Connie Mack Stadium - Baseball's first Concrete and steel stadium
Welcome to ConnieMackStadium.com! This site preserves Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennslyvania through photos, interviews and articles. Baseball was played for sixty-seven years all at the corner of 21st Street and Lehigh Street. Consequently, Connie Mack Stadium is filled with mighty tales of heroics involving many legends.
*Connie Mack Stadium also known as Shibe Park was a Major League Baseball park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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 Bowl, 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).
The Philadelphia Athletics of the American League opened the ballpark in 1909 after abandoning Columbia Park. 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 was erected in 1957 across the street in a park, was moved to Veterans Stadium in 1971, and ultimately to Citizens Bank Park 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 flats, 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, Richie Allen hit some booming drives over the double-decked bleachers, in the general direction of the 1921 Ruthian shot.
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 Field 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 meters), 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 City in 1955. The rooftop bleachers became one of the inspirations for a special seating area in Citizens Bank Park when it opened in 2004:
"Rooftop Bleacher Seats"
"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." As noted earlier, the use of flats as "bleachers" actually began the day the park opened in 1909.
The National League's Philadelphia Phillies had abandoned Baker Bowl in mid-season 1938, and 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 the then-new Veterans Stadium. 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. The National Football League's Philadelphia Eagles also played at the stadium during most of the 1940s and 50s, including the 1948 NFL Championship game, played in a blizzard where the home team defeated the Chicago Cardinals 7-0 with the only score by a Steve Van Buren touchdown, before moving to Franklin Field in 1958, which made Connie Mack a baseball-only facility, and eventually to The Vet.
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 Stadium. The ballpark that was once a "church of baseball" is now the site of an actual Christian church, the Deliverance Evangelistic Church.
* - Article from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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