This article was written by L. Robert Davids
This article was published in the 1982 Baseball Research Journal
Baker Bowl it was a wonderful place! More action probably took place on those Philadelphia grounds than at any other athletic facility in our country. For half a century the place was packed with action. There was major league baseball, championship boxing and wrestling, and professional football — say nothing of such extra-curricular activities as ice skating, rodeos, midget auto racing, Father Divine’s crusade, etc.
To sketch the history of Baker Bowl, one really has to go back to 1883 and the start of the team we know as the Philadelphia Phillies. This was the second major league team in the city at that time. The Athletics, who had started in the National League in 1876 but were expelled after that year because they failed to make their final Western swing, became a charter member of the American Association when it was formed in 1882. The next year, with Harry Stovey as their star player, they won the AA pennant. The Athletics played their games at a park at 25th and Jefferson Avenue.
The Phillies, on the other hand, took over the Worcester, Mass., National League franchise in 1883 when Alfred J. Reach, the sporting goods magnate, bought the club with the help of his partner, Colonel John I. Rogers. The latter brought with him a bright, young fellow who was aspiring to be a lawyer but remained with the Phillies for 43 years. In that period Walter J. Shettsline held every position on the club from office boy to club president, with five years as team manager in the middle.
When Reach obtained the club, which had been the doormat of the National League in 1882, he did not have a ballpark; consequently he immediately built a field which was known as Recreation Park, located at 24th and Ridge Avenue. The opening game in 1883 was against Providence and 1,000 spectators saw the Phillies lose a close 4-3 contest to Old Hoss Radbourn, who would win 49 games that year.
The 1883 season was a dismal one for the Phillies as they won only 17 of 98 games, leaving them 46 games behind the pennant winning Boston club. Their first manager, Bobby Ferguson, lasted only 17 games and he was followed by Blondie Purcell. If the manager was the problem, that was corrected in 1884 when Harry Wright, the top skipper in the majors, was hired from Providence.
Within two years the Phillies were in the first division. More importantly, they were starting to draw people to the ballpark. Recreation Park became inadequate to take care of the increase in attendance; therefore, Reach had to locate a place to erect a new facility for his club. The new location was a square block which ran from Broad Street to 15th Street and Huntingdon Street to Lehigh Avenue.
There are many misconceptions in reference to the field that later became known as Baker Bowl. This structure which was built in 1887 was not a cantilever steel structure which some later articles cited as the first of its kind in the country. The first park was built entirely of wood. The 1943 issue of the Sporting News Guide had an excellent sketch of the original facility at this location. As stated in the Guide, “The Phillies National League park completed in 1887 at the cost of $80,000 was one of the finest pavilions in the United States.”
What we know as a grandstand was called a pavilion — one extending along 15th Street for 288 feet in the direction of left field and the other extending along Huntingdon Street toward right field for 208 feet. At the end of both pavilions was an open space which had gates for exits to the streets. The pavilions seated a total of 5,000 people. Beyond both pavilions were the field seats which handled another 7,500 people. The outfield was enclosed with a brick wall which was about 20-25 feet high and there were no seats there. The distance to left field was about 500 feet and to right field about 310. It has been said that a ball was never hit out of the original park.
The first game played at this original park was between the New York Giants and Phillies on April 30, 1887. It was a tremendous opener as the Phillies invited more than 3,000 guests and the crowd swelled to more than 15,000. The overflow crowd was permitted to stand in the distant outfield area. The game, won by the Phillies, 19-10, was halted because of darkness with two outs in the last of the eighth. One unusual aspect of the game by modern standards was that the Phillies’ regular catcher, Jack Clements, was lefthanded. Giants’ catcher Buck Ewing hit two home runs but pitcher Tim Keefe was hit hard.
The new ballpark was considered a showpiece of the league until August 6, 1894, when it burned to the ground. And it burned to the ground because it was made of wood. The club made a tremendous adjustment as they cleared the debris, put a fence around the area, erected temporary stands and were ready to play in less than two weeks. In the interim the Phillies played at the baseball field of the University of Pennsylvania.
Reach was now intent on building the most elaborate field in the U.S. and one which was as fireproof as possible. The best explanation of his views and the description of the park is contained in the elaborate invitation which Reach sent out for the 1895 inaugural on May 2. We are indebted to SABR member Bruce Foster, who provided an original copy, which is quoted here in part.
To the Public:
On April 30, 1887, the Philadelphia Ball Park was opened and dedicated to the great National Game in the presence of a large and representative assemblage of citizens.
On the morning of August 6, 1894, a fire, originating we know not how, gained unobserved headway in the enclosed offices and retiring rooms in the northern pavilion, finally appearing on the shingled top of one of the turrets, and thence swept over the dry roofs and steeples with incredible rapidity. Never was flame so universally destructive. Of all the magnificent buildings and fix- tures naught was left but the field, the centre fence and part of the brick enclosure wall on Huntingdon Street. Even the sod was scorched.
Although the fruits of years of patient care and economy had disappeared in a few hours, the officials of the club wasted neither time nor tears in repining. Putting all their energies and resources into instant action, with three relays of mechanics, work- ing twenty-four hours a day, by sunlight and electric light, they cleared away the debris and erected temporary fences, grandstand and field seats with accommodations for nine thousand persons, to whom they threw open the gates for a championship game of baseball on August 18th — in twelve days after the conflagration. These temporary structures served to finish the season of 1894. The field seats and enclosure fences, while substantial and appro- priate for their intended uses, will practically remain as they are during the current season. We hope by the Spring of 1896 to super- sede them with the most modern and improved substitutes that skifi and capital can create. All our time and energy, however, have been concentrated upon the construction of our new Pavilion which, for beauty, ornate and unique magnificence, as far excels the former Pavilion, as did it all others in America.
The new structure is mainly of brick and steel, containing no wood or other inflammable material except the platforms and seats. New massive brick walls of stretcher and press bricks, laid in red cement, support and enclose on four sides the lower deck. Street front, field front and gables are of brick.
There are twenty-one platforms on the Huntingdon Street side and seventeen on the Fifteenth Street side, holding 3750 chairs and promenades with standing room for 1000 additional patrons. The upper deck has nine platforms and a broad promenade divided into sixteen sections including eighteen boxes, the total capacity thereof being 1750 seats with standing space for about 800 extra.
Underneath the lower deck is an immense asphalt and granolithic pavement upon which are laid out the entrances, ticket offices,toilet rooms, restaurants, etc., all separated by heavy brick walls.There is a wide passageway connecting the right and left field bleachers; also, a long avenue of racks for bicycles to be stored and checked. At the field front, protected by heavy wire screens, are two stone platforms holding over 400 chairs for those who like to get in on the ground floor.
Connecting the different decks or floors are three separate sets of iron stairways, wide and massive, built in the centre and two end towers. They extend from pavement to roof.
Although the structure may be said to be fireproof (an approximate term), a 6-inch main runs from the street into the centre tower with branches and connecting hose on every floor, ready to deluge every portion of the entire Pavilion with any required quantity of water, should occasion ever require its use.
And now a word as to the architectural form of our edifice:
Our former Pavilion was considered a marvel because, unlike all other so-called Grand Stands, it had but one row of iron posts, and they 24 feet apart, to obstruct the view of the spectator. The new Pavilion wifi have no posts at all in front of two-thirds of those seated on the lower deck, and none at all in front of all of those seated on the upper deck. In other words nine platforms of the upper deck project beyond any post into the air, and over the heads of those below. This only rendered possible by the adoption of the Cantilever system, first suggested, after a completion of plans, by the well known architect, John D. Allen, of 107 Chestnut Street. The novelty of the idea made it at first seem chimerical. True, we had heard of Cantilever Bridges, and had gazed at the greatest of them over the Firth at Edinburg, and had seen the embryonic principle illustrated in a balcony of two or three over- hanging platforms, but to have nearly 30 feet of heavy iron girders, braces, platforms, etc., with the same extent of iron roof and trusses, projecting out and beyond supporting columns or posts, seemed not only a risk of capital but the more serious risk of life and limb to those upon and under such a gallery. Architect Allen, however, not only gave his personal guarantee as to its practicability and safety, but has during its progress and since its completion verified his guarantee by the severest tests (hydraulic included) to which any such edifice could be subjected…
There are fifteen of these cantilevers supporting the upper deck and roof. . . The resistance of this anchorage is about 90,000 pounds to each cantilever. In addition there is the weight of six platforms and the promenades of both decks with whatever “live or moving loads” may be on them, to add to the above already gigantic figures, as counterpoises to any possible weight or pressure on the other side of the fulcrum.
It would therefore be impossible to play seesaw with one of our cantilevers, even with three times the live weight, that could ever be crowded on them and even if at the same time 3 feet of snow were on the roof and the wind blowing 50 miles an hour. The greatest possible load that could be crowded upon one truss could not exceed 30,000 pounds, and even this is minimized by the fact that the entire structure is in continuous thread and network of steel, diffusing its strength to its weakest parts, and transmitting its loads, by the law of gravity to the ground. The builders of this magnificent steel and iron structure are Parvin & Company, the well-known Philadelphia engineers and contractors.
In dedicating the Pavilion and its fixtures, on May 2, 1895, to the greatest of athletic sports, the Philadelphia Ball Club will ask that its title as pioneer in original, beautiful and appropriate architecture be confirmed by the verdict of its patrons, and that the public at large will appreciate the enterprise, which adds so novel and unique a structure to the many other ornamental edifices of our beloved city.
In conclusion we may add, what is doubtless an unnecessary assurance, that the same business management which catered only to the respectable and refined classes in the past, will continue so to do in the future. Our Park Rules have never changed and never will change. They prescribe temperance, order and discipline. They proscribe gambling, betting, profanity, obscenity and disorderly conduct, as well as Sunday ball playing at home or abroad. The Philadelphia team of players is among the leaders of the twelve clubs of the National League and American Association. Their admitted skill and ability are foundations for their hopes (and perhaps beliefs) that they will win the Championship Pennant of 1895. Whether they do so or not, one thing can with certainty be promised. While always aiming for the highest place, our players, proud of their past reputation, prefer to sacrifice both champion- ship and place rather than win either by trickery, rudeness, or other conduct unworthy their good name or the approval of the ladies and gentlemen whose refming presence honors their con- test for supremacy on the ball field.
Philadelphia Ball Club
Philadelphia May 1, 1895 A. J. Reach, President
Although additional improvements took place over the next year, the new park dedication took place before a crowd of 20,000 largest ever to witness a game in Philadelphia at the home opener against the New York Giants on May 2, 1895. Elaborate ceremonies preceded a rather unexciting game won by the Giants, 9-4, Meekin winning over Taylor. Only catcher Clements and the three Phillies’ outfielders performed up to standard for the home club. Giants’ captain George Davis hit a home run over the right-field wall. This was a new sight for local fans as the earlier park had much larger dimensions. The new Philadelphia Ball Park, later to be called Baker Bowl, was 341 feet down the left field line, 408 feet to the base of the clubhouse in center, and it was only 279½ feet down the right-field line. Although Davis hit a homer over the right-field wall in the first game, and Sam Thompson hit one over for the Phillies in the second game on May 3, the short distance by modern standards was no problem at the time. Even though Thompson led the NL with 18 homers in 1895, this was no spectacular figure for that heavy-hitting period. He had hit 20 homers in 1889 in a much larger home park.
Thompson was only one of the great hitters on the Phillies in this period. All three of the regular outfielders — Thompson, Ed Delahanty and Billy Hamilton — hit over .400 in 1894, and finished over .389 the next year. Hamilton not only hit for a high average but got on base more than any player of that era, primarily because of his leadership in walks. Once on base he was a constant threat to steal. In 1894 he scored more than 190 runs, thanks to the power hitting of Thompson and Delahanty. In 1895, Delahanty hit four home runs in one game — not at home but at the Chicago park. Immortals Dan Brouthers and Nap Lajoie played together on the 1896 team, one closing out his career and the other just starting. A few years later, Elmer Flick and Roy Thomas joined Delahanty in the garden. Thomas, like Hamilton, was a great leadoff batter. He could foul off more pitches than Luke Appling and was the player primarily responsible for institution of the foul-strike rule in 1901.
The Phillies played excellent ball in their new ball park and things ran smoothly for a number of years for the team frequently referred to as the Quakers. At the same time, while the park was officially the Philadelphia National League Park, it was frequently referred to as the Huntingdon Street Grounds. Later it was sometimes referred to as “the Hump” because it was located on an elevated block of land to allow the Reading Railroad tracks to pass beneath it.
August had to be a bad month for this early park. The big fire was in August 1894, but a greater tragedy took place on August 8, 1903. On that afternoon, the Quakers were playing a twinbill with Boston. The Beantowners won the first game and the two clubs were tied in the fourth of the second game when a disturbance occurred on 15th Street along the area of third base to the left-field foul pole. The people in the field seats rushed to the top of the balcony wall to see what was happening and their weight and movement caused the entire wall to collapse. Many people fell into 15th Street or were otherwise crushed. Twelve people died and more than 200 were injured. An investigation took place and was followed by reconstruction of that particular area. The game in progress was, of course, cancelled, and the Phillies did not play again for 12 days. Their next game was on August 20 and it took place in Columbia Park, the home field of Connie Mack’s Athletics. The remaining games of 1903 were either played there or on the road. Everything was again shipshape at the Huntingdon Grounds when the 1904 season started.
In 1911 the National League initiated use of the corkcentered ball. Frank Schulte of the Cubs, who shared leadership with 10 home runs in 1910, shot up to 21 in 1911, and the Phillies, who hit only 22 as a team in 1910, led the league with 60 in 1911. Two years later they were up to 73 and Cliff Cravath led the league with 19 and teammate Fred Luderus was next with 18.
It was shortly after this that ridicule of the Philadelphia NL park began. The following is a quote from the team history written by Fred Lieb and Stan Baumgartner:
“Writers with other clubs constantly were poking fun at the Philadelphia home run crop, and blaming it on the small Philadelphia ball park. This especially was true of the New Yorkers. Sid Mercer of the New York Globe, later of the Journal, never came to Philadelphia without belittling what he termed `the Philadelphia cigar box.’ It is not surprising that the Phillies hit 73 home runs,” he wrote. “The wonder is that they don’t hit 100.”
This ridicule was somewhat misplaced, coming from-New York, where both the Giants and Yankees were now playing in the Polo Grounds. There the left field foul pole was at 279 feet and in right field it was only 258 feet. It took a pull-hitter like Babe Ruth in 1920 to show what could be accomplished under those conditions.
This criticism of the Philadelphia Park came just about the time that it started to be called Baker Bowl. In 1913 the Phillies had new owners, William H. Locke and his cousin, William F. Baker. Baker was a former New York Police Commissioner who did not really like Philadelphia and commuted back and forth every day for quite some time. On July 15, 1913, Locke died and Baker became president of the club. He was a more active executive than several of his predecessors and the park soon became known as Baker Bowl.
The club also was becoming more recognizable, thanks to the presence of Grover Cleveland Alexander and also Cliff Cravath. Alexander broke in with 28 victories in 19 11 and he soon succeeded Christy Mathewson as the best hurler in the National League. What he and the other pitchers on the Phillies’ staff achieved was a means of handling the power hitters who came in to Baker Bowl. This is best measured by the number of home runs given up by Phil hurlers compared to the number hit by Phil players. In 19 13 the ratio was 40 allowed and 73 hit; in 1914 it was 27 and 63, and in 1915 it was 26 and 58. Alex gave up only three homers in 376 innings in 1915, but teammate Eppa Rixey was even stingier when it came to giving up fourbaggers; he allowed only two in 1916 and one in 1917.
The player hitting most of the home runs for the Phillies was Gavvy Cravath, the first to hit 100 in this century. He was the Ralph Kiner of his day, leading the NL or tying for leadership six seasons in the teens. His top figure was 24 in 1915, when he also led in RBI, slugging percentage, and total bases. In 1919 he played only about one-half the schedule but still led with 12 roundtrippers. The interesting thing about Cravath was that he was a right-handed hitter; nevertheless, he mastered the ability to hit balls over the short right-field fence.
Although Pat Moran was the new manager, it was Cravath and Alexander who led the Phils to their first pennant in 19 15. Alex was almost unbelievable as he recorded 3 1 victories and 12 of them were shutouts. He had four one-hitters and three two-hitters among his dozen shutouts. He walked only 64 batters in 376 innings and compiled an ERA of 1.22. People said you could set your clock when Alex pitched. You would be out of the park in an hour and 30 minutes.
President Baker really tried to take advantage of his first pennant. He got the carpenters busy in a hurry by installing seats on top of the clubhouse and extending the bleachers around the front of the clubhouse to the flag pole in right-center. This reduced the distance from home plate to the center-field area.
A couple of historic firsts took place in this Series between the Phillies and the Boston Red Sox. Of course, Manager Pat Moran had Alex start the first game and he came through with a 3-1 victory. In the ninth inning of this game, the Red Sox sent up a young, lefthanded pitcher as a pinch hitter and he grounded sharply to Luderus at first base. This was the first World Series appearance of the immortal Babe Ruth. In the second game at Baker Bowl, Woodrow Wilson became the first President to throw out the first ball in Series play.
Boston won the second, third, and fourth games of this Series by the same score of 2-1. The fifth and last game was played at Baker Bowl and the Phillies were winning 4-2, but they lost in the last inning, 5-4. Baker’s new bleachers in center field backfired on him as Boston hit three homers there, while Luderus, the batting star for the Phils, hit the team’s only Series homer.
In 1916 the Phillies lost the pennant by 2½ games even though Alex won 33 games, a record 16 of which were shutouts. In 1917 Moran again brought the club to second place, but this time they were ten games off the pace.
It seemed that baseball might have to suspend operations after the 1917 season until after the war. It was rumored that Alex had received his draft notice. Consequently, on November 11, Baker traded Alex and catcher Bill Killefer to the Cubs for two players and $60,000. This ended a long line of winning tradition for the Phillies. Up to that time they had been in the league for 35 consecutive years and 24 of those seasons they were in the first division, usually fourth. In fact, in one stretch they finished in the first division 11 consecutive years. For the next 21 years at Baker Bowl (1918-38), the club would reach the first division only one time, in 1932 when they finished fourth, 12 games off the pace.
After the 1915 World Series, the seats that were installed in dead center field were removed and the distance to that area became 408 feet to the foot of the clubhouse, which was about 35 feet high. People who should know claim that no ball was ever hit over the center-field clubhouse into Broad and Lehigh. They recall three batters definitely clearing the left-field bleachers with the balls hitting the Moore and White building on the opposite side of the street. They were Hal Lee, Wally Berger, and Jimmie Foxx, the latter in a city series game between the Athletics and Phillies. It is possible that Chick Hafey also may have hit one into Lehigh Avenue.
In the last 20 years that the Phillies played at Baker Bowl, there was no apparent team improvement and the fans had to be content with rooting for some exciting players. When Cravath ended his career as player-manager in 1920, a new home run hitter was already on the scene in the tall, slender form of Cy Williams. He came over from the Cubs in 1918 and made his presence felt in 1920 when he led the league with 15 homers. In 1923 he exploded for 41 four-baggers, of which 23 were hit at Baker Bowl. The left-hand hitting Williams had a special knack, more than any other player, for lofting high fly balls over the 40-foot high right-field fence. Of course, he had no trouble with Shibe Park either. When part of the Baker Bowl stands collapsed in a minor accident on May 14, 1927, the Phillies played a few home games at the Athletics’ field. In a double-header against the Reds on May 20, 1927, Williams hit three round-trippers. Although he was 39 years old that season, he tied Hack Wilson in home run leadership with 30.
In 1928 the Phillies received a real shining star in the person of Chuck Klein. He was a powerfully built fellow who could run like a deer. He only played in 64 games in 1928 but made a deep impression on everyone as he hit .360. He was a powerful line drive hitter and did not loft the high fly balls that Williams did.
In the 1920s there were excellent lefthanded hitters in the National League such as Frisch, Terry, Ott, Bottomley, Paul Waner, Babe Herman, Zack Wheat, etc. They knew that the Lifebuoy sign on the right-field wall at Baker Bowl was an enjoyable target and they took advantage of it without complaint. But they had other inviting targets in the Polo Grounds, Ebbets Field, and Sportsman’s Park. When Klein started to hit home runs at a rapid pace in 1929,
President Baker said, “the home run is too cheap so we have to do something about it.” He had the right-field fence raised to a height of 60 feet and that certainly reduced any chances Klein had of breaking Ruth’s home run record. As it was, Klein did hit 43 homers, which was a new NL mark.
The 1929 season was a greatly enhanced batting year for all of the National League (as was 1930 to follow), but particularly so at Baker Bowl. All the other NL clubs batted an average of .339 in Philadelphia, while the Phillies had a home average of .340 for 76 games. Klein hit .393 at home and Lefty O’Doul collected 144 hits in 3 18 at bats for a phenomenal .453 mark.
Klein compiled some marvelous records — most long hits by an NL player (107 in 1930), the only NL player to achieve 400 or more total bases three times, the only modern player to lead in homers and stolen bases the same season (1932), achieving 44 outfield assists in 1930, and hitting four homers in a game in 1936, not in Baker Bowl but in spacious Forbes Field — but he carried the stigma of playing most of his home games in Baker Bowl, and this kept him out of the Hall of Fame for many years.
Over the losing years the Phillies were blessed with many interesting players who kept their fans happy. Among these were Dick Bartell, Lefty O’Doul, Pinky Whitney, Spud Davis, George “Kiddo” Davis, Johnny Moore, Don Hurst, Hal Lee, Barney Friberg, Dolph Camilli, Ethan Allen, Morrie Arnovich, Herschel Martin, Jimmie Wilson and many others. Pitching in Baker Bowl was difficult, of course, because of the short fence, but this made the games interesting. Some of the long-suffering hurlers were Jim Ring, Hal Carlson, Phil Collins, Ray Benge, Flint Rhem, Curt Davis, Bucky Walters, Claude Passeau, and Hugh “Losing Pitcher” Mulcahy.
For the Philadelphia people, Baker Bowl left many enjoyable memories. How could a player hit two inside-the-park home runs in the same game in this bandbox? Kiki Cuyler did it for the Pirates on August 28, 1925 in the first and eighth innings. And what about the pressbox parody of tomorrow’s scheduled hurlers (not listed above)? “My country tis of thee, Sweetland and Willoughby, of thee I sing. . .” What about Ball Hawk George who practically made his meager existence on retrieving foul balls that landed on either Huntingdon or 15th Streets? George knew from the sound of the bat whether it was a foul ball, and when the ball landed in the street he was as quick as a cat on a mouse getting to it. George’s greatest claim to fame was being featured on Fox Movietone News.
In 1925 home plate was moved back one foot and the official distance down the right-field line became 280½ feet, but this only called more attention to the cigar box configuration of the park. Writing many years later in the New York Times, columnist Red Smith quipped: “It might be exaggerating to say the outfield wall cast a shadow across the infield, but if the rightfielder had eaten onions at lunch the second baseman knew it.”
Baker died of a heart attack while attending a baseball meeting in Montreal December 4, 1930. His successors made no noticeable change in club policy or direction. Gerald P. Nugent took over as majority owner and president in 1932 and the club batted its way to fourth position, the highest it had attained in 15 years. But these were years of the Great Depression and Klein, the triple crown winner in 1933, was traded to the Chicago Cubs for three players and $65,000. The club finished 7th in 1934 and 1935 and 8th in 1936. The ragged pitching staff was unable to control power hitters in Baker Bowl or on the road. Phil pitchers, in 1934, for example, gave up 126 homers while the team (with Klein gone) hit only 56. This was in sharp contrast to the figures in the teens cited earlier.
The park was becoming obsolete. It was not being maintained properly as the team was cutting corners financially, and its crowd capacity of 18,800 was outstripped by every other park.
On June 25, 1938, the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin quoted Connie Mack as saying that Athletic ownership was ready and willing to rent Shibe Park to the Phillies. “This proposition has come up many times,” Connie said. “It has always failed to materialize because the Phils had a long lease on the park. I have talked several times with Gerry Nugent, and I am sure details could be arranged if the other lease is terminated.”
The Broad and Huntingdon Streets grounds were held at $400,000 by the late Charles Webb Murphy when he died in 1932. In his will, Mr. Murphy stated that the Philadelphia club had the right to purchase the lease for $400,000. Under the lease for their grounds, the Philljes paid a $25,000 yearly rental, plus $15,000 annual taxes to the city. Ground upkeep costs were in the neighborhood of $5,000 a year.
A couple days later an article appeared in the Evening Bulletin indicating that “An agreement has been reached between the Phillies and the owners of their Broad and Huntingdon Streets grounds which will permit the club to quit its old field and move to Shibe Park for Monday’s double-header with Boston.”
Consequently, the last game at Baker Bowl was on June 30, 1938. The Giants and Phillies opened these grounds in 1887 and they opened this park in 1895; how appropriate that they should close it in 1938. But alas! the Giants won by a score of 14-1, with Sam Leslie getting five hits, and the Phillies were mired in last place. The last out in Baker Bowl was by Bill Atwood of the Phillies. The last single was made by Phil Weintraub of the Phils, the last double by Pinky Whitney, the last triple by Lonnie Frey of the Reds, the last homer by Hank Leiber of the Giants, and the last run scored by Mel Ott of the Giants. At this saddest of moments, the last one to leave the ballpark was manager Jimmie Wilson, a native of Philadelphia.
Lasting memories unfold to the many who loved these grounds. We know that Billy Sunday played his last game here in 1890 before he launched his career as the Great Evangelist. We are aware that in 1926 when the great umpire Bill Klem threw Jimmie Wilson and manager Art Fletcher out of a game, they went to the clubhouse and drew a big catfish, put the name Catfish Klem on it, and hung it out the clubhouse window. The fans laughed in derision. Klem had a nickname that remained with him until the day he died. We know that on Memorial Day, 1935, the one and only Babe Ruth played his last game in Baker Bowl. In his career he batted twice in this park — as a pinch hitter in the 1915 World Series and as a 40-year-old Boston Brave 20 years later — and did not register a hit.
There were real sun-field seats at Baker Bowl. They cost 25 cents and many a schoolboy cut classes early in the afternoon to get out to the bleachers to watch the team in action. If you went out earlier you might even see the three sheep which were employed as groundkeepers and lawnmowers. It may have been a miniature park but there was room for an indoor swimming pool for the players in the clubhouse. Later, that same clubhouse was transformed into the Alpine Musical Bar during most of the 1940s. In 1950 when the Phillies — a new generation called the “Whiz Kids” — were fighting for the pennant, the old park was destroyed.
A generation later, when the Phillies were getting ready to vacate Shibe Park (Connie Mack Stadium) for Veterans Stadium, Harold Wiegand of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote an article entitled REMEMBER THE BAKER BOWL — AND OLD ALEX? He said in part “There are Philadelphians who never heard of Baker Bowl. But lefthanded batters loved it and, even before the era of the jumping baseball it was no great feat to lift one over the fence in the Phillies’ park. . . Night games were unknown at that time, of course; but what a splendid way to spend an afternoon watching Grover Cleveland Alexander and Christy Mathewson in a duel, and exulting over heroes like Gavvy Cravath and Chuck Klein!”
Supplying information for this article were Ed Doyle, Bruce Foster, Kit Crissey, Robert McConnell, Carl Schoen, and the late John Tattersall.