Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Shibe Park: 1909-1976


My latest piece for MLB Nation My favorite article I have written yet! Check out the first major park both the A's and Phillies first called home! Shibe Park, later renamed Connie Mack Stadium! Here's a preview!

Shibe Park, later known as Connie Mack Stadium, opened on April 12, 1909 as the new home of the Philadelphia Athletics.  A’s president Ben Shibe and his partner, a Mr. Cornelius McGillicuddy Sr. aka Connie Mack, were tired of having to turn fans away from the games at the Athletics’ first home, Columbia Park, due to the popularity of baseball in Philadelphia.

(courtesy of @mlb_cathedrals)
Built by William Steele and Sons, Shibe Park was baseball’s first steel and concrete stadium. It featured a 34 foot high right field wall and stately columns built in the French Renaissance style. It was renovated to add more seating in 1925 and again after the 1938 season to accommodate lights for night games.
Located at N 21st St & W Lehigh Ave in Philadelphia, PA, it was a mere five blocks away from the original home of the Philadelphia Phillies, National League Park nicknamed the Baker Bowl. The park was home to the American League Philadelphia Athletics from 1909-1954 and to the National League Philadelphia Phillies from 1938-1970. For 16 years the two teams shared a stadium with the Athletics owners charging the Phillies owners ten cents for every fan they drew to pay the “rent.”

Shibe Park was the home of many historic games, players and baseball firsts thanks to a handful of special ballplayers and the long time owner and manager of the Athletics, Connie Mack. Mack is considered one of the most iconic managers in baseball history and was elected to the HOF in 1937.  He was involved in the building of the park as part owner of the A’s and managed the team there from it’s opening until 1950. Mack managed the Athletics for 50 seasons and 42 of those seasons were played at Shibe Park. During that time the Athletics won five World Series Titles and Shibe Park was home to two great baseball dynasties.
The 1910-1914 Athletics have been dubbed “The First Dynasty” in all of sports by baseball historians after winning the World Series in 1910, 1911 and 1913. The 1929-1932 A’s or “The Second Dynasty” won three straight AL pennants and two more Worlds Series Titles. In the late 1990s Sports Illustrated called the 1929 A’s the greatest team of all time, better than the 1927 Yankees and their “Murderer’s Row.”
The Shibe Park was renamed Connie Mack Stadium in 1953 by Mack’s two sons who became the team and park’s new owners in 1950 after Mack’s final season as manager of the Athletics. When the A’s were sold and moved to Kansas City in 1954 the park was home only to the Phillies who played the last game at Connie Mack Stadium on Oct. 1, 1970 defeating the Montreal Expos 2-1.
While still named Shibe Park the stadium was home to the Athletics’ “$100,000 infield” a group of extraordinary players (with just as extraordinary salaries for the time) who were with the A’s during the First Dynasty. The “$100,000 infield” was made up of first baseman Stuffy McInnis, second basemanEddie Collins, shortstop Jack Barry and third baseman Frank “Home Run” Baker. Baker and Collins are now members of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
The 1929 A’s and the beginning of the Second Dynasty had players like first baseman Jimmie Foxx who posted a .354 batting average that year and pitcher Lefty Grove who led the AL in strikeouts and finished the season with a 2.81 ERA. The 1929 A’s team can boast three Hall of Famers Foxx, Mickey Cochraneand Al Simmons.
During the Phillies tenure Shibe was home to two  Phillies clubs of note. The first in 1950 was a young group of players, whose age averaged only 26 years, nicknamed “The Whiz Kids.” Considered a long shot because of their youth, they won the National League Pennant that year but were swept in the World Series by the New York Yankees. Of the original “Whiz Kids” two players, pitcher Robin Roberts who was 23 in 1950 and finsihed the season 20-11 with a 3.02 ERA and outfielder Richie Ashburn, also only 23 who finished the season with a .303 batting average, are members of the Hall Of Fame.
The second is the 1964 ballclub unfortunately nickednamed “The Phold.” Playing at what was then called Connie Mack Stadium, the 1964 Phillies had a lot of talent and prospered throughout the season playing in great games that included Jim Bunning‘s perfect game against the New York Mets. It was the first perfect game in the National League since 1880 and only the seventh perfect game in MLB history. He later went on to become a Hall of Famer. During the last two weeks of the season the 1964 Phillies suffered an unprecedented and epic collapse in which they went from the favorite to take the NL pennant to finishing the season in a second place tie with the Cincinnati Reds after a horrendous three game sweep by the St. Louis Cardinals who did win the NL Pennant that year. “The Phold” of the Phillies in those two short weeks will not be forgotten. Called by many “the worst collapse in the history of sports” Shibe Field/Connie Mack Stadium had now hosted one of the sport’s all time greatest teams in the 1929 A’s and seen baseball’s biggest break down (so far).
Many notable games were held at Shibe Park. It hosted eight World Series and two All-Star Games the first by the A’s in 1943 and the second by the Phillies in 1952. The second of the two All-Star games has the distinction of being the only All-Star to ever be called early, after only five innings, due to weather.  On May 16, 1939 MLB’s first American League night game was played at Shibe Park. It came with a lot of complaining from the surrounding neighborhood residents and a lot of persistence on the part of Connie Mack who insisted on putting up the tall standing lights to accommodate a night game atmosphere. The A’s lost that game to the Cleveland Indians 8-3 in front of a crowd upwards of 15,000 fans.
Other memorable games included Bunning’s perfect game and four no-hitters all pitched by the Athletics. The first was thrown in 1910 by Chief Bender, in 1916 by Bullet Joe Bush, in 1945 by Dick Fowler and in 1947 by Bill McCahanBabe Ruth got his first hit and home run as a Yankee at Shibe Park in April of 1920. In 1932 Lou Gherig managed to hit four home runs in one game.
(courtesy of @mlb_cathedrals)
One of the most famous games at Shibe Park came during game four of the 1929 World Series with the A’s facing the Chicago Cubs. The seventh inning started off with an inside the park home run by Mule Haas of the A’s and ended after the A’s scored ten runs making it the highest scoring inning in World Series history (this record was tied by the Detroit Tigers in 1968).
During the later and final years, Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium hosted other sports and events such as soccer, boxing, political events and even the National Football League’s Philadelphia Eagles. The Phillies moved to play at Veteran’s Stadium after the 1970 season. The ballpark was slowly demolished between then and the final part of Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium was torn apart on July 13, 1976 ending what had held decades of historical sports moments, games and teams.
For more information on historic ballparks check out MLB Nation  delivering the latest news, insights, and analysis from around the league.

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