June 1, 1962 was a special day for New York’s two major league baseball clubs. On that date, the Giants returned to play at the Polo Grounds and the Yankees were participants in front of the largest crowd in Dodgers Stadium history to that point, to witness a night game, except it wasn’t called Dodgers Stadium and interleague play had yet to begin.
After abandoning New York and the Polo Grounds following the 1957 season for San Francisco, the Giants were returning to their old environs to play the expansion New York Mets on Friday night, June 1. Some thought tempers might flare, as the two clubs had engaged in a fight on Sunday of that week, during a heated doubleheader at Candlestick Park. However, the atmosphere had changed, when the scene shifted to New York.
The Mets began the night on a tasteful note by introducing the Giants along the third base line with former player and Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner handling the MC duties. Naturally, the loudest ovation was for Willie Mays.
As for the game, Mays did not disappoint the 43,742 fans (larger than the crowd that attended Game 3 of the special National League playoff game between the Giants and Dodgers at the Polo Grounds in 1951), hitting a home run. But it was Willie McCovey who set the tone, as he homered in his first two at bats, in the Giants 9-6 win. (The victory placed the Giants into a first place tie with the Dodgers, while the last place Mets dropped to 20 games out of first with a 12-31 record.)
Coincidentally, the first base coach for the Giants in that game was Wes Westrum, who played in that 1951 playoff game and would succeed Casey Stengel as Mets manager.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, the Yankees were playing the Los Angeles Angels, playing in their second season as an expansion club and performing in their new home, Dodger Stadium. Except, the American League’s Angels were forced to refer to the ballpark when they played there as Chavez Ravine – named after the town that once existed on the ballpark’s site – as part of their rental agreement with Dodgers’ owner Walter O;Malley.
That night, the Yankees and Angels set a new stadium record for the largest crowd to attend a night game at the ballpark – Dodgers or Angels – 51,584. After all, these were the Yankees of Mantle, Maris, Berra and Ford – although Mantle did not play because of an injury – and they were the defending World Champs. Besides, the Angels were shocking the baseball world by remaining in contention for the AL pennant most of the season.
Sans Mantle, the Yankees won the game, 6-2, behind pitcher Ralph Terry’s four-hitter. They beat Bo Belinsky, who had pitched a no-hitter in May and was known for his carousing ways with the Hollywood crowd. The victory placed the second place Yankees (26-18) one game behind first place Cleveland, while the Angels (24-21) were only 3 1/2 games behind.
For one shining moment, however, during a long baseball season, four ball clubs, two from New York, managed to make something special out of two baseball games in June.