Connie Mack Stadium (Shibe Park) in North Philadelphia
At the corner of 21st Street and Lehigh Avenue in North Philadelphia once stood a stadium that attained a stature on par with Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium.Shibe Park, which opened in April of 1909 was renamed Connie Mack Stadium in 1950 to honor the fifty year Manager and eventual owner of the Philadelphia Athletics.The stadium hosted the World Series eight times (1910, 11, 13, 14, 29, 30, 31 and 50) and was the site of the All-Star game in 1943 and 1952.It was the site of the first night game played in the American League in 1939.Babe Ruth got his first hit as a Yankee there.It served as a neutral site for Negro League World Series games.The Eagles played home football games there between 1940 and 1957.
The stadium opened with a seating capacity of 23,000.The design by William Steele and Son of Philadelphia was the first steel and concrete stadium in the Major Leagues.The grandstand walls were built of red brick with baseball themed terra cotta friezes.The French Renaissance styling shouted out to sports fans coming to the “Swampoodle” section of the city that they were being treated to a palatial experience.The octangular tower at the corner of the stadium at 21st & Lehigh is what I remember best from my visits to Connie Mack.The tower housed the Athletics team offices, with Connie Mack’s office under the dome at the top.
I grew up watching Jim Bunning, Clay Dalrymple, Cookie Rojas, Rick Wise, Dick Allen, Wes Covington, Richie Ashburn, Tony Taylor and Johnny Callison play for the home team in the aging stadium.I wasn’t around for the “Whiz Kids”, but I do vaguely remember feeling betrayed when the Phold of ’64 team happened.Now that I’m 64 and the team is improbably back in the World Series, I’m finally ready to forgive them!
More than fifty years ago, the stadium was deemed to be obsolete.Steel columns in the grandstands obstructed views.The place was in disrepair and felt much less palatial than it did when the Athletics were winning pennants.Most importantly, the city had grown up around it.Fans had few places to park their cars.Public transit along Lehigh Avenue was crowded, inconvenient and not altogether reliable.Options for adding seating capacity to the stadium were impractically expensive. Phillies management decided it was time for a “do-over”.They left former Eagles owner, Jerry Wolman, holding the bag in 1970.
Wolman, who had leased Connie Mack Stadium to the Phillies declared bankruptcy and was forced to sell the Eagles.A fire broke out in the wooden bleachers in August of 1971 which grew to 5-alarms.For four more years, the charred wreckage of the once grand stadium loomed over the neighborhood until a city judge ordered its demolition.Wolman couldn’t afford the demolition tab, either.The domed cupola at the corner tower was the last piece of the ballpark demolished on July 13, 1976, the year the Phillies won their first National League East division title playing at Veteran’s Stadium.
Peter Evans PA Philadelphia Oct 25, 2022 Architecture Nostalgia Sports
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Peter Evans Oct 25, 2022
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