Came across an amusing anecdote in a collection of baseball stories (said to be true stories, pulled from various archives and news reports) first published in … imagine this … 1949. It seems that a man named Charles White proposed, back in 1912, of building a field on top of Grand Central Terminal in the heart of Manhattan:
A visionary named Charles White came forward with a scheme in 1912 which would solve one of the major problems confronting the owners of baseball clubs. The owners were often complaining in those days about their inability to construct adequate playing fields owing to the high cost of real estate. Mr. White told them to quit worrying.
He submitted plans for a baseball field of immense proportions, sodded with bright green turf and containing all the other conveniences of an up-to-date ball field. This field, however, would be up in the air — built over the roof of the new Grand Central Station, extending from Lexington Avenue to Madison Avenue and from Forty-fourth to Fiftieth streets.
First off, that outline is huge
. As it stands now, Grand Central is centered on the plot
between Lex and Madison and extends from just 42nd to 45th streets. Park Avenue sits between Lex and Madison, then splits (southbound to the west, northbound to the east) around Grand Central, with all the platforms and tracks underground. A ballfield “over the roof” of the terminal wouldn’t be like a rooftop garden (the terminal building isn’t big enough), but probably more like the proposed West Side stadium that the city hoped to build in the last decade to lure the Olympics and the Jets — a platform over the underground rail lines. Of course, this was 98 years ago — who knows what the plans really were.
Not only does White’s plan bear a similarity to the proposed West Side stadium, but it have drawn the Yankees down from Harlem (they were tenants of the Giants in the Polo Grounds until 1923)? Even if it had, however, I doubt there’s any way the Yankees would still be there. They would’ve outgrown it by now, probably decades ago, and knowing what the area around the train station looks like now, there would be no room for much in the way of renovations or expansion.
Had they outgrown it in the ’50s, might they have moved West and become the San Francisco Yankees? Imagine that: Seven years after Joe DiMaggio’s retirement, his one and only team moves to his hometown. Not likely. They’d established such an identity in New York. But if they tried to relocate within New York then, Robert Moses might’ve forced them to his stadium site in Flushing Meadows that Walter O’Malley had rejected for his Dodgers. Or if the Yankees managed to last in the ballpark atop the terminal until the ’70s, when Yankee Stadium was renovated, or ’80s, might they then have moved to the West Side or New Jersey? Who knows what course baseball history might’ve taken had a ballpark been built atop Grand Central.