Article About Baker Bowl Written in 1937

The Phils played their final game at the Baker Bowl on June 30th, so today I’m gonna post a couple of things about Baker Bowl. I really liked this piece, written about Baker Bowl, in 1937 by a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. Gonna post some pics and videos soon.


Celebration at the Bellevue

Interesting photo here of the Philadelphia A’s and prominent citizens of Philly celebrating their 1913 World Series win with an oyster dinner. SEems strange that the banner in the background says 1911, however. The Series was a rematch with the star crossed Giants, who had lost to the A’s in the 1911 World Series and who had lost to the Red Sox in 1912. The A’s would win again in 1913, 4 games to 1. You can see a photo from a recent event at the Bellevue from a similar angle below. Not much has changed in the past 99 years.


This is The Coolest Photo You’ll See All Day

Karl Wallenda walks above Vet Stadium between games of a doubleheader in May, 1976. (photo courtesy of AP) To see full-sized pic, click here.


Rooftop Bleachers Outside Shibe Park

A few days ago, JGT posted a really interesting 1946 drawing of Shibe Park.  In keeping with a Shibe Park theme, I found this spectacular shot of fans during the 1914 World Series on shorpy.com. To see the photo in full size, click here.  You won’t be disappointed.

The remastered photo shows, in great detail, fans crowding the rooftop bleachers built by home owners along 20th Street outside Shibe Park.  These bleachers served as the inspiration for the “Rooftop Bleacher Section” at Citizens Bank Park.  The photo also shows, in great detail, just how poorly dressed fans are today.  Instead of having a cheesy 80s Retro Night, I say the Phils organize a “Back to the 1910s Night.”  I’ve been waiting for an occasion to break out my spats.

Although the fans along 20th Street may have had a nice view of the games, they didn’t go home pleased.  The A’s would lose this series to the “Miracle” Boston Braves in 4 games.

 


1965 Proposals for Vet Stadium, and Subsequent Dome Proposals

Courtesy of the Temple University Library, here are scale models of the Vet, presented to the Mayor in 1965 (above). There seemed to be a lot of excitement about the proposal above. In the following photo, you can see then-Mayor James Tate (in glasses, between the woman and guy pointing at home plate) looking at it excitedly. I think that while it’s not great, it would have undoubtedly been better than the Vet. The proposed stadium would have housed both the Eagles and Phillies, as you can see above.

I love the flags leading up the walkway to the main entrance. I’m guessing they had all of the MLB teams on them? Notice how low and dark the entrance to the stadium is, though. Really weird. Also, what’s that white box at the bottom? Is that the subway stop?

Now, what would this stadium look like if you just plopped a dome on top of it and changed almost nothing else? This. In the age of the Astrodome, people were nuts about domes, and Philly would have probably gotten one if voters had agreed to a tax hike.

That wasn’t the only dome proposal either. The other one was for the ultimate Vet Stadium winner, except with a big ugly dome on top. Interesting to think about how loud it would have gotten in a Philadelphia dome. When doing research I found that the Daily News did a poll in 1984 asking fans if they wanted a dome at the Vet. 93% said yes. The idea gained political steam, as then-Mayor Wilson Goode said, “We will, over the next several weeks, take a good hard look at the economics of whether or not there should be a dome placed on the stadium.” In fact, the stadium had been constructed in a way that if voters ever changed their minds, the city could add a dome. And 1984 wasn’t the first time the topic of a dome had come up. According to the Gettysburg Times, in 1982,  Owens-Corning proposed a dome that would cost between $34 and $42 million. “The 10-acre roof would be woven from Teflon Coated Fiberglas yarn, according to a spokeman for Owens-Corning. Air pressure from constantly operating electric fans would support the fabric, the same technique Owens-Corning used to cover Detroit’s Silverdome.” 

The football team was interested, and the city thought a dome might bring a Super Bowl here, but the Phillies weren’t as intrigued. Here’s an incredible quote from Bill Giles in 1984: “My personal preference would be to make JFK a domed football stadium.” That would have been…something else. Obviously, none of these plans made it past the initial proposal stage.

Here is more or less the winning proposal, followed by an actual photo of the Vet. A few differences from the final product. Less dirt on basepaths (not sure when they decided to go with artificial turf) and the “roof” didn’t extend as far as it did in the proposal.

And it’s pretty obvious where they got the inspiration for the Vet’s design.

RELATED: Steve Wolf’s miniature models of Shibe Park.

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Awesome Drawing of Shibe Park

This drawing of Shibe was made by Gene Marks of the Boston Globe, who in 1946 drew all of the pro ballparks at the time. (If you want to see the others, click here.) One thing instantly stands out. How about that “Unusual 2nd base cutout”? I had never heard of that. Has anyone else? In looking at some old Shibe photos, I don’t see it in this 1943 shot, but I do think I see it in this 1945 photo. You can sort of see it in this 1963 shot as well, though it looks like it was worn out grass more than anything stylistically the team was going for.

Cool knowing where the home and visitors bullpens were, and I love how the view really gives you a feel for what it looked like inside. For Shibe Park buffs, here are a couple of other must see’s: the  miniature Shibe Park made by artist Steve Wolf. Just incredible. And here’s an interview with Wolf. If you want to know more about the history of Shibe Park, check out this interview I did with Shibe historian Bruce Kuklick.


The Biggest Loser

You’ll find former Phillies pitcher John Coleman all over the record books, though I doubt he’d be happy to know that he’s still there. Coleman was the loser on opening day of the Phillies very first game, and it was a feeling the 20-year old would get to know quite well. He would march onto the mound as a starter 61 times that season, and take 48 losses, ending the year with a record of 12-48 (despite a bad but not historically awful 4.87 ERA. In other words, he was better than Joe Blanton is this year, at 6-6, 5.04 ERA). When he wasn’t pitching, he was playing the field, doing time at both first base and in the outfield.

Of course, the 1883 Phillies had no other options. Their number two pitcher, Art Hagen, went 1-14 with a 5.45 ERA. Funny story about Hagen: He was from Rhode Island, so when the Phillies travelled up to Rhode Island for a game, the manager decided to pitch Hagan in an effort to increase attendance. He would be facing Hall of Famer Old Hoss Radbourn. The game did draw a crowd, but their native son gave them little to cheer for, as the Phillies lost 28-0, still the most lopsided shutout loss in MLB history.

Back to Coleman: In 1884, he started the year for the Phillies, but switched over to the Athletics of the American Association, aka the “Beer and Whiskey League”, midway through the season (that franchise had no relation to the A’s of Connie Mack). Once in the AA, he was used almost exclusively as a fielder. He actually became a pretty decent hitter in the AA as well, batting .299 with 70 RBIs in 1885. He headed out west to Pittsburgh, where he played for both the AA team and the NL team. He hung up the cleats after an 1890 season with the Pirates, presumably hoping that someday someone would break that awful record. They never did, and barring the advent of the 760 game season, they never will. John Coleman is an eternal record holder. When it comes to pitching, he will always be baseball’s biggest loser. And still better than Joe Blanton.

 


Philly’s 1934 Champions

 

Excited to add a new member to the PSH clan. Michael Collazo and I used to work together for the Camden Riversharks in 2002, and we were pretty good buds, since we were both such sports history buffs. I knew he loved old sports stuff, and I knew he was a pretty good writer, so I recently asked him to join the team. He said he’d love to do an occasional piece. Here’s his first column, about the 1934 Philadelphia Stars. If you’ve got a Philly Sports History piece you’d like to write, please gimme a heads up. If it’s good, I’d be happy to post it on the site. 

In 1934, Philly fans followed their teams on an infant medium called radio, not via the Internet or Twitter. In those days, fans flipped through the sports pages of the Bulletin or the Inquirer, not through the channels of the MLB Extra Innings package. And fans then didn’t have cupholders – they sat their brew on bleachers and they liked it!

What fans in 1934 also didn’t do: cheer their sorry teams playing in North Philly.

I mean, the Phillies always sucked. No shocker there. Philly guys my age in the early 1930s longed for the days of Grover Cleveland Alexander…ok more accurately, barely ANY Philly guys my age in the early 1930s cared much for the Fightins. The Phillies sat seventh in the standings and at the bottom of the league in attendance. Ethan Allen – not the department store, the baseball player – led this team in hits and on-base percentage. Dolph Camili led the team in diggers with just 12. One Phils pitcher salvaged a winning record; the team ERA hovered at 4.76.

Meanwhile in the American League, Philly’s love affair with the Athletics was being tested. A’s fans found themselves watching The Titanic after the great A’s championship run of the late 20s and early 30s. By 1934, Connie Mack was slowly dismantling the team to save money. Sure, the A’s still had the great Jimmie Foxx – he blasted 43 HRs in ’34 – but there was no more Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane or Lefty Grove. This pitching staff struggled to a 5.01 ERA.

In West Philly, however, Philly big-league baseball had a winner — Great Depression be-damned. The Philadelphia Stars may have played at smallish Passon Field (48th and Spruce) – it only played on Mondays in North Philly’s Shibe Park — but the Stars indeed were the best team in town in 1934. In its first Negro National League season, the Stars won the second half title (the first and second half champs served as pennant winners).

You think the 2012 Phillies team is aged – the Stars’ two biggest stars were in their late 30s. Hall of Famer Biz Mackey (right), a switch-hitting catcher, was a .300-caliber hitter even at age 36. Mackey, who many historians consider at least Mickey Cochrane’s equal, had his best days in Darby, PA playing for the Hilldales of the 1920s. Another Wheez Kid of West Philly was Jud Wilson, whose .347 average and line drive power led the team, despite being 38 years old. On the mound, a hard-throwing, hard-drinking cat from Baltimore MURR-lyn named Stuart “Slim” Jones enjoyed one of the most impactful career years in Philly baseball history (read Slim’s ultimately tragic story here). A lefty whose fastball was compared to Lefty Grove’s, the 21-year-old Jones served as Philly’s undisputed ace, winning 20 games and keeping his ERA under 2.00.

The 1934 championship series matched the upstart Stars against the Chicago American Giants, which fielded four players now enshrined in Cooperstown: Turkey Stearns, Willie Wells, Mule Suttles and Bill Foster. Considered one of the most contested series in Black Baseball history, the Stars basically intimidated its way to a title, despite dueling protests and scheduling issues. With Chicago up three games to two, Game 6 saw a fired-up Jud Wilson basically clock umpire Bert Gholston – yet was allowed to stay in the game. Later in the game another fight flared up – again without resulting in an ejection. As Gholston would admit in a meeting later that week, he relented from ejecting anyone in Game 6 because he feared the damage Wilson or a fellow Star might do to him. Chicago protested the game but Philly came away with a 4-1 win. After a game that ended in a 4-4 tie, the Stars won a replayed Game 7 2-0, thanks to a brilliant performance by Slim Jones.

As University of Delaware history professor Nel Lanctot wrote in Negro League Baseball: The Rise and Fall of a Black Institution, more was written in the Black press on the confrontations and the questionable administrative decisions of the NNL than the game results itself.

But the 1934 Phils and A’s wished they were so entertaining. The aptly named Philly Stars were champs.

If only we could have had enjoyed a Jud Wilson Twitter feed…


From the What-If Files: The Urgent Telegram that May Have Cost the Phillies a Dynasty

The funnest part about running this website is coming across crazy ass stories I’ve never heard of before, and odds are 99% of Philly has never heard of them either. This is one of those stories.

The 1913 Phillies were undoubtedly a team on the rise They went 88-63, finishing 2nd in the NL, though they were nowhere near the Giants, who won 101 games that year. Gavvy Cravath had a monster year for the Phils that year, hitting .341 with 19 Homers and 128 RBIs. (You can read more about good ol’ Gravvy, and the former MLB record he held, here.) Furthermore, they had a promising new ownership group, led by 42-year old President William Locke, who had served with distinction as a secretary in Pittsburgh for the Pirates for the previous ten years.

The pitching staff was led, of course, by Grover Cleveland Alexander. But there was a righty on the team who had a monster season, a guy I had never heard of until today, Tom Seaton. Seaton had a breakout year in 1913, going 27-12 that year with a 2.60 ERA, and he led the league with 168 strikeouts. Like Alexander, he had been born in Nebraska in 1887, and the city must have been thrilled by the prospect of the two young cornhuskers leading the previously moribund Phillies to the Series many times in the years to come.

It was not to be. On August 7th, Seaton took the hill in Chicago to pitch against the Cubs. Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, his wife Rene was going into a difficult labor, and both her health and the health of the baby were in doubt. An urgent telegram was sent to the Phillies. What happened next is in dispute. Seaton claimed that he was never given the telegram until after the game. Phillies manager Red Dooin claimed that he gave the telegram to Seaton before the game but that Seaton wanted to pitch anyway and leave afterwards. Regardless, by the time he arrived in Philadelphia, his newborn was dead and his wife was on death’s doorstep. Rene survived, and was furious at the Phillies for not giving her husband the telegram so that he could be by her side.

A week after that debacle, William Locke passed away, and the leadership of the team passed from his able hands to the hands of his idiotic and incompetent cousin, William Baker. These two events, occurring within a week of each other, doomed the team.

The belligerent Baker began showing his incompetence the moment the season ended. He sent Seaton a contract offer that would only be honored if he played in 35 games and won 60% of his starts. Seaton and his wife were outraged. That spring, he signed a contract with Chicago of the new Federal League (essentailly the 1914 version of the USFL), then was moved by Federal League execs to the Brooklyn squad. He had a terrific season in the Federal League in 1914, but was overused, and his arm went dead in 1915. After the Federal League folded, he returned to the majors, and had some minor success with the Cubs. But by 1918 he was out of the Majors for good. After bouncing around the Minors for awhile, he was kicked out of baseball for befriending some shady characters following the Black Sox hysteria, and worked for a smelting company in El Paso for the remainder of his life.

The Phillies struggled without him in 1914, but went all the way to the World Series in 1915. You have to wonder: if Seaton had gotten that telegram before the game against the Cubs, would he and Alexander have dominated NL hitters for the next several years, and perhaps won a World Series or two? Or would his arm have burned out anyway? Did Seaton receive the telegram before the Chicago game and not understand the urgency of it, thus staying on the field to pitch, then covering his ass afterwards? Would Superidiot Bill Baker have screwed the whole thing up anyway?

PREVIOUSLY IN THE WHAT-IF FILES: Ferguson Jenkins.


Random 1913 Phillies Photo

Second baseman Otto Knabe (left) and Pitcher Erskine Mayer (right) warm up before a game in 1913. It was in that year that Mayer would set a record for most hits allowed in a row, as 9 straight Cubs got a hit against him. Incredibly, the record would be unmatched for a total of 24 hours, as the very next day his teammate Grover Cleveland Alexander would give up 9 hits in a row himself, to that very same Cubs team. Knabe played 7 years at second base for the Phillies.