, 1963 game comes from the WOR-TV broadcast. Lindsey Nelson is on the call. What is interesting is that this videotape is in black and white. The broadcast from April 16, 1963 that was highlighted in the post came in color from Crosley Field. You can see the quick drop in of 'DUKE SNIDER' as an overlay, as well as a sad Ken Boyer leaving the field dejected.
It is always great to see these old ballparks. We've been given glimpses of Sportsman's Park, Crosley Field, Forbes Field, Ebbets, the list goes on. Some of the great shots we get in this clip are of the Kool Cigarettes ad just to the right of the homerun but more excitingly, the flash of the Rheingold ad on the clubhouse in CF. The centerfield clubhouse is one of the most iconic images of the Polo Grounds and to see it 'living' in the background of this footage is a real treat. That 'H' and 'E' in the Rheingold sign would light up, signalling to the fans whether the play had been ruled a hit or an error.
This footage had previously been seen on the Mets 25th Anniversary VHS production, to some degree. You can purchase the WABC radio call of this game from the Miley Collection on BaseballDirect.