Historical Markers
Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium Historical Marker
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Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium

Philadelphia and its Countryside/Lehigh Valley


Marker Location:
21st St. and Lehigh Ave., Philadelphia

Dedication Date:
November 1, 1997

Behind the Marker

When sporting goods magnate and majority owner of the Philadelphia Athletics, Ben Shibe, sought a fitting edifice to carry his name into the future, he got it. "Shibe Park," raved the Philadelphia Evening Telegraph, "is an enduring monument." Opened in 1909, Shibe Park was the very definition of a modern baseball palace - as aesthetically stunning as it was structurally advanced.
An aerial view of Shibe Park circa 1930.
Shibe Park circa 1930

Shibe and partner markerConnie Mack shrewdly picked the park's site at 21st Street and Lehigh Avenue. Some thirty blocks above City Hall, the area was just beginning to be developed. By the first decade of the twentieth century, it already boasted trolley and rail lines that connected it to Center City and the Main Line. When Shibe and Mack learned that the adjacent hospital - famed for treating smallpox - was about to be demolished, they suspected conditions were rife for a neighborhood to bloom.

They were right. Over the next several decades, the neighborhood grew into an ethnic melting pot of working-class families and potential ticket buyers. And Shibe made sure there would be plenty of affordable seats for them in Shibe Park, which was large enough to accommodate both the masses and the upper classes. "Those who live by the sweat of their brow," he once said, "should have as good a chance of seeing the game as the man who has never had to roll up his sleeve to earn a dollar."

Shibe Park was designed with more than just a touch of class. Aware of the physical catastrophes that befell the Phillies' wooden and brick markerBaker Bowl, Shibe insisted that the Athletics' new stadium be built with the sturdiest, most modern materials: concrete and steel. It was the first ballpark to lay claim to such materials, but it was more than sturdy. With a French Renaissance design featuring arched windows and vaults, terra cotta and brick walls, a copper-trimmed green-slate mansard roof and Beaux Arts domed tower, it was also built to look beautiful. And it was the first ballpark to stake that claim as well.

In time, Shibe Park boasted other important firsts. It was the first ballpark to sport a public address system and the first to display lineups on its scoreboard. Another first, an electrically heated seat, was installed in the dugout for the comfort of aging manager Mack.

Shibe Park also witnessed some remarkable baseball. The A's won seven pennants and five World Series there, the Phillies added a pennant, and three Negro League World Series were contested on the field, two involving Philadelphia's Hilldales. Here the A's staged the biggest comeback in World Series history, rallying from 8-0 with a 10-run eighth inning in 1929. In 1934, part of Philadelphia's "blue laws" finally struck out when the A's and Phillies met here in the city's first legally-played Sunday game. In 1932 at Shibe Park, Yankee slugger Lou Gehrig became the first twentieth-century player to hit four home runs in a game. And on the last day of the 1941 season, Ted Williams became the last player in the twentieth century to hit .400 for a season when he went 6-for-8 in a double-header. In 1943, the park hosted the first All-Star game played under the lights. And in 1947, 41,660 fans turned out to see Jackie Robinson makes his Philadelphia debut. Almost 9,000 above capacity, it was the largest crowd in the Phillies' tenure at Shibe Park.

The ballpark's relationship with its neighbors was not always cordial. For years, residents on Twentieth Street watched games for free from their windows and rooftops. Mack, ever the penny-pincher, decided enough was enough in 1935 and put up a 38-foot high "spite fence" in right field. Despite petitions, the wall stayed. Mack earned the ire of neighbors again in 1939 when lights were installed at Shibe Park for night games. Neighbors complained that the lights and crowd noises disturbed their sleep, and continued to complain about growing parking and traffic problems created by the park.

By the early 1950s, the stadium and its surrounding neighborhood had deteriorated to the point that the A's decided that their future lay elsewhere. Indeed, the A's left Philadelphia entirely, moving to Kansas City in 1955, less than two years after Shibe Park was renamed "Connie Mack Stadium." The Phillies, who had moved to Shibe Park in 1938, held on until 1971, when markerVeterans Stadium opened south of Center City. The Eagles, who used Shibe Park as their home field from 1940-42 and 1944-57, left for Franklin Field in 1958. In one of the most memorable games at Shibe Park, the Eagles defeated the Chicago Cardinals, 7-0, in heavy snow to win the 1948 National Football League championship.

In Shibe Park's final years, both the stadium and its surroundings deteriorated so dramatically that the Phillies' owners threatened to follow the A's lead out of town entirely unless an alternative park could be found. Ironically, not long after the Phillies' abandoned Ben Shibe's fireproof monument for South Philadelphia and the all-purpose Veterans Stadium, fire gutted the grand dame. It stood, charred and tattered until a demolition crew finally razed Shibe's "enduring monument" in 1976.

To learn more about Shibe Park during the Great Depression, markerclick here.
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