What of such significance could possibly have come between the Giants of '54 and today? Besides a continental shift of 2,600 miles, that is?
A plaque dedicated to Grant, an unlikely turn-of-the-century ballplayer and World War I hero, and prominently mounted on the center-field wall of the Polo Grounds went missing. This was no pea-sized homage, but a five-foot rectangular memorial clearly visible in that famous clip of Willie Mays' over-the-shoulder grab in the '54 Classic.
Grant was killed on Oct. 5, 1918, in the Battle of Argonne in France. The New York Giants unveiled their tribute between games of a Memorial Day doubleheader in 1921.
With that plaque looking over them, the Giants won the 1921 World Series, then three more before venturing West. In 1958, the franchise moved to San Francisco, lock, stock and barrel -- but no Grant plaque, which did not survive the fans' on-field invasion following the Polo Grounds farewell game of Sept. 29, 1957.
The mysterious disappearance of the plaque isn't what angered the baseball muses. But did they subsequently punish the Giants for their disinterest in locating the missing original plaque, or in authorizing a replacement?
Baseball historians think so. As do authors Mickey Bradley and Dan Gordon, who explore the phenomenon in a pair of books, "Field of Screams: Haunted Tales from the Baseball Diamond, the Locker Room and Beyond" and "Haunted Baseball: Ghosts, Curses, Legends & Eerie Events."
Through the San Francisco years, the Giants were frequently approached by various groups about installing a makeup memorial, but were repeatedly rejected by an ownership that considered Grant part of the New York Giants' past. The last such spurned overture was made by the Great War Society in December 2001.
Ten months later, the Giants lost another World Series, to the Angels.
On Memorial Day 2006, Giants ownership finally gave in and mounted a replica plaque to Grant at AT&T Park, a club official at the time telling the author Bradley, "Baseball fans are so superstitious, and players are too, so you have to take this stuff seriously. And if by putting up a plaque we can break some sort of curse, who's to say it's not the right thing to do?"
We're about to find out, across the next 10 days.
The Polo Grounds original plaque read:
IN MEMORY OF
CAPT. EDWARD LESLIE GRANT
307TH INFANTRY -- 77TH DIVISION A.E.F.
SOLDIER -- SCHOLAR -- ATHLETE
KILLED IN ACTION
OCTOBER 5, 1918
NEW YORK GIANTS
FRIENDS IN BASEBALL,
JOURNALISM AND THE SERVICE
The replica is a faithful reproduction mounted near AT&T Park's Lefty O'Doul entrance. O'Doul was a career .349 hitter who won a pair of National League batting titles -- he nearly hit .400 in 1929, when he finished at .398. Meaning, he and Grant had nothing in common.
Grant may have been baseball's first renaissance man. He was Harvard-educated and grammatically-correct, known to get on teammates' nerves by yelling on pop flies, "I have it," rather than the traditional but ungrammatical, "I got it."
As a ballplayer, Grant was an accessory. In a 10-year career, he never hit higher than .277, had good speed but only moderate extra-base pop. He had his greatest success early in his career with the Athletics and was really only a blip on the Giants' radar, playing 202 games for them in three seasons.
But he wore the hero's mantle well. He volunteered for the military in 1917, at 34 being well beyond draft age, and distinguished himself as a brave battlefield leader before falling.
So the N.Y. Giants were honoring the man, not the ballplayer, with that plaque. After many decades, the Giants recognized that Eddie Grant towered above the limitations of being "part of New York Giants history," and they did right.
Whether it serves them right, we'll soon know.