Historical Markers
Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium [Great Depression] Historical Marker
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Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium [Great Depression]

Philadelphia and its Countryside/Lehigh Valley


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

Dedication Date:
November 1, 1997

Behind the Marker

Grove Shows Trophy to Connie Mack 1932
"Lefty" Grove holds his 1931 Most Valuable Player award with manager...
As home to the Philadelphia Athletics, Shibe Park witnessed the highs and lows of professional baseball in Depression-era Philadelphia. In 1929, the A's were riding high. That season, under the steady hand of owner markerConnie Mack, they dominated their opponents. On August 7, a doubleheader against the rival New York Yankees generated the largest turnout in Philadelphia baseball history. By then, the A's had already built a comfortable ten-and-a-half game lead. A month later, they won the pennant by eighteen games. On October 14, they won the World Series against the Chicago Cubs in five games. Two weeks later, the stock market crashed.

Baseball, much like the rest of the country, reeled. For Shibe Park and most other major league ball parks, the glory days of the late 1920s were replaced by financial hardship. The Athletics won the World Series again in 1930, but each year attendance declined, for Depression-ravaged fans could no longer afford the price of a ticket.

Reflecting the dark mood of people around the Commonwealth, Philadelphia fans booed Herbert Hoover when he came to Shibe Park to watch the Athletics play the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1931 World Series - a series the Athletics ultimately lost. Over the next few years, Mack traded away his marquee players to reduce his budget for salaries.

Buck Leonard is tagged out during a 1937 game between the Philadelphia Stars and the Homestead Grays.
Hall of Fame first baseman Buck Leonard running to first during a game with...
The situation was largely the same with other major league ball clubs. By 1933, attendance at ball parks around the nation was down close to 50 percent. Commissioner Kenesaw Landis sought to set an example when he took a voluntary 40 percent pay cut.

Over the next few years, each major league team cut two players from its roster to help meet payroll. But the decline continued. The Philadelphia Phillies of the National League struggled to fill the stands at the crumbling markerBaker Bowl. So, too, did the Pittsburgh Pirates at the other end of the state.

Good baseball was still being played around Pennsylvania; there were just fewer fans to see it. One of highlights in Pittsburgh was when Babe Ruth came to town with the Yankees in May, 1935 and hit his final big-league home run - number 714 - at Forbes Field. Another was the consistently stellar play of black players such as Satchel Paige and markerJosh Gibson of the Homestead Grays in the Negro Leagues.

Declining attendance was a sobering turn of events for America's pastime - and for Shibe Park. When Shibe opened in 1909, it was hailed as one of the finest ball parks in the country, and, as the first all-steel and concrete stadium in the country, among the most modern. D

uring the 1920s, Shibe expanded three times to accommodate the growing throngs of paying customers. The ball park also helped businesses and provided jobs for residents in the surrounding ethnic working-class neighborhood, who depended on the ball park for seasonal employment.

An aerial view of Shibe Park circa 1930.
Shibe Park, 1930.
Tough times forced Shibe and other major league ball parks to look for new sources of revenue. During the 1930s the major leagues introduced night baseball and scheduled more double headers to stimulate ticket sales. (The Philadelphia Phillies were part of the first night game in Major League Baseball history at Crosley Field in Cincinnati against the Reds in May, 1935.)

In 1933, a coalition of civic leaders and club owners argued that Sunday baseball games and other sporting events could easily generate over a million dollars in tax revenue in Philadelphia alone, and finally convince the state legislature marker to repeal the state blue laws that had forbidden Sunday baseball. The law applied for the first time during the 1934 season.

On April 8, the Phillies whipped the A's in Philadelphia's marker first Sunday game . On April 29 of that year, the Pirates became the last remaining major league team to play a home game on a Sunday. The repeal of Prohibition that same year also helped improve business, albeit more outside the ballpark than within, as saloons catering to baseball crowds helped revive the commercial fortunes of surrounding neighborhoods.

The Depression also led to less popular revenue enhancers. For years, property and home owners along North Twentieth Street had sold cheap tickets for unobstructed, free views of the baseball game from their roof tops. Convinced that these makeshift stands were hurting his revenues - the park had not sold out in years - owner Jack Shibe in 1935 built a 22-foot barrier of corrugated sheet iron on top of the Park's original twelve-foot wall, creating a "spite fence" that eliminated the rooftop views. Embittered neighborhood residents, who had grown accustomed to the luxury of seeing the A's without the benefit of a ticket, never forgave Shibe or the ball club.

After World War II, Shibe Park was renamed Connie Mac Stadium and the fabled ball park began a second life as home to the National League's Philadelphia Phillies. In 1976, the last of the heavy hitters came to Connie Mack Stadium in the form of concrete wrecking ball.

To learn more about the history of Shibe Park, click markerhere.
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