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Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium

 

Photo courtesy of Alan Luber.  For other pictures of Shibe, please go to:

http://www.alanluber.com/merchandise/shibeparkphotos.htm

 

General Information

Area of fair territory: 111,000 sq. ft.

Area of foul territory: Large

 

Fences: LF - CF: 12 ft

            RF: 32 ft

 

Elevation: 12 feet

 

Dimensions (1968):  

LF: 334 ft

CF: 447 ft

RF: 331 ft

Power alleys: 367 ft

 

 

Click to purchase from the Danbury Mint Collection

Who Played Here: Philadelphia Athletics (AL), 1909 to 1954; Philadelphia Phillies (NL), part of 1927, 1938 to 1970.
First Opened: April 12, 1909
First night game: May 16, 1939
Last game: October 1, 1970
Demolished: June 1976
Capacity: 20,000 (1909); 33,000 (1925).

Architects: William Steele and Sons
Construction: William Steele and Sons
Owner: Athletic Grounds Co. (owned by Shibe, Mack et al)
Cost: $457,167.61 ($141,918.92 for the land, $315,248.69 for the stadium)

 

 

History

     The first ballpark built out of concrete and steel, Shibe is the common ancestor of every modern park.  While the old wooden ballparks were ugly firetraps, Shibe was a magnificent structure that immediately inspired a series of new structures - Yankee Stadium, Braves Field, Comiskey Park, Ebbetts Field, Fenway Park, Forbes Field, and Wrigley Field all followed soon after, and concrete and steel versions of the Polo Grounds, Redland Field (a.k.a. Crosley Field), Navin Field (a.k.a. Tiger Stadium) and League Park followed their wooden predecessors.

     The Athletics played baseball for the first 8 years of their existence at Columbia Park, a wooden structure about three miles northwest of Independence Hall on the site bounded by Columbia Avenue and Oxford Street, between 29th and 30th Streets.  Home plate was at 30th and Oxford, and with the first-base foul line parallel to Oxford Street and right field to right-center parallel to 29th.  A roofed single-decked grandstand formed a semi-circle from first to third, with open bleachers down both foul lines.  Seating capacity was only 12,000, though the first game of the 1905 World Series drew a paid attendance of 17,955 (the third game was also played there). 

     The popular A's outgrew the confines of Columbia Park quickly, and in 1909 they moved a mile and a half northeast to brand new Shibe Park.  The new park was just a stroll from the Baker Bowl, and was named for Ben Shibe, a minority owner of the Philadelphia Athletics - the stadium was renamed in 1953 for A's owner Connie Mack.  Initially, skeptics questioned the wisdom of building a ballpark with a seating capacity of 20,000, expandable to over 30,000 - small by today's standards but large for it's time.  But the success of Shibe was more than owners Connie Mack and Ben Shibe could have wanted - upper-deck and left field stands were added in 1925, and brought the capacity up to 33,000, and a mezzanine was added in 1929.

     The ballpark was badly damaged by fire in 1971 and totally demolished in 1976.  The square block on which it stood is now a mostly vacant lot, unmarked, occupied partly by the Deliverance Evangelist Church.  The ballpark began to show its age in the 1950s - there was hardly any parking in the area, the place needed substantial upkeep, and the neighborhood had gone downhill.

     When the Athletics moved to Kansas City in 1955, the Phillies took charge.  They decided to store the batting cages in center field, so they built a storage area behind the center field wall which reduced the distance from 468 feet to 447 feet.  In 1968, the distance to center was decreased even further, to 410 feet.  In 1956, a mammoth new scoreboard was put in right-center (it had previously been used in Yankee Stadium) which raised the height of the wall to 50 feet from 32 feet for the 60-foot length of the scoreboard.  Batted balls hitting the scoreboard were ruled in play, as were balls hitting the 10-foot BALLANTINE BEER sign on top of it; though anything hitting the LONGINES clock (the top of which was 75 feet above the playing field) above that was a home run.

Shibe Park Forever

Photo courtesy of Bill Goff Inc. and Dugout Memories Inc.

 

 

The Spite Fence:  Before 1935, residents of buildings across 20th Street could see games for free by going to the tops of their roofs and looking over the low 12-foot high right-field fence.  Attendance dropped precipitously in the early 1930s, as Connie Mack dismantled his championship teams of 1929 and 1930 and sold off his stars.  Attendance at Shibe fell from 840,000 in 1929 to 230,000 in 1935.  It was then that management decided to do something about the nonpaying customers on the other side of 20th street - Mack lost a lawsuit to prevent these "free admissions," so he put a 22-foot barrier of corrugated sheet iron (known locally as a "spite fence") on top of the existing 12-foot wall in right to cut off the viewTicket prices to the 2000 dollar equivalent of $21 a seat - so much for the idea that going to a baseball game was cheap back in the day.

     A two-foot deep wooden frame was used to support the structure, reducing the distance to right field to 329 feet from 331, although the field marker in right continued to read "331" until 1956.

 

Renovations:  When it first opened, Shibe had a double-decked grandstand that curved around the infield from first base to third base, followed by single-deck bleachers that continued the rest of the way down the foul lines.  The original dimensions of the field were 378 feet to left, 515 to center and 340 feet to right.  In addition to its generous dimensions, the backstop was a healthy 90 feet from the plate, putting Shibe into the same tough-on-hitters category as Comiskey Park and Forbes Field.

     In 1913 and 1925, alterations were made that brought the park roughly to its final form - the single deck of bleachers that extended down both foul lines were covered in 1913, the same year as new, uncovered bleachers were erected from the left field corner to mid-center field.  In 1925, all single-decked bleachers were made double-decked and covered, so that now the ballpark consisted entirely of a double-decked grandstand enclosing the entire playing field except for right field - a 12-foot wall from the right field foul pole, backed up the right fielder, and intersected the double-decked left-field stands in straightaway center field (at the corner of 20th street and Somerset).  The ballpark would retain this basic look for the rest of its days.  After the renovations of 1925, the park's dimensions were 334 feet to left, 468 feet to center and 331 to right, with 12-foot walls in left and right.

     In 1929, a mezzanine was added between the two decks in the outfield, from first around home plate to third, and a press box was built under the roof in the second deck.  This brought the park's seating capacity up to roughly 33,000, were it remained.

     In 1956 a plexiglass shield was installed to protect fans seated behind home plate, replacing the standard wire screen, and a large scoreboard from Yankee Stadium was added to the right field wall, which was simultaneously reduced from 50 feet to 36 feet.  Richie Allen hit the only ball ever to clear that scoreboard.  Shibe Park's bright red seats were filled for the last time October 1, 1970, and the stadium was torn down in June 1976.  Lights allowed the first American League night game to be played on May 16, 1939.  Home plate was moved to Veteran's Stadium in 1970.

 

 

Ten Most Menorable Moments


1. September 28, 1941: The last day of the season: Ted Williams takes a batting average of .400 (well, .39955) into the game.  Rather than sitting on the bench to protect his average, he plays - the goes six-for eight, lifting his average to .406. 
The 23-year-old rapped his major league-leading 37th homer and gets three singles in five at-bats in the opener of a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Athletics, raising his average to .404.  Again, the  Splendid Splinter could have sat out to protect his average; again, he rejected the idea of such chicanery and went to bat.  In the nightcap, he gets a double and single in three at-bats, to finishes the season at .406 - the first player to hit .400 since Bill Terry in 1930 and the last to do it this century.  More

 

2. June 15, 1925: With the Indians leading 15-4 after 7 innings, many fans leave and miss one of the greatest rallies of the century.  The A's score 13 in the 8th for a 17-15 win. The outburst gives P Tom Glass his lone ML victory.

 

3. May 24th, 1936: The Yankees had their Murderer's row in 1936, but it was mostly 2B Tony Lazzeri who did the damage in a 25-2 rout of the Athletics.  Lazzeri cranked 2 grand slams, added a 3rd HR, and a triple for 15 total bases.  That gave him 7 HRs in 4 games and 6 in three games.  He also set a new AL mark of 11 RBI in one game.

 

4. July 13th, 1943: The AL edges the NL 5-3 at Shibe Park in the first All-Star Game played under the lights.  Bobby Doerr of the Red Sox is the hitting hero with a 3-run HR off Mort Cooper in the 2nd inning.  Vince DiMaggio of the Pirates has a single, triple and HR in 3 trips.  Doerr also handled 6 fielding chances.  At the All-Star break he had handled 307 errorless chances, dating back to May 20th.  His AL streak will end at 349 chances, a record he will break in 1948.

 

5. April 8th, 1934: The Phillies and A's meet in a City Series game before 15,000 fans at Shibe Park for the first legal Sunday baseball game ever played in Philadelphia.

 

6. October 1st, 1930: Connie Mack had rebuilt his A's into a contender once again - after dropping four straight to the Boston Braves in the 1914 Series, the A's had suffered the ignominy of seven consecutive last-place finishes.  The 1916 A's team finished 40 games out - that is, 40 games out of seventh place.  The A's rejoined baseball's elite in the late 1920s, thanks to players like Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, Mule Haas, Mickey Cochrane, Al Simmons and George Earnshaw, and in 1929 they went 104-46 and won the AL pennant by 18 games over the New York Yankees, who had swept the World Series in 1927 and 1928.

     On this day, the defending World Champions were held to 5 hits by Burleigh Grimes of the St. Louis Cardinals, while their ace, Lefty Grove (who would win the Cy Young and the MVP in 1931) limits the Cards to a pair of runs.  The A's capitalize on their power - their 5 hits include HRs by Cochrane and Simmons, 2 triples and a double, providing Philadelphia with single runs in 5 different innings and a 5-2 victory.  The duel between two legendary pitchers is a crucial one for the A's - they go on to win in 6.

 

7. May 18, 1912: The Detroit Tigers refuse to play a scheduled game - baseball's first strike - when Ty Cobb is suspended for climbing into the stands and assaulting a fan.  To avoid a forfeit and a fine, Detroit recruits amateur players and gets clobbered 24-2.

 

8. May 24, 1936: Yankee second baseman Tony Lazzeri hits two grand slam home runs, adds a solo homer and a triple, driving in an AL record 11 runs as the Yankees trounce the A's 25-2.

 

9. July 4, 1939: In an Independence Day double-header, the Red Sox and the A's put up a record 54 home runs and 65 hits.  The Red Sox win both games, 17-7 and 18-12; Boston third baseman Jim Tabor drives in 11 runs with four home runs (two of them grand slams), a single and a double.

 

10. October 12, 1929 - Game 4 of the World Series: The A's were trailing the Chicago Cubs 8-0, but came back to win 10-8 thanks to 10 runs in the bottom of the seventh - no team has overcome an eight-run deficit, before or since: greatest comeback in World Series history.  The A's go on to win in Game 5, two days later, after being down by two runs in the bottom of the ninth - outfielder Mule Haas hits a two-run homer to tie it.

 

Analysis 

     The park's playing field was almost a perfect square, with outfield walls roughly 330 feet away from home plate to the foul poles, and running in almost straight lines to dead center field, 450 feet away.  For the ballpark's last two season's, the center field wall was moved to 410 feet out, but for most of the park's history the deep center field outfield wall made Shibe a tough place in which to hit a home run.

     In the late 1920s and early 1930s, when home run totals began to climb, Shibe appears to have boosted home run production considerably.  But this was mostly a function of the great slugging teams the A's put together back then - guys like Jimmie Foxx and Al Simmons loved to hit at home before their fans.  For instance, in 1928, the A's out-homered opponents 54-33 at home and 35-33 on the road.

 

All-Time Home Run Leaders at Shibe:

 

Player Home Runs
Jimmie Foxx 181
Bob Johnson 149
Del Ennis 134
Al Simmons 123
Willie Jones 92
Sam Chapman 90


All-time Home Run Leaders at Shibe - Visitors:

 

Player Home Runs
Babe Ruth 68
Lou Gehrig 45
Ernie Banks 39
Hank Aaron 39
Ted Williams 35

 

 

Location

 

Philadelphia, PA: Shibe Park was located in the north side of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Its boundaries are made up of West Somerset Street (left field -N), North 21st Street (third base - W), West Lehigh Avenue (first base - S), and North 20th Street (right field - E).

     The square block on which it stood is now a mostly vacant lot, unmarked, occupied partly by the Deliverance Evangelist Church.

 

 

Park Factors - AL

 

 

Runs

HR

1921 116 300
1922 116 289
1923 101 101
1924 99 111
1925 101 110
1926 133 179
1927 89 105
1928 100 126
1929 114 165
1930 94 153
1931 101 104
1932 130 199
1933 88 159
1934 98 134
1935 105 131
1936 107 143
1937 90 93
1938 108 101
1939 102 108
1940 98 92
1941 108 115
1942 99 93
1943 112 99
1944 98 98
1945 92 75
1946 116 92
1947 99 103
1948 103 108
1949 97 82
1950 83 89
1951 116 109
1952 130 132
1953 109 108
1954 108 125

 

Park Factors - NL

 

 

 

Runs

HR

1943 90 62
1944 102 63
1945 101 77
1946 95 89
1947 101 76
1948 88 71
1949 99 74
1950 87 82
1951 91 74
1952 97 85
1953 93 102
1954 93 81
1955 103 111
1956 92 85
1957 94 88
1958 101 100
1959 102 85
1960 119 123
1961 93 87
1962 90 86
1963 104 103
1964 96 86
1965 87 104
1966 102 85
1967 108 97
1968 97 105
1969 100 105
1970 92 92

 

 

Dimensions

Left field: 360 ft. (1909), 378 (late, 1909), 380 (1921), 334 (1922), 312 (1926), 334 (1930)

 

Center field: 515 (early, 1909), 502 (late, 1909), 468 (1922), 448 (1950), 440 (1951), 460 (1953), 468 (1954), 447 (1956), 410 (1969)

 

Right-center: 393 (1909), 390 (1969)

 

Right-center, left of scoreboard: 400 (1942)

 

Right field: 360 (early, 1909), 340 (late, 1909), 380 (1921), 307 (1926), 331 (1931), 331 (to lower, 1934), 329 (to upper iron fence, 1934)

 

Backstop: 90 (1942), 86 (1943), 78 (1956), 64 (1960).

 

Fences - History

Left field to left-center: 12 ft (4 ft of screen above 8 ft of concrete, 1949)

 

Center field, small section: 20 (1955), 8 (wood, 1956), 13 (canvas, 1969)

 

Right-center scoreboard: 50 (top of black scoreboard, 1956), 60 (top of Ballantine Beer Sign, 1956)

 

Right field: 12 (concrete, 1909), 34 (22 corrugated iron above 12 concrete, 1935), 30 (1943), 50 (1949), 40 (1953), 30 (1954), 40 (1955), 32 (1956).

 

Fun Facts

  • The first concrete-and-steel stadium in the majors, it was completed in less than one year.
  • City block on which the ballpark was built measured 520 feet along 21st and 20th Streets; 481 feet, 3 inches along Lehigh Avenue and Somerset Street.
  • An upper-deck and left field stands added in 1925; a mezzanine added in 1929.
  • In 1956, the Phillies replaced the old Shibe Park scoreboard with a mammoth scoreboard that had formerly been used in Yankee Stadium; this had the effect of raising the height of the fence to 50 feet, for the length of the scoreboard (about 60 feet), before it dropped back to the old 32-foot height on either side of it.
  • In 1956 the normal backstop screen was replaced with see-through Plexiglas.
  • The last game was played on October 1, 1970.
  • Home plate was moved to Veterans Stadium in 1971.
  • Damaged by fire on August 20, 1971.
  • Torn down in June 1976, while the All-star game was being played at Veterans Stadium.
  • Now the site of the Deliverance Evangelistic Church.

 

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