Interview with Shibe Park Historian Bruce Kuklick, Part 2.

A few days ago, I posted Part 1 of my interview with local history professor and author Bruce Kuklick, who wrote the incredible book To Every Thing a Season about Shibe Park and how it affected the surrounding neighborhood through the decades. If you are a fan of Philadelphia sports history, this book is simply a must read.

In Part 2 of our interview, he talks about the reputation of Connie Mack (left) in the city, whether or not there was an uproar in Philly when the Athletics moved away, and what were the best and worst things about Shibe Park. Next week, he’ll talk about how hard it was to sell booze at Shibe, how rowdy the fans were, and compare it to Citizen’s Bank Park.

JGT: The book deals a lot with Connie Mack. Obviously, since he ran the team for 50 years. Was he seen as a local hero or as a local goat, or a little bit of both depending?

KUKLICK: I’d say in the 1920s, when he’s in his 60s, he looks like he’s over the hill, and then he has this one last hurrah where he creates this 1929-1931 dynasty and he is a Philadelphia hero. In fact he gets, in ’29, the Bok Award, which is usually given to like the governor or some political or social big wig. And that it went to a baseball guy is really extraordinary at that time. In the ’20s, as he built that team up, he is more than a local hero. He is a national sports statesman. Then, when the team tanks in the ’30s and Mack is in his 70s, he goes downhill pretty fast.

In the ’50s, everybody thinks, “This guy is over the hill. Let’s get rid of him.” It’s sad, because no one will say it. Some people say that the last year he managed he was kind of like Reagan at the end of the Reagan years, just completely out of it. So I think he went through all these kinds of permutations, but at his height he was, you know…

JGT: King of the city?

KUKLICK: Yeah.

JGT: When the Phillies won a couple of years ago, the city went nuts, with a party on Broad Street and a parade afterwards. Did they used to do that back then when the A’s won?

KUKLICK: Yeah. In ’29 is the first World Series win, that’s the big one. Then they do it again in ’30. And after that Mack says, “The Philadelphia fans don’t appreciate a winner. They don’t care about it anymore.” And his argument that he sold off the team was that in ’31 there wasn’t much fan support. And what he wanted to do was not to ensure that they would win, but get them to play .600 ball instead of .680 ball.

JGT: So there would be a pennant chase in September and people would want to come out to the ballpark.

KUKLICK: Right. But he miscalculated how hard it is to do these things.

JGT: It’s hard enough to build a winner, much less a team that wins exactly 60% of their ballgames.

KUKLICK: Right.

JGT: So getting back to the earlier question, do you know if they had a parade or people running wild in the streets? (after the A’s won the Series in the late 20s-early 30s)

KUKLICK: I know that there was a lot of cheering in the streets. Not necessarily down Broad Street. But all over North Philly, you would know that this had happened, that this was big news.

JGT: Now, I don’t know if you know this, but the Oakland A’s are probably going to move in the next couple of years.

KUKLICK: I did not know that.

JGT: They’ll probably stay on the West Coast, but there is a small but vocal local minority that wants them to come back to Philadelphia. Could this area support two baseball teams?

KUKLICK: That would be my dream come true. I don’t know. I don’t know.

JGT: Well, let’s rewind a little bit. When they did move to Kansas City initially, was there any local outrage?

KUKLICK: No. The leaving of the Dodgers and the Giants, is really…I mean, I know people who still won’t forgive the owners who left, Stoneham and O’Malley. Who hate them. Who still hate them. You won’t find that in Philly. The A’s from 1950-54 were really bad, and the Phillies looked so good all of a sudden, people got suckered into thinking they had something with the Phillies. There was a group, Save the A’s, that put together a feeble little attempt of guys with very little money to try to keep the franchise in the city. But they got forgotten (snaps fingers) like that once they left.

JGT: Getting back to Shibe. What were the best things about Shibe Park and what were the worst things?

KUKLICK: I used to go there as a kid. That’s how I learned my baseball. My dad used to take me. By the end, it was really a dump. When the A’s left the city, Bob Carpenter, who was the Phillies owner, had no alternative but to buy the park. He didn’t want it, he wasn’t interested in ballparks. And he really let it get run down. Because from the very start he was trying to figure out some way to have a new facility. He thought this was a white elephant. For the last 10 years, from about 1960 to 1970, the place doesn’t get maintained at all. That’s the worst part. Also the neighborhood was really decaying. There was no place to park. It really wasn’t a pleasant experience.

What was really spectacular about that place for me and this might be silly but really it is heartfelt. That ballpark is right in the middle of the city. And you are in the middle of an urban area. And you walk into this park, and it’s dark and there’s concrete around, and then you come up to one of the entrances to the field, and you see this green diamond. There’s just something there that’s just incredible. And I talked to a lot of people who said, “Here I was some little kid from South Philly or West Philly and had never really seen the countryside and all of a sudden inside a building there’s this green grass and it’s like the country.”

To read part 3 of our interview with Bruce, click here.


Anybody Remember This Little Ditty?


“We’re the Philadelphia fans
We’re the best in the land
And we’re hot, hoooooot
To the Spectrum everyone
Cause the Sixers have begun
To get hot, hoooooot
So get on up, come one come all
To the Sixers style of basketball
We’re Philly town, we never quit
We’re gonna take that championship!”

I am almost positive this is the last time in history that a rap song included the phrase, “Come one, come all.”


Fo’, Fi’, Fo’


On today’s date in 1983, the Sixers concluded perhaps the greatest playoff run by any team in Philly history. They knocked off the great LA Lakers in 4 straight games to complete a blitzkrieg through the playoffs in which they went 12-1. The Lakers, the team of the 80s and the team that had knocked off the Sixers in the Finals the year before, never came within 5 points of Philadelphia in the series. Here are the highlights of Game 4, incredibly some of which are set to the music of Flashdance by Irene Cara.


The Babe Calls It a Career in Philly

On May 25th, 1935, the Babe, playing out his career as a member of the Boston Braves, put on a show in Pittsburgh. He went 4-4 with 3 Home Runs and 6 RBIs. In the two movies that depicted the Babe’s career (The Babe Ruth Story in 1948 and The Babe in 1992), it was portrayed as his final game. It was not. The Babe played in 5 more games, the last of which came at Baker Bowl against the Phillies on Memorial Day, May 30th. It did not provide much of a Hollywood ending.

The following comes from the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society:

Ruth was inserted in the line-up, batting third and playing leftfield. Coming up to bat in the first inning, Ruth faced Phillies’ pitcher Jim Bivin. 1935 was Bivin’s only year in the Major Leagues, and he played the entire season with the Phillies. He compiled an unenviable 2-9 record for a woeful team that would finish the season in seventh place with a 56-93 record. Bivin, nevertheless, would have the singular distinction of being the last pitcher ever to face Babe Ruth in a Major League game.

At the plate, Ruth grounded out softly to Phillies first baseman Dolph Camilli as the Braves went down without scoring any runs in the inning. Ruth took his customary place in the outfield for the bottom half of the inning. Phillies’ second baseman Lou Chiozza hit a soft fly to leftfield. Ruth came in trying to make the catch, but the ball dropped in front of him and rolled past him to the wall. A run scored, but Chiozza, trying for an inside-the-park home run, was thrown out at the plate when Braves shortstop Bill Urbanski retrieved the ball and got it back to Braves catcher Al Spohrer in time for the tag out. The Phillies wound up scoring three runs in the inning and would go on to win the game 11-6.

The Babe, frustrated, took himself out of the game after the first inning. The Babe had already stated that this would be the last road trip of his career, so the fans, aware that this was to be his final appearance in Philadelphia, gave him a loud ovation. The following comes from Rich Westcott’s book Philadelphia’s Old Ballparks:

As the inning ended, Ruth tucked his glove in his pocket, turned, and ran to the clubhouse in centerfield. The fans, sensing that the end of a glorious career might have arrived, rose and gave Ruth a standing ovation.

Catcher Joe Holden and trainer Leo (Red) Miller were in the Phillies clubhouse when Ruth clattered up the stairs past Boston’s first-floor clubhouse and burst through the door into the home team’s locker room. “Red turned and said, ‘Hello, Babe. Is there anything I can do?’ He thought he might have pulled a muscle,” Holden remembered. “Babe said, ‘No, no, there’s nothing you can do for old age. I’ve just had too many good days to have this happen to me.’ Then I saw Red shake hands with the Babe. It didn’t register at the time that Babe’s career was over.”

RELATED: The 1929 World Series Project.

Phils face Babe and the Red Sox in the 1915 World Series.

And follow Philly Sports History on Facebook! 


First Major League Player Killed in Action

Memorial Day is about remembering and thanking those who’ve lost their lives in the name of the United States, and we here at PSH would like to contribute.  In World War I, in World War II, in Korea and in Vietnam, many former and active major league baseball players served in the armed forces.  While many served, only a few professional ballplayers died; the first of which spent 4 seasons as a third baseman with the Phillies.

Eddie Grant was born in 1883 in Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard, giving him the nickname “Harvard Eddie.”  He broke into the majors in 1905 with the Cleveland Naps.  After a year in the minors with the Jersey City Skeeters, Grant was signed by the Phillies in 1907.  He played 74 games that season, batting .243 and stealing 10 bases.  From 1908 to 1910, Grant started at third base for the Phillies and batted leadoff.  His best year was 1909, in which the light-hitting infielder batted .269, scored 75 runs and stole 28 bases.  The educated Grant was somewhat of a grammar nerd on the field: he would not yell the accepted “I got it” when pop-ups were hit his way, instead opting for the grammatically correct “I have it.”  After his years with the Phillies, Grant finished his 10-year professional career with the Cincinnati Reds and the New York Giants and retired after the 1915 season.

After baseball, Grant returned to Massachusetts to practice law.  By this time, World War I had been raging in Europe for three years and many of Grant’s Harvard classmates were volunteering their services just behind the trenches even though the U.S. wasn’t officially involved.  When the U.S. did enter the war in April 1917, Eddie Grant was one of the first men to enlist.  As a college-educated man, he was appointed Captain of Company H of the 307th Infantry Regiment of the 77th Division of the American Expeditionary Forces.

Deployed to the Western Front, Grant’s battalion fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France.  This was one of the fiercest offensives in American military history as the U.S. forces battled through the Argonne forest, which housed entrenched and experienced German forces.  During the offensive, a group of men became pinned down by the Germans and isolated from the American forces.  U.S. aviators were sent to locate the “Lost Batallion” and finally did.  Even though his Company had been fighting on the front lines for 4 straight days, Grant led his men into the forest to rescue the Lost Battalion.  Pounded heavily by German artillery, the U.S. Forces and Allies were taking a lot of losses.  One of the wounded being brought back past the troops advancing to the location of the Lost Battalion was the commander of the Grant’s battalion.  He recognized Grant and informed him that all of the superior officers were either killed or wounded; Eddie Grant was now in charge of a battalion.  As he led his battalion closer to the isolated Americans, the German shelling increased.  As Grant and some of his officers were being briefed, a German shell exploded near them and killed two lieutenants.  Grant was yelling orders for his men to take cover and for medics when another shell exploded just above him and he died instantly.  He was buried in the Argonne forest just a few yards from where he was killed.

The Giants commemorated Eddie Grant’s sacrifice by installing the plaque pictured above at Polo Grounds and placing a wreath around its base every Memorial Day.  (You can see the plaque in it’s position at Polo Grounds here.  It’s just below the 483 ft. sign, and yes, that’s a photo of the Willie Mays’ catch).  After the last game at the Polo Grounds, the plaque was stolen when fans tore up the stadium taking every souvenir they could.  It popped up a few years later, but was then lost for good.  When the franchise moved to San Francisco, a replacement plaque was not installed until 2006 after multiple requests for the Giants to do so.

Eddie Grant willingly sacrificed his life for the freedoms we enjoy today.  He wasn’t drafted, he wasn’t forced into battle.  A true patriot, Grant gave up his career and life for this country.  He should be remembered and thanked.  His eulogy reads:

He fought with freemen, side by side;

He helped turn back the devlish side:

Staunch was his heart, with Truth his guide,

He fought for Liberty—and died.

*In addition to Grant, two other major leaguers were killed in WWI: Tigers’ pitcher Robert Troy and Yankees’ outfielder Alex Barr.  Also, Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson suffered gas poisoning during the war which led to tuberculosis and his ultimate death in 1925.  In WWII, 50 former or active professional players lost their lives.  Of the 50, two were ex-major leaguers: catcher Harry O’Neill, who died on Iwo Jima, and outfielder Elmer Gadeon, who was killed in France.  Only one former major league baseball player was killed in Korea: shortstop Bob Neighbors.  No former or active major leaguers were killed in Vietnam, or any subsequent conflicts.


An Interview with Shibe Park Historian Bruce Kuklick, Part 1

If you enjoy reading this site, I heartily recommend that you buy the book To Every Thing a Season by Bruce Kuklick (pronounced Cook-lick). This is the quite simply the best book I have read yet about Philadelphia sports. The book is about Shibe Park, and it covers not only the games that took place there, but the way it helped to shape the surrounding neighborhood over the nearly 70 years it stood at 20th and Lehigh. A truly terrific read that is not only filled with a ton of fascinating facts about the old Phillies and A’s ball clubs, but also a terrific look at the city itself between 1909 and 1976.

I sat down to an interview with Kuklick, and the affable and excitable UPenn History professor talked about Connie Mack’s legacy, why people back in the day decided whether to root for the Phillies or the Athletics (since they played 6 blocks away from each other), and which team is better, the 2011 Phils or the 1929 A’s. There’s so much good stuff in this interview that I’m going to split it into three parts. This is part one. Enjoy! -Johnny Goodtimes

JGT: What inspired you to write this book?

KUKLICK: I’m a long time baseball fan, but up until the point of writing this book, I had kind of fallen away from the game. It was partly the Phillies. They were so lousy in the 60s that I didn’t pay any attention to them. And then my daughter started going to public school in Philly and started getting involved with the Phillies, and she and I started going to games regularly again. I looked around, it was then the Vet, and I said, “How did we get to this wretched, horrible ballpark?” Which I really hated. “What happened to take us away from that old ballpark, Connie Mack Stadium, Shibe Park?” And I’m a historian, and I think, “I can figure this out.” So I started doing the research in old newspapers at the Temple Urban Archives…and then I was hooked. I spent more time up there at Temple than I care to tell you about. For 5 years I was up there every Thursday and Friday.

JGT: One thing a lot of people have asked me about and I haven’t been able to find a good answer for yet is this: the Athletics and the Phillies played extremely close to each other. The two ballparks (Shibe and Baker Bowl) were 6 blocks away. How did fans decide which team they were going to be a fan of?

KUKLICK: It wasn’t much of a choice. The A’s were the team of choice. I mean, you’re a loser if you’re a Phillies fan. If you look at statistics on attendance, the Phillies get nobody. I suspect, though I can’t prove it, that it was a very, very local crowd. If you lived 2 blocks from the Phillies and 4 blocks from the A’s, maybe you’d go there. But they had nobody. They had lousy players. Whenever they had a good player they would sell them to make ends meet (ed. note: sound familiar, Pittsburgh Pirate fans?) There were a couple of scandals around them in the early 1940s, about gambling and stuff. So it’s not really much of a choice. The A’s are the premiere team. People go and see the A’s play. The Phillies are kind of a minor 2nd thought, kind of an embarrassment to the National League. Of course, a lot of the National League teams are happy to have the Phillies around.

JGT: They’ve got someone to beat up on every couple of weeks.

KUKLICK: That’s right. That’s right. That’s why I like your site. Finally somebody says, “Sure the Phillies are great. Sure Chase Utley is great. But is he the greatest 2nd baseman that’s ever played here? Absolutely not. He doesn’t even come close.” People don’t realize that the 1929, 1930, and 1931 A’s are better than even this team today, which I think is the best team this franchise has had.

JGT: Sports Illustrated called that the team time forgot. People forget that those A’s smoked Ruth, Gehrig, and the Yankees in the standings.

KUKLICK: I know that.

JGT: Well, it’s a great trivia question. What Philadelphia pro team has won the most championships?That team is the one that moved away from here 57 years ago.

KUKLICK: And it’s not only that. They were only here for 54 years too. The Phillies have had a lot more years to put it together.

JGT: You had two stadiums, Shibe Park and the Baker Bowl. Was Shibe Park superior to the Baker Bowl?

KUKLICK: Oh yeah. In fact the Phillies moved to Shibe in 1938. They had a couple of fires in the Baker Bowl, part of the stands collapsed, a repeated number of disasters.

JGT: Now Shibe was built in 1908 and 1909. When it was built, was it considered revolutionary?

KUKLICK: It was the first concrete and steel stadium. What that means is that it’s concrete that they stick steels rods in to make it almost indestructible. In fact, I bet you if you dig up under that church (there’s now a church on the old Shibe Park grounds) you’ll find bits of Shibe Park under the ground. I was told that it was so difficult to knock this place down that they finally just dug a huge hole at 21st and Lehigh and just put all the stuff in there and covered it over.

It’s the first stadium in the United States that uses this new technology, and it’s rapidly followed by a lot of similar stadiums. The two most important ones now are Fenway and Wrigley.

JGT: So did that sort of kick off a boom the way that Camden Yards in the 90s did?

KUKLICK: Oh yeah. Yeah. It’s the first one.

To read part 2 of this interview, click here. Then, as part of our Beer Week coverage, we’ll post Part 3, where he talks about how Connie Mack fought for decades to get booze into the ballpark, and how Pennsylvania’s blue laws and bars near the ballpark prevented him from doing so.


Wilson Valdez: the next Babe Ruth?

Infielder Wilson Valdez earning the win in last night’s 19 inning marathon is the kind of oddity that is reserved solely for extra-inning baseball.  You’ll never see Mike Richards throw on goalie pads for the 5th OT, or Jeremy Maclin attempt a game-winning field goal, or Elton Brand switch to point guard; but you might see an infielder who hasn’t pitched since he played on the Expos’ Dominican League team take the mound when the team needs a scoreless inning.

As JGT points out, Wilson Valdez is the first position player to earn a win for the Phillies since Jimmie Foxx did it, against the Reds no less, in 1945.  But Foxx started the second-half of that double-header on the mound.  He had some time, albeit little, to prepare.  Valdez started last night’s game at second base and played there for 18 innings, until he was thrown in to pitch in the 19th.  And he performed: retiring Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Carlos Fisher (and hitting Scott Rolen for good measure).

The last time a position player who started in the field went on to become the winning pitcher was October 21, 1921 in a game between the Philadelphia Athletics and the New York Yankees at Polo Grounds.  The Yanks were holding on to a 6 run league after seven innings when Babe Ruth, who started in left field, was inserted to close out the game in the 8th.  The A’s got to Ruth quickly, scoring 6 runs and tying the game in the 8th.  For some reason, Yankees manager Miller Huggins left Ruth in the game and was rewarded by doing so.  Ruth settled in and pitched scoreless innings in the 9th, 10th and 11th.  The Yankees would go on to win the game in the bottom of the 11th on a Johnny Mitchell RBI single that scored Tom Rogers.

And that’s the last time I’ll ever compare Wilson Valdez and Babe Ruth.


The Last Position Player to Earn a Win for the Phils? Jimmie Foxx

Wilson Valdez was not the first position player on the Phillies to pitch in a game. The most recent was Tomas Perez, who did it in 2002. But it’s been a while since a position player got a W. 66 years, in fact, and the circumstances were quite different though the opponent was the same.

Jimmie Foxx was one of the greatest power hitters in baseball history, hitting his 500th by the time he was 32 years old. The first baseman was called up by the Philadelphia Athletics in 1925 and spent 11 years in Philly before being shipped to Boston. By the early 1940s, he was well past his prime, and probably would have been out of baseball if not for the fact that most of the remaining ballplayers not at war were scrubs (He didn’t go to war because of a sinus problem). And so he kicked around a few years longer, and in 1945 the Phillies decided to honor their longstanding tradition of hiring Hall of Famers once they were well past their primes. The Phils were mired in yet another last place finish (Between 1919 and 1947 they were last or next to last 24 times), and would finish 52 games out of first. On August 19th, the Phils faced off against the Reds in a double header. Manger Ben Chapman realized he didn’t have any fresh arms to pitch the 2nd game. The following is from a Boston Globe article in 1980 via Seamheads:

In 1945, when he was 37, Foxx had slipped badly and was hanging on by his fingertips with the Phillies. One day, Ben Chapman, Phils’ manager, came to Jimmie.

Chapman told Foxx, “We’re desperate. Would you mind getting yourself into shape to pitch? We don’t have anyone who can get the ball over the plate.”

Foxx’s answer, according to Arthur Daley’s book, Kings of the Home Run: “I couldn’t go nine innings under any conditions, I’m not even sure I could get anyone out.”

And Chapman’s response: “Just hang in there as long as you can. If by some miracle, you could last five innings, that’s all I’ll ask. I’ll take you right out.”

Foxx did better than that against the Cincinnati Reds: at the end of five innings, he had a no-hitter. So of course Chapman left him in the game.

But, Daley wrote that “in the sixth, Jimmie’s arm was as dead as a dinosaur, and he felt just as heavy. The Reds nicked him for a hit and that was it. He [Chapman] yanked Foxx while he was still a winning pitcher and brought in a reliever to preserve the victory.

In fact, that’s not quite true. Foxx stayed into the 7th, and gave up 4 hits before being yanked with two outs in the 7th (Interestingly, the losing pitcher for the Reds that day was named Howie Fox). Andy Karl came in to get the save.

You folks who watched that game last night, don’t ever forget it. If precedent holds, we won’t see another one until 2067. Here’s the box score to the Jimmie Foxx game.

 


On This Date In 1997, Destiny Seemed Certain

It was May 25th, 1997, the Flyers defeated the New York Rangers 4-2 and four games to one in the series. 20,000+ Flyers fans roared and roared and roared as the Flyers were returning to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in a decade. Eric Lindros went through the handshake line sharing a word with the Rangers greats who had loaded up for one last run at the Cup. When Lindros passed, Brian Leetch, Mark Messier, Esa Tikkanen, Mike Richter and Wayne Gretzky there was no denying the feeling that the torch had been passed. The icons of the eighties were on the way out and it was the time of a new superstar. Eric Lindros had ascended the throne.

The Flyers had rolled through the first three rounds of the playoffs defeating those Rangers, Sabres and Mario Lemieux’s Penguins in five games each. Lindros had eleven goals so far in the playoffs, including his huge game-winning goal with just seven seconds left in game four.

When the Prince of Wales Trophy was presented on the CoreStates Center ice at the conclusion of the series Lindros didn’t touch the trophy presented to the Eastern Conference champion and barely acknowledged the glistening metal. The throngs continued to scream. “Let’s Go Flyers” chants rang through the “House that Lindros Built” as the fans filed down the escalators. So giddy, the only uncertainty anyone had was just how many Cups Lindros would bring to Philadelphia.

We know how the Lindros era turned out but on that beautiful spring afternoon, destiny seemed certain.

May 25, 1997 Box Score [Flyers History]


Phillies Play in First Ever Night Game

On May 24th, 1935, President Roosevelt turned a golden telegraph key. That lit up a signal light on a table at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. Reds GM Larry MacPhail then flipped a switch, and 632 Mazda lamps, 1500 watts each, lit up the night sky. The major leagues kicked off the Age of Light, something some historians say saved the sport in smaller towns.

Night baseball was not a new concept. The minor leagues had started hosting night games in the 1920s. The Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues started barnstorming with lights, carrying lights from venue to venue on the team bus, in 1930. But there were plenty in the Majors who did not want night baseball. Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith famously said, “There is no chance of night baseball ever being popular in the bigger cities. High class baseball cannot be played at night under artificial light.”

But the Great Depression had rocked the Reds, who were floundering the standings and averaging under 2000 fans per game by the mid 1930s. Their owner, Sidney Weil, was on the verge of bankruptcy when the Central Trust Bank took control of the team. Powel Crosley (A humble man who quickly named the stadium after himself) bought the team from the bank in 1934, and signed on Larry MacPhail as his GM. MacPhail had been GM of a minor league team in Columbus, OH, that had installed lights a few years previous and seen their attendance skyrocket during the night games. Crosley, seeing a stadium full of empty seats, didn’t need much convincing to try night games. Conservative baseball Commish, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, was not warm to the idea at first, but Crosley and MacPhail prevailed upon him that without drastic measures, baseball was going to leave the Queen City. Being staunchly against franchise relocation (Not a single team switched cities during Landis’s 22 year reign as commissioner), the Commish conceded to allow the Reds to play 7 experimental games under lights in the 1935 season.

And so, on May 24th, 1935, the 8-17 Phillies came to town to take on the 11-16 Reds. Both teams were on their way to forgettable seasons, finishing 6th and 7th in the National League. But on this night, the two squads were going make history. They were going to play under artificial light.

The field was made twice as bright as any minor league park. The Reds, who had played an afternoon home game the day before in front of 2,000  fans, were greeted by a cheering throng of 20,000 as they took the field that Wednesday evening. The lights were flipped on, Hall of Fame umpire Bill Klem yelled “Play Ball!” and a new era in baseball history had begun. The Reds won the game, 2-1, but more importantly, night baseball had proved to be both legitimate and successful. There were no errors in the game, proving wrong the naysayers who said that players would lose the ball in the night sky. And the game had proved to a hit with fans and players. Said Reds first baseman Billy Sullivan after the game, “No pun intended, but there was electricity in the air-on the field, in the stands, and in the dugout. Ballplayers did not get blase. They got fired up too.”

Four years later, lights were erected at Shibe, and the Athletics became the first AL team to host a night game. Two weeks later the Phillies, also playing at Shibe, played their first night game. The last non- expansion team to get lights, the Chicago Cubs, finally did so in 1988. Their opponents that day? The Philadelphia Phillies.

Want to learn more about this game? Two great resources for this article were this crosley-field.com site and the book Let their Be Light. Like the story and our site. Please click “Like” below to help us spread the word. Thanks!