April 30, 2011
On today’s date in 1887, the Baker Bowl opened for business. The home of the Phillies from 1887-1938, the Baker Bowl was located on North Broad Street, by West Lehigh Avenue. When it opened in 1887, it was considered state of the art. It was the first ever stadium built of brick and steel. The foul territory was enormous, making the stadium non-fan friendly, but it was appreciated by pitchers. The first game, played on April 30th, 1887, was won by the Phillies, 19-10, over the NY Giants. The Phillies would end the 1887 season 75-48, and finish the year 4 games behind the Detroit Wolverines. Amazingly, Phillies pitcher Charlie Ferguson would lead the team in RBIs, with 85, despite only batting 264 times.
The Baker Bowl’s most famous feature was its enormous right field wall. Located a mere 280 feet from home plate, the wall was an incredible 60 feet tall. By comparison, the Green Monster is 37 feet high (and 310 feet from home plate). The enormous wall was an add-on. When the stadium opened, there was a normal sized wall in right, meaning that balls consistently flew out of the park. The Baker Bowl came to be known as The Bandbox. The nickname was later applied to other stadiums, and is now used for any stadium with intimate, homer-friendly features (You might even called CBP a bandbox.)
The Phils played 51 seasons there and only managed one pennant (1915). There was a giant advertising sign on the right field wall which read “The Phillies Use Lifebuoy”. Legend has it that a graffiti artist snuck in one night and next to the ad wrote, “And they still stink.” The Phils were indeed awful for the vast majority of their history in Baker Bowl. They moved to Shibe in 1938 and stayed there until 1970, when they moved into the Vet.
The Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society has an excellent history of the ballpark on their site, and I have posted a bunch of very cool photos after the jump.