When Shibe Park
opened in 1909, its innovation influenced baseball and the next wave
of ballparks, setting the standard for future ballparks built in the
20th century. The Philadelphia Athletics became a charter member of
the American League in 1901 playing their games at Columbia Park.
Located at 30th and Oxford Streets, this small wooden ballpark had a
seating capacity of 13,600. The A's became very popular and
successful winning the American League Championship in 1902 and
1905. Because of the team's popularity a new ballpark was needed.
Owner of the A's, Ben Shibe decided to build a new ballpark. At the
time, Philadelphia had two baseball teams, the A's and the Phillies
who played at the Baker Bowl, baseball’s most modern stadium at the time. In 1907 Ben Shibe
purchased land in North Philadelphia to construct a ballpark. The
park was designed by Shibe
and A’s manager Connie Mack. Construction began in 1908 and was
built of entirely of steel and concrete. The A's played their last
game at Columbia Park on October 3, 1908 and moved a mile northeast
the following year. The new A's ballpark was named after Shibe, thus getting
the name Shibe Park.
Completed at a cost of $300,000 the ballpark took only about a year
to be constructed.
The A's played their
first game at Shibe Park on April 12, 1909. Outside, Shibe Park was
very impressive featuring a French Renaissance facade
consisting of brick and arches and a Beaux Arts coupla/tower at the
main entrance of the park. Inside, the
ballpark had a capacity of 23,000 that consisted of a doubled
decked grandstand that extended around homeplate. Bleachers met the
lower grandstand and extended down the foul lines. The capacity
could be increased by 10,000 by allowing fans to stand in an area in
deep centerfield. In right field there was a wall 12 feet high.
However, buildings across the street allowed sans to watch the game
for free from rooftops. The
original dimensions at Shibe Park were 378 ft. (left), 340 (right),
and 515 ft. (center). The dimensions were huge because the ballpark
was built where very few buildings existed.
The first changes at Shibe Park took place in
1913 when seating was added in left field. The biggest change
at Shibe Park occurred in 1925. All of the remaining grandstands
not double decked, were, and the main grandstand was rebuilt. A
mezzanine was added in 1929 and 1930 bringing the capacity to
35,000. Until 1935, fans sitting atop the building roofs behind the
12 foot right field wall could watch the game for cheaper prices
than admission to Shibe Park. However in 1935, the A’s ended this as
they decided to raise the wall to 50 feet. Lights
were added to Shibe Park and the first night game was played on May
16, 1939. A second tenant moved into Shibe Park in 1938
when the Philadelphia Phillies moved three blocks west from the aging Baker Bowl
to Shibe Park on July 4, 1938. The NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles moved
to Shibe Park in 1940 giving the ballpark three tenants. The Eagles
played at Shibe Park until 1958 when they moved to Franklin Field. A fan
living in the Philadelphia area could go to a baseball game everyday
from April to September because one team was always in town.
From 1940 until it closed Shibe Park remained
mostly unchanged. From the second deck of Shibe Park fans could
enjoy views of the nearby neighborhood, were able to see the
scoreboard in right centerfield, and Shibe’s colorful red seats.
Advertisements were banned from the ballpark until 1955, but then
were plastered on the outfield walls and on top of the grandstand
roof in left field. Shibe Park was renamed Connie Mack Stadium in
1953 after the manager of the A’s for 50 years. The A’s moved to
Kansas City after the 1954 season and the Phillies bought the
stadium for $2 million. The original scoreboard was replaced by a 60
foot high scoreboard that was once used at Yankee Stadium and a plexiglass shield was installed to protect fans seated behind home
plate, replacing the standard wire screen.
Like other clubs in baseball during the 1960s, the Phillies began
seeking a new ballpark to replace the aging Connie Mack Stadium. By
the 1960s Connie Mack Stadium was located in a bad neighborhood,
lacked parking and was deteriorating. Voters approved a bond to build a new
multipurpose stadium for the Phillies and Eagles in 1964. The last
game at Connie Mack Stadium was on October 1, 1970 when the Phillies
played the Montreal Expos. The team moved to
Veterans Stadium the next year. The stadium stood for several
years before fire destroyed most of the stadium in 1971 and was used
as a junk yard in 1974. During the All-Star Game, that was
held at Veterans Stadium in 1976, Shibe Park/Connie Mack
Stadium was demolished. It is now the site of a church.