San Francisco Giants closer Mark Melancon was in New York on Monday in search of a missing link. No, he wasn’t looking for a new set-up man in the bullpen; however, he was on a quest to connect the history of the California franchise that abandoned its New York roots almost six decades ago. Standing at the base of the Brush Stairway that led to the former site of the Polo Grounds, Melancon warmly greeted a few dozen members of the New York Giants Preservation Society for an intimate gathering.
“It’s awesome that you guys have stuck together and been able to kind of form a group and cherish this area,” Melancon said. “Obviously when I decided to sign here, the recent history was very important to me. When you get engulfed into an organization, you feel like recently you know everything, but history wise you get to see Willie Mays coming in the clubhouse, [Willie] McCovey and some of these older guys that you guys probably got to see and watch and play here.”
Melancon was attracted to the group’s efforts to keep the franchise’s New York history afloat. He welcomed the opportunity to be a part of the culture that was supporting the Giants from thousands of miles away.
“This is a neat experience for me,” he said. “The amount of people that came out [today] and are true to their fan base across the country and keeping this group together all around the Polo Grounds is different. I like to come out and see that.”
His desire to forge a relationship with baseball’s past stems from how the current Giants routinely have their Hall of Fame alumni visit the team. Meeting with legends such as Mays and McCovey helped Melancon put his place in the game in perspective.
“Seeing Willie Mays in the clubhouse is pretty special,” he said. “It makes you think about what those guys went through. We have [Mike] Murphy for a head clubhouse guy who has been around for 60 years. … Some of his stories are incredible, seeing Willie [Mays], McCovey. … It’s special to be able to kind of relate to those guys on such a different level, but it’s still the same game.”
Ironically, while Melancon was praising the merits of how the New York crew carried the torch for the Giants pre-West Coast lineage, he was standing a mere train stop from where he made his major league debut. In 2009, he first touched the hallowed grounds as a member of the New York Yankees. Returning for this event so close to where it all started for Melancon brought things full circle.
“It’s a special place,” he said. “To be able to come up in the Yankees organization was such an honor. I felt like wearing those pinstripes was something that everybody dreams of. For me to be able to do that, it’s a dream come true and something that I’ll never forget.”