From 1970 to 1992, I spent 22 years working in my 'first' career, as a journalist. The majority of the first 15 years I worked as a sportswriter for three different newspapers.
While my career as a sportswriter began in January of 1970, sports was an integral part of my life long before. Growing up in the Nicetown section of North Philadelphia, we lived not far from Connie Mack Stadium, the home ballpark of the Philadelphia Phillies of the National League.
Opened in April of 1909, the stadium was originally named Shibe Park for the owner of the Philadelphia Athletics of the American League. Ben Shibe was a man who had made a fortune making baseballs themselves. At its opening, a local newspaper described Shibe Park as "the largest and most perfectly appointed baseball grounds in the world."
The Phillies joined the rival Athletics at Shibe Park in 1938, abandoning the aging Baker Bowl just three blocks away. The stadium was renamed Connie Mack Stadium in 1953 in honor of the manager who led the American League Athletics to three World Series titles in 1910, 1911 and 1913.
So, when I was growing up, it was Connie Mack Stadium ... and it was close enough to our home that I could almost walk there. And I could afford a ticket. When I was a kid, bleacher seats cost only .50 cents! (I know ... yes, I am that old.)
The Athletics abandoned Philly and eloped to Kansas City in 1954. But the Phils kept playing at what would now be called the "iconic" Connie Mack Stadium for another 16 years. And every baseball game I ever watched in person was played in old Connie Mack. Until ... fifty years ago last week, on October 1, 1970, the Phillies played their last game at Connie Mack Stadium. It was mayhem!
Frank Fitzpatrick of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a great story last week about the history of Shibe Park. You can read it if you click on this link;
And I came across this fascinating video of a fan's memory - and actual footage - of the last game at Connie Mack Stadium, when those in attendance ravaged the park for souvenirs - and, no, I was not there.
In my next post this week on Wednesday I'm going to share with you a reminiscence about Shibe Park, and my history with it, that I wrote two years ago. And on Friday I'll share a couple of vignettes that ingrained sports into my DNA and how I eventually became a sportswriter.
Because, in my family, sports wasn't part of life. Sports was life ... and death ... and everything in between.