Professional baseball has always belonged in the borough of Staten Island. Before the Staten Island Yankees made their debut in 1999, there were two other baseball teams that preceded them. In 1886 and 1887, the New York Metropolitans played in a stadium called the St. George Grounds and in 1889, the New York Giants, who were awaiting their new Polo Grounds in Manhattan, also occupied the field.
The St. George Stadium featured many luxuries which, for that time, were a rarity, such as a “ladies refreshment room” and “retiring rooms for both sexes.” The stadium also featured a dining room where the fans could eat, drink wine and observe the game at the same time. “Visitors who came to the baseball games can enjoy a comfortable table d’hote or a la carte dinner at a reasonable price and spend a hot summer evening with us,” said George F. Williams, General Manager of the Staten Island Amusement Company.
The St. George Stadium functioned not only as a baseball stadium. With such a magnificent view of the New York Harbor, St. George was originally used as an entertainment venue, playing host to many theater functions and the occasional circus (with an elephant playing centerfield). The field also had numerous attractions that lured people to the stadium, such as tennis courts, an ice cream saloon, a picnic area adjacent to the field and several lacrosse fields. St. George was an exciting place to be and extremely convenient for those coming across from Manhattan as the stadium was located 300 feet from the ferry.
The first baseball game played at St. George was on April 22, 1886. The New York Metropolitans opened their season against the Philadelphia Athletics in front of 7,000 people. The Times wrote, “The grand stand overlooks the bay, and a cool, refreshing breeze adds to the comfort of the onlookers; the playing grounds are neatly sodded, and altogether the Metropolitans can boast of one of the best parks in the country.” People from all over came to watch the baseball game; they even included a free ferry ride for people coming from Manhattan. Fans also enjoyed their view of the construction of the Statue of Liberty. In that season, the Mets ended with a 53-82 record, so to some fans the Statue of Liberty was more of a thrill.
On October 8, 1887, the Metropolitan franchise was sold to the American Association rival, Brooklyn, for $15,000. This would be the last time professional baseball made a permanent home at St. George Stadium. A year later, there was the brief visit by the New York Giants while they awaited the completion of the Polo grounds in Manhattan.
It took 112 years before Staten Island was once again the home of professional baseball. The Staten Island Yankees took the field for the first time during the summer of 1999, thus becoming the first Minor League Baseball team in New York City. The Baby Bombers, as they are called on occasion, played the first two years of their existence at a temporary stadium at the College of Staten Island while their current home, Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George, was being built.
The Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George is New York's premier waterfront stadium and has become one of the standard bearers in professional baseball parks across the country. Although time has changed St. George, many of the aspects about baseball on Staten Island remain unchanged. Over the outfield walls lies a picturesque view of lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor, and New Jersey. The 7171 seat home of the Staten Island Yankees was the crown jewel of the borough and would soon house not only baseball but concerts, picnics and other special events to benefit the people of Staten Island and the greater New York area. The ballpark is one of finest stadiums in the country and was recently included in Baseball America’s Great Ballparks calendar for 2008.
The Ballpark at St. George opened on June 24, 2001 to much fanfare and anticipation. The Staten Island Yankees defeated the Hudson Valley Renegades 3-1 that evening to christen the beautiful new home of baseball on Staten Island.
Special thanks to Borough Hall and the Staten Island Advance for providing the above information.