Baker Bowl

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National League Park
Baker Bowl
Baker Bowl and Huntingdon Street station, 1928.jpg
Former namesPhiladelphia Base Ball Grounds (1887–1895)
National League Park (1895–1913, officially thereafter)
Location2622 N Broad St/2601 N 15th St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Coordinates39°59′35″N 75°9′21″W / 39.99306°N 75.15583°W / 39.99306; -75.15583Coordinates: 39°59′35″N 75°9′21″W / 39.99306°N 75.15583°W / 39.99306; -75.15583
OwnerPhiladelphia Phillies
OperatorPhiladelphia Phillies
Capacity12,500 (1887–94)
18,000 (1895–1928)
20,000 (1929)
18,800 (1930–38)
Field sizeLeft Field – 341 ft (104 m)
Center Field – 408 ft (124 m)
Right-Center – 300 ft (91 m)
Right Field – 280 ft (85 m)
SurfaceGrass
Construction
OpenedApril 30, 1887
Renovated1894-1895
ClosedJune 30, 1938
Demolished1950
Construction costUS$80,000
($2.41 million in 2021 dollars[1])
ArchitectJohn D. Allen
Tenants
Philadelphia Phillies (NL) (1887–1938)
Philadelphia Eagles (NFL) (1933–35)
Philadelphia Athletics (Eastern League) (1892 part season)
DesignatedAugust 16, 2000[2]

National League Park (or Philadelphia Ball Park) during most of its history, and commonly referred to as Baker Bowl since 1923, was a baseball stadium and home to the Philadelphia Phillies from 1887 until 1938, and first home field of the Philadelphia Eagles from 1933 to 1935. The ballpark was located in North Philadelphia on a city block bounded by N Broad St, W Huntingdon St, N 15th St, and W Lehigh Ave; it was built across the street from North Philadelphia station which had opened in the 1870s.

1887 Construction and 1894 Fire[edit]

Philadelphia Ball Park in 1887

National League Park was built in 1887 by Phillies owners Al Reach and John Rogers.[3] Construction cost $80,000 and the park opened a capacity of 12,500.[3]

The original layout of the field was different from its shape by 1895. In 1887, the dimensions of the playing field were, left field 425 ft (130 m), center field 330 ft (100 m), and right field 290 ft (88 m). The outfield was enclosed by a 12 ft (3.7 m) wall and right field by an additional 12 ft (3.7 m) of wire fencing.

The long left field distance was to the outer wall before the bleachers were added. Center field was much closer than it became later when the center field area was extended over the sunken railroad tracks. The field was also surrounded by a quarter-mile [1,320 ft (400 m)] bicycle track which was 15 ft (4.6 m) wide.[4]

The tracks were lowered in 1894 and the field was extended over them. Bleachers were built in left field, and various extensions were added to the originally low right field wall, resulting in the famous 60-foot (18 m) high fence, the back of which faced N Broad St.

Fire destroyed the grandstand and bleachers of the original stadium on August 6, 1894. The $80,000 in damage (equal to $2,505,538 today) was covered fully by insurance. The fire also spread to the adjoining properties, causing an additional $20,000 in damage, equal to $626,385 today.[5]

While the Phillies were playing a short road trip and then staging six home games at the University of Pennsylvania Grounds at 39th and Spruce, a building crew worked around the clock to erect temporary bleachers. The makeshift stands were finished in time for a game on August 18.

1895 Reconstruction and Expansion[edit]

Philadelphia Ball Park redesigned before the 1895 season

During the 1894–95 off-season, the park was fully rebuilt of mostly fireproof materials and was the first ballpark to use steel and brick for the majority of its construction. It was built with an innovative cantilevered upper deck that was the first in a sports stadium. It contained a banked bicycle track, exploiting the cycling craze of the late 19th century.

The sweeping curve behind the plate was about 60 feet (18 m), and instead of angling back toward the foul lines, the 60-foot (18 m) wide foul ground extended all the way to the wall in right, and well down the left field line. The spacious foul ground allowed for a higher probability of foul flyouts and extended an advantage to pitchers.

The Phillies' new ownership refurbished the ballpark prior to the 1905. They had the grandstand painted and every seat cleaned. Following the collapse of the left field bleachers in 1903, the Phillies had the stands inspected by the chief of the City of Philadelphia's Bureau of Building Inspections prior to Opening Day, and publicized his approval that they met all codes.[6]

Philadelphia Ball Park's left field corner bleachers in 1915

The Phillies erected field level seats extending from the left field stands around to the centerfield club house before the 1906 season which increased capacity by 3,000 spectators. The ballpark had featured hanging seats in left field on Lehigh Avenue beneath which fans parked carriages, bicycles, and other vehicles; these accommodations were lost with the erection of the new left field stands.[7]

Prior to the 1907 season, a new corrugated roof was placed over half of the grandstand and the visiting team clubhouse was refurbished with new showers and other ameneties.[8] Through the 1907 season, the batters eye in centerfield was stonework and reflected the sun. Prior to the 1908 season, the Phillies' painted the stonework green to match the wood fences and reduce the glare; moved the score board to the right field foul line; and for the first time built covered dugouts described as "small pavilion-like sheds erected over the players' bench, completely shutting the bench out from view of the people in the grandstand."[9]

The park was refurbished again prior to the 1909 season with increased seating capacity, new box seats, and renovations to the players' clubhouse.[10] The park itself was painted green which the Philadelphia Inquirer welcomed as an improvement "instead of the old glaring assortment of rainbow colors which predominated in the past."[11]

1903 and 1927 Diasters[edit]

Philadelphia Ball Park 1921 Sanborn Map

During the August 8, 1903 game against Boston with 10,078 in the stands, an altercation between two drunken men and two teenage girls on 15th Street caught the attention of bleacher fans down the left field line.[3] Many of the fans ran to the top of the wooden seating area, and the added stress on that section of the bleachers caused it to collapse into the street, killing 12 and injuring 232. This led to additional renovations to the stadium and forced ownership to sell the team.

The Phillies temporarily moved to the Philadelphia Athletics' home field, Columbia Park, while Baker Bowl was repaired.[12] The Phillies played sixteen games at Columbia Park in August and September 1903.[13]

During a game on May 14, 1927, parts of two sections of the lower deck extension along the right-field line collapsed due to rotted shoring timbers, again triggered by an oversize gathering of people, who were seeking shelter from the rain. While no one died during the collapse, one individual died of heart failure in the subsequent stampede that injured 50.

After both of those catastrophes, the Phils rented from the A's while repairs were being made to the old structure.

A small incident occurred overnight on August 2–3, 1935, when a lightning bolt hit the flagpole and splintered it. The reporter wryly observed that if the Phillies were to win the 1935 pennant, they would have no place to hang it.[14] That was a safe proposition, as the Phils finished in seventh place, 35 1/2 games behind the first place Chicago Cubs.

The Baker Wall[edit]

Baker Bowl's right field wall in 1937 after the metal screen was added to extend the total height to 60 feet (18 m).

National League Park was distinguished by its right field wall which at its closest distance was only 280 feet (85 m) from home plate, with right-center only 300 feet (91.5 m) away. Behind the right field wall was N Broad Street and North Philadelphia train station across the street.

The right field wall came to be known as the Baker Wall after William Baker who ran the club from 1913 until his death in 1930. The right field wall and screen in its final form was 60 feet (18 m) high. By comparison, Fenway Park's left field wall, the Green Monster, is 37 feet (11 m) high, and 310 feet (94 m) away.

The wall was an amalgam of different materials. It was originally a masonry structure topped by a wire fence.

With the advent of the Live-ball era in 1920, it became significantly easier to hit home runs over the near right field wall. The Phillies extended the barrier upward with masonry, wood, and a metal pipe-and-wire screen. The lower part of the wall was rough[15]) and eventually a layer of tin was laid over the entire structure except for the upper part of the screen.

Because of its material, it made a distinctive sound when balls ricocheted off it, as happened frequently. The clubhouse was located above and behind the center field wall.[3] No batter ever hit a ball over the clubhouse, but Rogers Hornsby once hit a ball through a window.[3]

Name[edit]

Advertisement Athletics vs. Phillies at Philadelphia Ball Park (April 10, 1905)

The proper name of the ballpark was "Philadelphia Ball Park" and "National League Park."

The opening day game program in 1887 called it "Philadelphia Ball Park". Photographs during its later years show the sign on the ballpark's exterior "National League Park". The Phillies referred to it as "National League Park" in newspaper advertisements through the final game day, June 30, 1938.

"Huntingdon Street Grounds" was an early common name for the ballpark after the street running behind the first base line and intersecting Broad Street where the ballpark's primary entrance was behind home plate.

Philadelphia Inquirer, July 11, 1923, first use of "the Baker Bowl" to refer to Phillies' ballpark

The Philadelphia Inquirer coined the term "Baker Bowl" on July 11, 1923[16] after then Phillies owner William F. Baker. Baker had purchased the club in 1913 and stewarded the club's demise and ballpark's neglect. Baker would own the club until his death in 1930.

Built for baseball in the dead ball era, it came to be seen as inadequately spacious for the post 1920 live ball era. The ballpark was written about as "The Cigar Box" and "The Band Box", referring to the diminutive size of the outfield. After the close of Philadelphia Ball Park, the terms "cigar box" and "bandbox" were subsequently applied to any "intimate" ballpark (like Boston's Fenway Park or Brooklyn's Ebbets Field) whose configurations were conducive to players hitting home runs.

The ballpark was called "The Hump" in reference to the hill in center field covering the partially submerged railroad tunnel in the street beyond right field that extended through into center field. Outfielders would occasionally feel the rumblings of the trains passing underneath them.

Philadelphia Phillies[edit]

Crowd entering Philadelphia Ball Park during 1915 World Series

During the 51½ seasons the Phillies played there, they managed only one pennant (1915). The 1915 World Series was significant in that it was the first time a sitting president attended a World Series game when President Wilson attended and threw out the first pitch prior to Game 2.[17] The Series was also the first post-season appearance by Babe Ruth, and the last to be played in a venue whose structure predated the modern World Series.

While they were occasionally at least respectable in the dead-ball era, once the lively ball was introduced the Phillies nearly always finished in last place, substantially helping them towards the 10,000-loss "milestone" they reached on July 15, 2007.[18] It was an extremely hitter friendly park, making it an especially difficult place to pitch. For a number of years, a huge advertising sign on the right field wall read "The Phillies Use Lifebuoy", a popular brand of soap. This led to the oft-reported quip that appended "... and they still stink!" In 1936, a vandal snuck into Baker Bowl one night and actually wrote that phrase on the Lifebuoy ad.[19] Conventional wisdom ties their failures to Baker Bowl, but they remained cellar-dwellers in Shibe Park as well.

On June 9, 1914, Honus Wagner hit his 3,000th career hit in the stadium. Babe Ruth played his final major league baseball game in Baker Bowl on May 30, 1935, grounding out to first base in his only at bat but getting an assist by throwing a runner out at home plate on a relay play from left field.[20]

The ballpark was abandoned during the middle of the 1938 season, as the Phillies chose to move 5 blocks west on Lehigh Avenue to rent the newer and more spacious Shibe Park from the A's rather than remain at Baker Bowl. Phils president Gerald Nugent cited the move as an opportunity for the Phillies to cut expenses as stadium upkeep would be split between two clubs.[21] The final game was played on June 30, when a crowd of only 1,500 spectators watched the Phillies lose to the New York Giants, 14–1.[3]

At Baker Bowl, the Phillies finished with a 30–38–1 record against the A's in City Series exhibition games.[22]

Philadelphia Eagles[edit]

Shibe Park in foreground and Philadelphia Ball Park in background in 1929

Baker Bowl was the first home field of the Philadelphia Eagles, who played there from 1933 through 1935. In their three seasons there, they had a 9–21–1 record.

Eagles' owner Bert Bell hoped to play home games at larger Shibe Park, but negotiations with the Athletics were not fruitful, and Bell agreed to a deal with Phillies' owner Gerry Nugent. For Eagles games, 5,000 temporary seats were erected along the right-field wall. The Eagles played their first game at the ballpark on October 3, 1933, a 40–0 pre-season victory over a U.S. Marines team; the game was played at night under rented floodlights. In the first regular-season game on October 18, 1933, 1,750 fans saw the Portsmouth Spartans beat the Eagles, 25–0. Later that season, 17,850 fans watched the Eagles tie the Chicago Bears on Sunday, November 18, 1933. Under Pennsylvania blue laws, Sunday games had been prohibited.[23]

With the ballpark in poor condition, the Eagles left Baker Bowl after the 1935 season for the city-owned Municipal Stadium, which was then only 10 years old and could seat up to 100,000 spectators.

Other tenants[edit]

In addition to Phillies baseball and Eagles football, the ballpark served the city as a multipurpose playing field available to other teams.

Central High School's football team opened its season against Atlantic City High School on October 20, 1906 at the park.[24]

During its tenure, the park hosted Negro league games, including four postseason seasons. In 1921, the Chicago American Giants (champions of the Negro National League) played a series against the team considered the best of the East in the Hilldale Club. The Baker Bowl hosted the first two games of a best-of-six series that Hilldale won three (with one tie).[25] Three years later, the venue hosted the first two games of the 1924 Colored World Series between the Kansas City Monarchs and the Hilldale Club that the Monarchs won in ten games. [26] The following year, the two teams met again in the 1925 Colored World Series; the Baker Bowl hosted Game 5 and 6 in a series that saw Hilldale win their first and only World Series.[27] The following year, the Bowl hosted Game 4 and 5 of the 1926 Colored World Series.[28] It was during a 1929 exhibition with a Negro league team that Babe Ruth hit two home runs that landed about halfway into the rail yards across the street in right.[29]

Rodeos were occasionally held at Baker Bowl in order to raise additional revenue. That activity and mindset fit with the reported use of sheep to graze on the field during Phillies road trips, in lieu of buying lawn mowers, until sometime in the 1920s.

In 1923, Phillies Park hosted multiple college football games of Saint Joseph's Hawks football.[30]

After the Phillies' departure in 1938, a racing track was installed inside the stadium. By 1947, a business called Phillies Auto Mart at Broad and Huntington Streets advertised in the newspaper that prospective buyers could "Try It Out On the Old PHILLIES Ballpark Racing Oval."[31]


Legacy[edit]

Looking north from current train depot.
Note former Ford Building in background.

Of all the MLB parks whose permanent structures were built in the 19th century, Baker Bowl hung on the longest, finally hosting its last game on June 30, 1938, or about 51 1/2 years after it opened.[32] (Robison Field in St. Louis, the next-longest-lasting 19th-century big-league ballpark, had closed in 1920.)

As early as 1928, the ballpark's site was put forth by the Greater Kensington Business Men's Association as an advantageous location for the city's proposed convention center. The ballpark was across the street from the Pennsylvania Railroad's North Philadelphia station and the city's Broad Street Line subway had recently opened.[33] The Philadelphia Convention Hall and Civic Center would be built in 1931 near the University of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia's Center City.

When the ballpark first opened, it was praised as among the finest baseball palace in America. By the time it was abandoned, it suffered from neglect. The Chicago Tribune ran a series of articles on baseball parks during the summer of 1937; the article on the Baker Bowl was merciless in its ridicule of this park.[34] Included is the oft-repeated joke that the Phillies had remodeled the clubhouse by installing brand new nails to hang their clothes upon.

After the Phillies moved to Shibe Park, its new owners renamed the lot Philadelphia Gardens and experimented with various types of events. For 1939 the roof and upper deck were peeled off and a midget-car race track was built around the inside perimeter, echoing the bicycle track from some 40 years earlier. In the summer of 1940, an ice rink of regulation hockey dimensions was installed, its underground machinery maintaining a frozen surface and enabling ice skating year round. The old centerfield clubhouse served as a piano bar called "Dick McClain's Alpine Musical Bar" from May 1942 until sometime in summer 1943. Local newspapers advertised dancing and skating at the old ballpark site. Temple's hockey team played some of their games at this site also. There were also occasional boxing matches staged there. These enterprises all faded away during World War II.

In February 1946, owners of the NHL's dormant Montreal Maroons franchise announced plans to build a 20,000-seat arena at the site, at a cost of $2.5 million. However, the group was unable to get funding for the project, so it came to naught (Philadelphia would not get another NHL team until 1967). By the late 1940s, all that stood of the original structure were the four outer walls and a field choked with weeds. What remained of the ballpark was finally demolished in 1950 – coincidentally, the year of the Phils' first pennant since 1915. The site now features a gas station and convenience store where the center-field clubhouse once stood, garages, and a car wash.

A Pennsylvania Historical marker stands on North Broad Street just north of West Huntingdon Street, Philadelphia. The marker is titled, "Baker Bowl National League Park" and the text reads,

The Phillies' baseball park from its opening in 1887 until 1938. Rebuilt 1895; hailed as nation's finest stadium. Site of first World Series attended by U.S. President, 1915; Negro League World Series, 1924-26; Babe Ruth's last major league game, 1935. Razed 1950.[35]

The marker was dedicated on August 16, 2000, at Veterans Stadium during an on-the-field pre-game ceremony. The marker was unveiled by former Phillies shortstop Bobby Stevens, who played for the team in 1931, and then–current Phillies pitcher Randy Wolf. The marker was displayed at the Vet through the end of the 2000 season and then moved to the location of the ballpark, just behind where the right field foul pole would be.[36]

Some distinctive buildings visible in vintage photos of the ballpark remain standing and help to mark the ballpark's former location. The most prominent structure is the 10-story-tall, triangular building across Lehigh to the north-northeast, behind what was centerfield. It was originally a Ford Motor Company building, and was constructed during the 1914 season. Another is the neoclassical North Broad Street Station train depot building across Broad Street from what was the end of the first base grandstand, and where Huntingdon tees into Broad. It opened in 1929 and is visible in later aerial photos of the ballpark. The building itself now houses a homeless shelter. The modern North Broad station serving SEPTA Regional Rail's Lansdale/Doylestown Line and Manayunk/Norristown Line stands nearby.

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 1634–1699: McCusker, J. J. (1997). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1700–1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved April 16, 2022.
  2. ^ "PHMC Historical Markers Search". Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Archived from the original (Searchable database) on 2013-11-13. Retrieved 2015-06-18.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Jordan, David (2010). Closing 'Em Down: Final Games at Thirteen Classic Ballparks. USA: McFarland Publishing Company. p. 216. ISBN 9780786449682.
  4. ^ Philadelphia Times. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. May 1, 1887. p. 1. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ "Another Baseball Park Fire". The Christian Recorder. August 9, 1894.
  6. ^ "Phillies-Athletics; Opening Game at the National's Ground Will Be Played Today". Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. April 3, 1905. p. 10.
  7. ^ "Seating Capacity At Phillies Increased". Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. April 5, 1906. p. 10.
  8. ^ "Phillies Meet Altoona Today". Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. March 29, 1907. p. 10.
  9. ^ "Athletics Land the First Game, Score 5-0". Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. April 7, 1908. p. 10.
  10. ^ "Phillies Home Tired, But Happy". Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. March 31, 1909. p. 10.
  11. ^ "Baseball Takes Command Today". Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. April 2, 1909. p. 10.
  12. ^ Macht, Norman L.; Mack, III, Connie (2007). Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball. University of Nebraska Press. p. 316. ISBN 978-0-8032-3263-1. Retrieved May 22, 2009.
  13. ^ "Alternate Site Games Since 1901". Retrosheet. Retrieved May 22, 2009.
  14. ^ Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug. 3, 1935, p.11
  15. ^ Benson, Michael. Ballparks of North America. McFarland, 1989, p298.
  16. ^ "Red Uprising Beats Phils In Ten Innings". Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. July 11, 1923. p. 20.
  17. ^ Gordon, Robert (2005). Legends of the Philadelphia Phillies. Sports Publishing LLC. p. 3. ISBN 1-56639-454-6. Retrieved June 3, 2009.
  18. ^ Antonen, Mel (July 16, 2007). "Phillies Are No. 1 in Loss Column". USA Today. Retrieved April 1, 2009.
  19. ^ Shields, Gerard (February 28, 2010). "Hope is eternal, even for Phillies fans". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved August 22, 2010.
  20. ^ "Philadelphia Phillies 11, Boston Braves 6 (1)". Retrosheet. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  21. ^ "Phils Set to Close Deal for Use of Shibe Park". The New York Times. The Associated Press. June 26, 1938. p. 66. Retrieved July 3, 2021.
  22. ^ Westcott, Rich (1996). Philadelphia's Old Ballparks. Temple University Press. p. 51. ISBN 1-56639-454-6. Retrieved June 2, 2009.
  23. ^ Didinger, Ray; Lyons, Robert S. (2005). The Eagles Encyclopedia. Temple University Press. p. 199. ISBN 1-59213-449-1. Retrieved May 27, 2009.
  24. ^ "C.H.S. to Play Atlantic Tomorrow". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. October 19, 1906. p. 10.
  25. ^ "1921 Championship Series".
  26. ^ "1924 Negro League World Series".
  27. ^ "1925 Negro League Postseason".
  28. ^ "1926 Negro League World Series".
  29. ^ Jenkinson, Bill (2007). The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs: Recrowning Baseball's Greatest Slugger. Carroll & Graf. ISBN 978-0-7867-1906-8.
  30. ^ "SATURDAYS COLLEGE". newspapers.com. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania: Wilkes-Barre Times Leader. 13 October 1923. p. 10. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  31. ^ "Used Automobiles". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. March 16, 1947. p. W15.
  32. ^ Boxscore
  33. ^ "Phils' Ball Park Urged for Convention Hall". Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. April 10, 1928.
  34. ^ Baker Bowl / Philadelphia Park (aka Philadelphia Grounds)
  35. ^ "Baker Bowl National League Park". Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Archived from the original on May 12, 2005. Retrieved June 2, 2009.
  36. ^ Warrington, Bob. "Baker Bowl Honored with Historical Marker at Dedication Ceremony!". Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society. Archived from the original on September 8, 2008. Retrieved June 2, 2009.

External links[edit]

Events and tenants
Preceded by Home of the Philadelphia Phillies
1887–1938
Succeeded by
Preceded by
first stadium
Home of the Philadelphia Eagles
1933–1935
Succeeded by