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Shibe Park, known for the last one-third of its existence as Connie Mack Stadium, was a Major League Baseball park in Philadelphiamarker, Pennsylvaniamarker. When it opened April 12, 1909, it became Major League Baseball's first steel-and-concrete stadium.

It was on the block bounded by Lehigh Avenue, 20th Street, Somerset Street and 21st Street. It was thus just five blocks west, corner-to-corner, from Baker Bowlmarker, the home of the Philadelphia Phillies that had opened in 1887. The stadium hosted two Major League Baseball All-Star Games; in 1943, marking the first time the game had been played at night, and in 1952, with that game holding the distinction of being the only All-Star contest shortened by rain (in this case, to five innings).

History

The Philadelphia Athletics of the American League opened the ballpark in 1909 after abandoning Columbia Parkmarker. The park was first called Shibe Park, named for Benjamin Shibe, who was one of the initial owners along with Connie Mack. Mr. Mack eventually acquired full ownership, but kept the name the same. The park was renamed Connie Mack Stadium in 1953 in honor of the gentlemanly and modest Mr. Mack, who by then was known as "The Grand Old Man of Baseball". A statue of Mr. Mack was erected in 1957 across the street in a park. The statue was later moved to Veterans Stadiummarker in 1971, and ultimately to Citizens Bank Parkmarker in 2004.

The park was the site of some special home run feats. Babe Ruth hit one to deep left-center on September 9, 1921, that cleared the then-single bleacher stand, went across the street, and hit a tree, over 500 feet away. On May 22, 1930, Ruth hit one to right field over the then-lower wall which landed in an alley behind the second row of houses, again over 500 feet distant. On June 3, 1932, Lou Gehrig hit 4 in one game here. Showing no favoritism, he hit two to the left field bleachers, two over the still-short right field wall, and a shot at a fifth with a deep fly to center (whose corner at that time was about 470 feet away), but the center fielder snared it on a running catch. In later years, Dick Allen hit some booming drives over the double-decked bleachers, in the general direction of the 1921 Ruthian shot.

Fans in Shibe Park watching the inaugural game in 1909.
Because the Athletics were popular at the time, sellout crowds encouraged house owners on 20th Street to erect bleachers similar to those now atop the flats at Wrigley Fieldmarker in Chicago, and charging admission to watch the game. This infuriated Mr. Mack (much as it would raise the ire of Cubs management), who was known as a tight owner when it came to finances. Rather than negotiate with the neighbors (as the Cubs later did), Mack filed a lawsuit against the 20th Street house owners. After losing that suit, during the winter of 1933 he ordered the extension of the fence to a height of 33 feet (10 m), blocking the view of the neighbors, a fence quickly dubbed by writers as the "spite fence". This contrasted with Baker Bowl's infamous right field wall, in that it was not necessary from the standpoint of dimensions (the park was spacious and essentially symmetrical), but strictly for economic reasons. But after the fence went up, the team's fortunes went down, as they seldom contended for the league championship after that. According to To Everything a Season, the fortunes of the neighborhood began to decline as well. Mack had cut the A's off from their neighborhood, to the detriment of both. The Athletics played in the stadium through the 1954 season and relocated to Kansas Citymarker in 1955.



Phillies at Shibe Park

The National League's Philadelphia Phillies abandoned Baker Bowlmarker in mid-season 1938, citing an opportunity to reduce expenses by sharing stadium upkeep with the A's. They played at the stadium as co-tenants, playing a doubleheader on July 4 that year, ultimately purchasing the park in the winter of 1954 when the Athletics left Philadelphia, until the stadium was closed after the 1970 season when the team moved to Veterans Stadium. For the 1955 season, the Phillies purchased the Ballantine Beer electronic scoreboard from Yankee Stadiummarker. This scoreboard was used through the final year at the ballpark. The final game played there, on October 1 with the Phillies defeating the Montreal Expos 2-1 in 10 innings, was marred by people literally wrecking the stadium before the game ended. In all, a special post-game ceremony — including a helicopter delivery to The Vet of home plate — was cancelled.

After its final game at the end of the 1970 season, Connie Mack Stadium sat empty and unwanted for the better part of six years, suffering fire on August 20, 1971 — the same day the Connie Mack statue was re-dedicated at Veterans' Stadium — along with vandalism and jungle-like growth of weeds. It was finally razed in 1976, while Philadelphia was the central point of American Bicentennial celebrations including the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Veterans Stadiummarker. The ballpark that was once a "church of baseball" is now the site of a Christian church, the Deliverance Evangelistic Church. The mid-century departure of both Philadelphia baseball teams from North Philadelphia contributed to the long and painful economic decline of the area. Even so, many of the flat-roofed apartment buildings, which pre-dated the ballpark, still stand in the vicinity, watching over the former ballpark property.

Memorable Games

The Athletics participated in seven World Series' during their tenure at the stadium: 1910, 1911, 1913, 1914, 1929, 1930 and 1931. The hometown fans witnessed A's Series championship wins at Shibe Park in 1911, 1929 and 1930.

The Phillies participated in one World Series during their tenure at the stadium, the 1950 World Series.

The 1951 All-Star Game was originally awarded to the Phillies. The City of Detroitmarker was celebrating the 250th anniversary of its founding in 1701 and requested to host the year's All-Star Game. Although the National League was scheduled to host the game in '51, the game was moved to Detroitmarker. The Phillies hosted the 1952 Game. Phillies pitcher Curt Simmons started the game for the National League in front of the home crowd, Phillies shortstop Granny Hamner started and batted eighth, and A's pitcher Bobby Shantz pitched the fifth inning for the American League and struck out Whitey Lockman, Jackie Robinson and Stan Musial in succession. It had rained all day, starting early in the morning and keeping both teams from pre-game warm ups. Rain delayed the first-pitch twenty-minutes and eventually caused the game to be called after the fifth inning.

Negro Leagues

Shibe Park hosted its first Negro League games in 1919 when the Hilldale Club and Bacharach Giants played home games at the ballpark. Games between white major league teams and Negro League teams were not uncommon. The Bacharach Giants hosted an exhibition game at Shibe Park against John McGraw's New York Giants on October 6, 1919.

Shibe Park was a neutral site venue for Negro League World Series games. The Cleveland Buckeyes defeated the Homestead Grays, 5 to 0, on September 20, 1945, to win game four and sweep the Series, four games to zero. Cleveland's Frank Carswell defeated Homestead's Ray Brown.

The Negro League Philadelphia Stars played home games at Shibe Park in the 1940s. The team's usual home field, at 44th and Parkside sat approximately 6,000 fans; the Stars were able to draw between 10,000 and 12,000 to Shibe Park. They often played double-headers on Monday nights which was a travel day for the major league clubs. Former Stars-player Gene Benson would later recall the team playing about twenty games per-season at Shibe Park. The Stars would dress in the A's locker room.

Professional Football

Shibe Park hosted the Frankford Yellow Jackets against the Chicago Bears on December 5, 1925 and the Yellow Jackets against the Bears on December 4, 1926. It also served as the site of two AFL games in 1926, the Philadelphia Quakers against the Los Angeles Wildcats on November 20, 1926 and the Quakers against the New York Yankees on November 27, 1926. The stadium hosted the December 12, 1925, Pottsville Maroons-Notre Dame All-Stars game. The Maroons' NFL franchise was suspended as a result of the team's participation in that contest, costing Pottsville the 1925 NFL championship.

The National Football League's Philadelphia Eagles moved to Shibe Park in 1940 and played their home games at the stadium through 1957.

To accommodate football at Shibe Park during the winter, management set up stands in right field, parallel to Twentieth Street.
Some twenty feet high, these "east stands" had twenty-two rows of seats.
The goalposts stood along the first base line and in left field.
The uncovered east stands enlarged capacity of Shibe Park to over thirty-nine thousand, but the Eagles rarely drew more than twenty-five to thirty thousand.


The Eagles played the 1948 NFL Championship game in a blizzard where the home team defeated the Chicago Cardinals 7-0 with the only score by a Steve Van Buren touchdown. The Eagles left Connie Mack Stadium after the 1957 season for Franklin Fieldmarker. Franklin Field would seat over 60,000 for the Eagles whereas Connie Mack had a capacity of 39,000.

Soccer

In October 1948, the US national soccer team played three international friendlies against the Israel national team. The first game was played at the Polo Groundsmarker and the last at Ebbets Fieldmarker. On October 17, the US beat Israel at Shibe Park, shutting them out 4-0 before 30,000 fans.

Contemporary culture

Shibe Park's rooftop bleachers became one of the inspirations for a special seating area in Citizens Bank Parkmarker when it opened in 2004. Of their "Rooftop Bleacher Seats", the Phillies announced, "The Phillies are bringing back rooftop bleacher seats, a Shibe Park phenomenon of the 1920s when residents of 20th Street built bleacher seats on top of their roofs. The seats are located on top of the buildings along Ashburn Alley."

In June 2001, Shibe Park was one of ten historic ballparks celebrated on the USPS 34-cent Commemorative issue stamps, "Baseball's Legendary Playing Fields". The stamps were released June 27, 2001. The reverse of the Shibe Park stamp reads, "The first Major League Baseball concrete-and-steel stadium, Philadelphia's Shibe Park featured a 34-foot-high right field wall, as well as a facade with stately columns and a French Renaissance cupola."

In 2009, the Philadelphia Brewing Co. released an ale named "Fleur de Lehigh" which features Shibe Park on the label.

References

  1. Suehsdorf, A. D. (1978). The Great American Baseball Scrapbook, p. 33. Random House. ISBN 0-394-50253-1.


Sources

  • To Everything a Season, by Bruce Kuklick
  • Philadelphia's Old Ballparks, by Rich Westcott
  • Lost Ballparks, by Lawrence Ritter
  • baseball annuals
  • Connie Mack Stadium at Ballparks.com


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