Located in North Philadelphia and opening in 1909
as the home of the Philadelphia Athletics, Shibe
Park's innovation influenced baseball and the next
wave of ballparks, setting the standard for future
ballparks built in the 20th century. The history of
the Athletics began in 1901 when the team became a
charter member of the American League as a
second team was established in Philadelphia to
compete with the Phillies. On April 26, 1901 the
Athletics made their debut in Philadelphia at
Columbia Park as they battled Washington. Located at
30th and Oxford Streets, this small wooden ballpark
had a seating capacity of 9,500 with a single tier
grandstand stretching around the bases. The capacity
later increased to 13,500 with the addition of
seating in the outfield. The A's were very popular
and successful as they won the American League
Championship in 1902 and 1905. Because of the team's
popularity a new ballpark was needed, leading owner
Ben Shibe to construct a new ballpark. The most
modern ballpark in baseball was already in
Philadelphia, the Baker Bowl, home to the Phillies.
In 1907 Shibe purchased a six acre site in North
Philadelphia to build a ballpark. It was designed by
Shibe and manger Connie Mack. Construction began in
1908 and was built of entirely of steel and
concrete. The A's played their last game at Columbia
Park on October 3, 1908 and moved a mile northeast
the following year. The new A's ballpark was named
after Shibe, thus getting
the name Shibe Park.
Completed at a cost of $300,000 the ballpark took only about a year
to be constructed.
On April 12, 1909 the Athletics made their debut
at Shibe Park, in a victory over the Boston Red Sox.
Fans entering the ballpark through the homeplate
entrance of Shibe Park, saw one of the most grandest
facades at any ballpark ever built. An octagonal
Beaux Arts tower was at the main entrance, housed a
lobby and offices for team executives. The
grandstand walls featured a very impressive French
Renaissance facade consisting of brick and arches.
Inside, the ballpark had a seating capacity of
23,000, consisting of a double decked grandstand
from behind home plate down to the first and third
bases. The lower grandstand extended down the lines
and bleachers were in left field.
could be increased by 10,000 by allowing fans to stand in an area in
deep centerfield. In right field there was a wall 12 feet high.
However, buildings across the street allowed fans to watch the game
for free from rooftops. The
original dimensions at Shibe Park were 378 ft. (left), 340 (right),
and 515 ft. (center) because the ballpark
was built where very few buildings existed.
The Athletics were very successful upon moving into
Shibe Park as they won the World Series in 1910, '11
and '13. This success led to the first of several
expansions at Shibe Park. In 1913 permanent seating
was added in left field. The largest expansion
occurred in 1925 when the all of the remaining
grandstands not double decked, were, and the main
grandstand was rebuilt. A mezzanine was added in
1929 and 1930 bringing the capacity to 35,000.
Until 1935, fans sitting atop the building roofs behind the
12 foot right field wall could watch the game for cheaper prices
than admission to Shibe Park. This was not a huge concern to
ownership until the early and mid 1930s. Due to the
Great Depression and A's lack of success, attendance
decreased at Shibe Park and also hurt the rooftop
owners who sold seats to games. During this time,
rooftop owners sent individuals to outside the Shibe
Park ticket windows to sell tickets to their rooftop
seats at a cheaper price. This led the A's to raise
the right field fence to 50 feet before the 1935
season . Nicknamed the "spite fence" the right field
fence blocked all views from the neighboring houses.
In 1936 Connie Mack took control of ownership and
controversy with the neighborhood began again. After
the 1938 season Mack wanted to install lights at the
ballpark. The neighborhood objected as they were
concerned with the light, noise and traffic night
baseball would lead to. However, the Athletics
installed lights and the first night game played at
Shibe Park was on May 16, 1939.
A second tenant moved into Shibe Park in 1938
when the Philadelphia Phillies moved three blocks west from the aging Baker Bowl
to Shibe Park on July 4, 1938. The NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles moved
to Shibe Park in 1940 giving the ballpark three tenants. The Eagles
played at Shibe Park until 1958 when they moved to Franklin Field. A fan
living in the Philadelphia area could go to a baseball game everyday
from April to September because one team was always in town.
In 1941 the A's installed a new, larger scoreboard
in right centerfield, replacing the existing one.
Three years later, in 1944, the club spent $1
million adding 3,000 seats down the first and third
base lines, replacing stairs with ramps, adding a
restaurant and installed a new pressbox. From the second deck of Shibe Park fans could
enjoy views of the nearby neighborhood and were able to see the
scoreboard in right centerfield.
Advertisements were banned from the ballpark until 1955, but then
were plastered on the outfield walls and on top of the grandstand
roof in left field. Shibe Park was renamed Connie Mack Stadium in
1953 after the manager of the A’s for 50 years. The A’s moved to
Kansas City after the 1954 season and the Phillies bought the
stadium for $1.675 million. The original scoreboard was replaced by
a 60 foot high scoreboard and a plexiglass shield was installed to protect fans seated behind home
plate, replacing the standard wire screen.
Like other clubs in baseball during the 1960s, the Phillies began
seeking a new ballpark to replace the aging Connie Mack Stadium. By
the 1960s Connie Mack Stadium was located in a bad neighborhood,
lacked parking and was deteriorating. Voters approved a bond to build a new
multipurpose stadium for the Phillies and Eagles in 1964. The last
game at Connie Mack Stadium was on October 1, 1970 when the Phillies
played the Montreal Expos. The team moved to
Veterans Stadium the next year. The stadium stood for several
years before fire destroyed most of the stadium in 1971 and was used
as a junk yard in 1974. During the All-Star Game, that was
held at Veterans Stadium in 1976, Shibe Park/Connie Mack
Stadium was demolished. It is now the site of a church.