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The Giants were born in 1883 when the National League requested that its failing franchise in Troy, New York, move to New York City. Known as the "Gothams" until 1885, they played their first game on May 1, 1883, on the Polo Grounds at 110th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues in Manhattan. When the team vaulted into second place in 1886, manager Jim Mutrie exclaimed, "My big fellows! My Giants! We are the people!" and they were from then on known as the Giants. They would close out the '80s with pennant wins in 1888 and '89.

The '90s were not so kind to them. They were forced to move further uptown to a new Polo Grounds and finished in 6th place in 1890. They would spend most of the decade struggling in the lower division under the abrasive ownership of Andrew Freedman who bought control of the team in 1895. Freedman made seventeen managerial changes in the eight years of his presidency. The arrival of John McGraw as manager in 1902, coupled with an 1899 trade that brought the great Christy Mathewson to pitch for the Giants, brought new respectability. The Giants would be the premier National League team for the next twenty-five years, during which time they would win ten pennants and three World Championships under the legendary McGraw - regarded by some as the best manager of all time. McGraw was both a severe motivator and a shrewd tactician whose use of the platoon system forever altered managerial strategy.

The brilliant Christy Mathewson offered a stark contrast to McGraw. He was known to let up on batters when he was ahead so as not to humiliate opponents -- and to save his overworked arm. With his uncanny control and superb screwball, Mathewson masterfully forced batters to ground out. Much beloved for his integrity and great craft, he won some 373 games. In 1915, the Giants saw Olympic great Jim Thorpe join the team, only to find himself outwitted by curve balls.

The "Black Sox" scandal of 1919 cast its shadow on the Giants as McGraw dismissed two players, Hal Chase and Heinie Zimmerman, without public comment. McGraw testified a year later that the players had thrown games and had unsuccessfully attempted to bribe fellow Giant players to do the same. Both players were banned from baseball.

The mid-1920s saw the Giants lose New York supremacy to the up and coming New York Yankees, led by the incomparable Babe Ruth. With weak pitching and powerful hitting, they failed to win a pennant the last eight years of McGraw's tenure, which ended in 1932.

Mel Ott, only 5'9" and 170 pounds, began his brilliant Giant career, which led to 511 career home runs, in 1925. Carl Hubbell, a screwballing lefthander who would win 253 games, joined the Giants four years later. Bill Terry, a lifetime .341 hitter (who hit .401 in 1930) took over as player manager in 1932, restoring the Giants to greatness, as they won the World Series in '33 and pennants in '36 and '37. The Giants were also-rans for the rest of the 30s.

Mel Ott took over the managerial helm for eight years in 1942 but was unable to revive the flagging Giants. The 1946 season was particularly doomed as the Mexican customs broker Jorge Pascual formed a Mexican "outlaw" league and attracted six Giants starters. They finished in the cellar with 61 wins and 93 losses.

The 1947 Giants proved to be a team of great contradictions, with some of the best hitting and worst pitching in baseball. They set a major league record with 221 homers, yet could finish no better than fourth place. Poor pitching, a recurrent problem in Giants baseball history, proved to be Ott's downfall. In 1948 he was replaced by pugnacious Brooklyn Dodger manager Leo Durocher, who had dismissed Ott as a "nice guy" who would finish last. Durocher resolved to build a team on speed and aggressiveness.

Durocher's Giants progressed from fifth place to third in 1950, followed by the magical 1951 season which started slow. Durocher began to play a young kid named Willie Mays at centerfield who, after going hitless his first twelve at bats, hit a pitch off Braves' great Warren Spahn that hit the grandstand roof at the Polo Grounds. Mays began to spark the club, but as of August 11, the Giants were still thirteen and a half games behind the league-leading Dodgers. The Giants went on a sixteen-game winning streak that brought them to within five games of the Dodgers and then pulled dead-even the day the regular season ended. In the three game playoff for the pennant the two teams split the first two games. In the deciding final game at the Polo Grounds the Giants won on Bobby Thomson's come-from-behind homer in the bottom of the ninth. It remains one of the most storied moments in sports. The Giants' loss to the Yankees in a six game World Series was an anticlimax.

Losing Mays to the army, the Giants fell to second the following year as the Dodgers reigned. The year 1953 saw a decline in pitching and a fall to fifth place.

To everyone's surprise the next year, behind the booming bat of Willie Mays, (.345 average, 41 homers), and some solid pitching, the Giants won the pennant. They went on to beat a strong Cleveland Indians team in four games in a series that saw Mays make an unforgettable catch of a fly ball by Vic Wertz.

The 1955 Giants slipped to third place despite 51 homers from Willie Mays and down to sixth in '56 under new manager Bill Rigney. With the Polo Grounds slated to be demolished and replaced by a housing development, Giants' owner Horace Stoneham began looking for a site in which to relocate. Giants attendance had fallen from 1.2 million in 1954 to less than 633,000 in 1956. On August 19, 1957, Stoneham announced that the Giants would be moving to the Bay Area for the 1958 season.