Friday, March 14, 2014

50 Years of Baseball and a Remarkable Discovery

If I am remembering correctly (and I think I am), my Dad took me to my first big-league baseball game in 1964. It occurred to me the other day that means this year will be 50 years since I went to my first ballgame.
The ballgame was at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia. It was actually a twi-night double-header between the Phillies and the Mets. We only stayed for the first game, though. The Phillies won. (It was '64 -- the Phils were great and the Mets sucked. Of course the Phillies won.)

My most vivid memory from that game is of a Richie Allen home run. It wasn't just any home run. Connie Mack Stadium had a HUGE old-fashioned scoreboard in right-center field. See the picture below, from phillysportshistory.com. Notice the "Ballentine beer" ad running across the top of the scoreboard.


Shibe Park (Connie Mack Stadium)
Shibe Park (Connie Mack Stadium). Courtesy phillysportshistory.com


Young Richie Allen, who would go on to be voted 1964 NL Rookie of the Year that year, hit a towering home run that night that sailed over the "r" in "beer" and out into the Philadelphia evening. For all I know, that ball hasn't landed yet... The image of that ball flying out over that humongous scoreboard has stayed with me ever since. I can see it now like it was yesterday.

To write this little essay, I wanted to find a picture of the Connie Mack Stadium scoreboard so I could illustrate where the Allen home run went. I came across a page at baseball-statistics.com devoted to Connie Mack Stadium (and its former name, Shibe Park). It talked about the scoreboard, and said something REALLY fascinating:

"In 1956... a large scoreboard from Yankee Stadium was added to the right field wall, which was simultaneously reduced from 50 feet to 36 feet. Richie Allen hit the only ball ever to clear that scoreboard."

Really??!! I was there. I saw that home run. Even at that age, I knew it was a monster home run that wouldn't happen every day. But the only one ever? Cool!

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