August 3, 2011
Wouldn't you know it, I thought I had finally tackled all of the vexing issues connected to Shibe Park / Connie Mack Stadium, and Bruce Orser sends me another photo (from 1913) that throws everything up in the air again. Arghhh. It turns out that my earlier conjecture that the diamond had been rotated slightly in a clockwise direction prior to the 1913 season was false. Putting all the pieces of evidence together left only one conclusion: that the pavilion sections extending to the right and left field corners were not angled inward as much as I had estimated. That, in turn, affected all of the diagrams for subsequent years as well. And so I have posted re-revised diagrams of Shibe Park. Is it perfect? No, but it's pretty d@%* close. I'll have to consult with other ballpark experts such as John Pastier and Ron Selter...
One thing that got me going on Shibe Park was having received several e-mail inquiries about it in recent months. Larry Mazzenga told me "with 100% certainty that those distances were actually 405 in right-center and 420 in left-center." He brought to my attention a Web site full of old photos of Shibe Park for sale: alanluber.com, and it appears he is correct as far as 1963 goes. The question is when did those distance markers appear? I have seen a seating chart corroborating the 420 figure, but I have also seen a photo clearly showing 400 in deep left center. Lowry's Green Cathedrals indicates it was 400 feet to the left side of the scoreboard in right center field as of 1942, so perhaps the 405 distance was marked after they installed the new, bigger scoreboard in the late 1950s. For the time being I put a red border on the 400 marker in deep left center to indicate there is some doubt. Stay tuned...
Harry Heller asked me about whether there was once a plan for "Connie Mack Stadium" (as it was then known) to be "torn down after the 1963 season and replaced by bowling alleys." (He got that from baseballlibrary.com, in the "this day in history" item that appears at the bottom of that page.) To answer that, I consulted one of the books I used as a source, Bruce Kuklick's To Every Thing a Season. I learned that Bob Carpenter, who had bought the Phillies in 1943, bought the stadium for $1.7 million in 1954 as the Athletics were about to leave town, and later sold it for $600,000 in 1961, as part of one of those tax-evading lease-back deals. The Phillies took a three-year lease, with an option to extend it four more years. They were expecting a new stadium to be built in Torresdale, on the northeast side of Philadelphia, by 1967. The developers who bought the stadium did indeed plan to build bowling alleys, etc. on the site. But politicians could not work out a new stadium deal until May 1967, after which groundbreaking on The Vet (on the south side of Philadelphia) got underway. So now you know "the rest of the story..."
Terry Wallace let me know about some photos of the Philadelphia Eagles playing at Shibe Park, including the snow-packed NFL championship game in December 1948. Those were useful in drawing the football version diagram, which did not exist previously.
Finally, Brent Simmons has a very specific inquiry that I unfortunately could not answer:
I have what I believe to be an original seat from Shibe, but I have some hesitations and thought you might be able to answer a couple quick questions.... The seat I have has green paint covered by blue paint covered by gray paint. I was told the blue and gray paint was added at a fairgrounds where the seat was used. As you probably know, at the time of closing, the seats at Connie Mack were either peach or red and my seat has neither color paint on it. The explanation I was given was that sometime in the 30's or 40's these seats were removed when they were still green to make way for bleachers. However, as you know, and as I've learned, this most definitely did not occur since there were no bleachers ever "added" to Shibe Park. Do you have any knowledge of seats being removed from Shibe Park pre-1954 (when the green paint was covered with peach or red) possibly being sold to the Bloomsburg Fair? Any knowledge you have on this would be much appreciated.
If anybody knows, please either post a comment on this blog piece, or else send me an e-mail. Speaking of which, I'll be "on the road for the next ten or so days, which means there will only be one or two blog posts during that time, if that. Seeing the Yankees play in Kansas City? I can't wait!