Clem's Baseball home

Shibe Park*
Former home of the
Philadelphia Athletics (1909-1954)
and the Phillies (1938-1970)




Shibe Park
Key

DYNAMIC DIAGRAM:
Mouse rollover.

1909

1913

1930

1949 ~ (football)

1960 ~ (lower deck)




* known as "Connie Mack Stadium" (1953-)


Vital statistics:
Lifetime Capacity Outfield dimensions (feet) Behind home plate Fence height
L-C-R
The Clem Criteria:
Built Demo-
lished
LF LC CF RC RF Field
asymm.
Arch.
design
Seat
prox.
Loc. Aesth. Overall
1909 1976* 33,608 334 (358) 447 (355) 329 64 (15) - 8 - 34 3 8 5 5 6 5.4

* Six years after the Phillies left. (Parentheses): Estimated dimensions; distance to true power alleys not marked.

ALL-STAR GAMES: 1943, 1952 LIGHTS: 1939

WORLD SERIES: 1910, 1911, 1913, 1914, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1950*
* The Phillies won the NL pennant in 1950; all other World Series appearances were by the (AL) Athletics.

thumbnail Like most of the Early 20th century ballparks, Shibe Park was laid out on a rectangular street grid that imposed no unusual constraints on the shape of the outfield. It resembled most closely Sportsmans Park, but also shared with Ebbets Field the characteristic of double-decked stands in left field and an open right field. Named for Ben Shibe, one of the Athletics' owners, it was renowned as a first class ballpark and was the first true modern stadium of the 20th century, constructed entirely of concrete and steel. Although ordinary in terms of the nearly symmetrical field dimensions and perpendicular angles, it did have unique architectural details such as columns along the outside of the grandstand, as well as a tower topped off by a cupola, where the executive offices were located. The elaborate design and features were fitting, as the Athletics were among the greatest teams in baseball under manager (and part owner) Connie Mack, a.k.a. Cornelius MacGillacuddy), and they played in three straight World Series from 1929 to 1931, winning the first two. But because of the Great Depression, they had to sell their best players, and the franchise began a long decline. Not until 1972 did the Athletics return to the World Series, and by that time they were in Oakland.

Originally, the Shibe Park grandstand was double decked around the infield, and uncovered pavilion sections extended down to each foul pole. This was typical of ballparks built before World War I. For the first four years, the scoreboard was in the left field corner, several feet in front of the perimeter wall. In 1913, the pavilions were roofed, and bleachers were installed in left field, extending to within about 50 feet of the wall on the right side of center field, where the scoreboard was moved to. A series of photos from 1913 through 1917 show that the small gap between the bleachers and the pavilion was closed off by a very short (three feet?) fence, and may have remained in place until 1921. The unusually long distance to the corner just left of center field -- about 509 feet -- wasdeduced from geometry. Originally, there was a gradual slope from left field to deep center field, but this was apparently flattened in 1923, causing the wall in front of the bleachers to become higher. For the rest of Shibe Park's history, a slight rise remained in deep center field. There is also some question about the distance to the backstop in the early years: ballpark expert Ron Selter indicates that it was 85 feet from 1909 until 1926, but if the original left field and right field distances were indeed 378 and 340 feet as he says (and as stated by Bruce Kuklick), the backstop would be about 72 feet originally. The other possibility is that the original outfield distances were 369 (LF) and 331 (RF).

Based on a significant drop in home runs, Selter estimates that home plate must have been moved back 21 feet in 1923, which would raise the distances down both foul lines by 15 feet. (Lacking any newspaper accounts or photographs, however, I have refrained from making any diagrams for the decade of the 1920s.) In 1925, the upper deck of the grandstand was extended to both corners, and the roof in this section was at least ten feet higher than the original portion of the grandstand. At the same time, permanent double-decked bleachers were built all the way along the left field wall. The roof over that bleacher section was more than 20 feet lower than the adjoining grandstand roof. Interestingly, the extended portions of the upper deck were parallel to the foul line, not the lower deck, and then they bent inward at a 45 degree angle, forming a partial octagon. This was a distinctive architectural feature of Shibe Park, later emulated at Citizens Bank Park. A substantial amount of foul territory was actually covered by the upper deck near the corners, and a tiny amount of fair territory in the left field corner was covered. From 1926 through 1929 the distances to the corners were reduced to 312 feet (left field) and 307 feet (right field), as home plate was apparently moved about 65 feet (!) forward, creating a backstop distance of over 120 feet! There was a "return to normalcy" (dimension-wise) in 1930, as home plate was moved back about 32 feet, after which the outfield dimensions remained quite stable. (???) It is not certain why the "400" and "405" distance markers were placed so close to center field, rather than in the power alleys, other than to make way for advertising signs and the scoreboard.

In 1929, press boxes and elite seating were installed above the upper deck, as the original roof was raised slightly above the roof on the extended portion of the grandstand. Also, a tiny "mezzanine" level was squeezed in above and behind the lower deck, but fans sitting there couldn't see fly balls, so it was more or less abandoned. In 1935 the Athletics built a huge corrugated metal wall in right field to stop freeloading neighbors from watching games for free. This was during the Depression, and the team needed all the revenue it could get. With the addition of lights for night games in 1939 came two large protrusions in the right field wall, where the light towers stood. In 1949, the lower deck of the grandstand beyond the infield was rebuilt on both sides so that the rows of seats toward the farthest ends faced toward the diamond rather than toward center field. This was just like they did at Wrigley Field at about the same time. The amount of "covered" foul territory shrank after this alteration, and the bullpens were moved to the narrow "alleys" between the foul line and the grandstand. There was a proposal to add bleachers in right field during the late 1940s, but nothing came of this plan.

In July 1938 the Phillies abandoned the dilapidated Baker Bowl (just a few blocks away), and moved into Shibe Park as tenants of the Athletics, who had already built separate locker rooms and office facilities in hopes the National League team would "cohabitate" and share living expenses. The two teams shared the stadium for 17 years. (See Anomalous stadiums, shared.) The only year the Phillies made it to the World Series during the 32 years they played here was in 1950, when they lost to the Yankees. In 1950 a fence was installed in center field to keep the batting practice backstop out of play. For the next few years, this fence was shifted back and forth, settling down at 447 feet in 1956. That was the year a big new scoreboard (similar to the one from Yankee Stadium) was installed in right field. Additional rows of box seats were added around the infield in 1960, reducing the distance to the backstop from 78 feet to 64 feet according to Lowry; I estimate it shrank from 85 to 68 feet. The dugouts were moved forward about 10-12 feet at this time. In 1969 the center field fence was moved in, so that the distance for the final two years of the stadium's useful life was 410 feet.

The Philadelphia Eagles used Shibe Park as their home field in 1940, 1942, and from 1944 until 1957, after which they took up residence in the University of Pennsylvania's Franklin Field. See Football use.

In 1953, soon after Connie Mack retired, Shibe Park was renamed in his honor. Two years later he and his family sold their beloved Athletics, who then left town and headed west to Kansas City. With hardly any parking in the neighborhood, this grand old ballpark's days were numbered, and the Phillies moved into the huge Veterans' Stadium in 1971. Connie Mack Stadium was damaged by fire in 1971, and was finally demolished in 1976. A church now stands on the site, which is appropriate.

SOURCES: Lowry (2006), Selter (2008), Pastier (2007), Ritter (1992), Gershman (1993), Rosen (2001), Bruce Kuklick, To Every Thing a Season: Shibe Park and Urban Philadelphia, 1909-1976 (Princeton University Press, 1991)

WEB LINKS: philadelphiaathletics.org, Temple University, Philadelphia's Old Ballparks (book by Rich Westcott)

RESEARCH ASSISTANCE: Bruce Orser.


Vox populi: Fans' impressions

Have you been to this stadium? If so, feel free to share your impressions of it with other fans! (Registration is required.) Also, I welcome submissions of original stadium photos that fans have taken, and will make sure they get properly credited. Just send me an e-mail message via the Contact page.


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