PHILLY BOXING HISTORY

Venue: Shibe Park  

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  SHIBE PARK  
     
 

 
     
     
 

This stadium was opened in 1909 as the home field of Connie Mack's American League Philadelphia Athletics. Baseball was the only game here until 1917, when the venue also started being used for boxing. There once was

 
 

a time when boxing was one of the biggest fan attractions in all of sport. So popular was the fight game that the use of outdoor stadiums like Shibe Park was not at all uncommon. In fact, there was a time when all three of Philadelphia's major outdoor stadiums were being used for boxing. Shibe Park (1909-1958),  Phillies Ball Park (1904-1938) and Municipal Stadium (1926-1952) all hosted big fight cards, usually from June through September when the weather was nice and the biggest fights were blooming. Fans packed these venues to see the most anticipated bouts of the year.

Shibe Park was located at 21st Street and Lehigh Avenue in North Philadelphia, just a stone's throw from the National League's Phillies Ballpark, only about eight blocks away. Both the baseball business AND the boxing business were booming back in the day.

Shibe Park began hosting fights in 1917, which was its busiest boxing season with six cards. In the very first main event, George "KO" Chaney won a six-round newspaper decision over Johnny Dundee in the rain before a crowd of 6,000. Two weeks later, lightweight king Benny Leonard came to town and knocked out Johnny Kilbane while 15,000 watched. Lew Tendler, South Philly's left handed standout and future challenger to Leonard's crown, won Shibe Park's third main event.

Tendler would compete in a total of seven Shibe Park main events between 1917 and 1925, going 6-1 in those spotlight fights. Only Bob

Shibe Park
(aka: AL Ballpark &
Connie Mack Stadium)
Outdoor Arena / 35,000 Capacity
North Philly - 21st & Lehigh

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SHIBE PARK - KEY DATES

   1909 - Philadelphia A's open site
   1917 - First boxing card - July 12
   1926 - Largest attendance 25,000
   1928 - Bass vs. Blitman fight (9/10)
   1938 - Phillies use site (thru 1970)
   1941 - Salica-Forte III title bout
   1946 - Mouzon-Montgomery upset
   1948 - Williams - Jack title bout
   1953 - Renamed Connie Mack Stad.
   1958 - Last boxing card - June 12
   1970 - Last baseball game - Oct. 1
   1976 - Stadium demolished in June   
 

 
 

Montgomery in the 1940s, would star in so many wind up bouts at Shibe. However, the Bobcat only went 4-3 in his main events.

Another early Shibe Park star was Benny Bass, the Little Fish. Bass headlined five shows at the venue. His first was on July 12, 1926 when he battled Honey Boy Finnegan to a ten-round draw. The decision was a surprise to the record crowd that witnessed the fight and felt that Finnegan should have won it. That crowd numbered about 25,000 which turned out to be the all-time largest at Shibe Park. Bass returned in the very next show (September 1, 1926) and sped past Babe Herman for a ten-round win. There were no 'boos' from the 20,000 fans this time.

Bass opened the following  outdoor season on June 27, 1927 by beating Joe Glick over ten rounds. The crowd numbered about 18,000. In 1928, the outdoor season belonged to Bass. On June 18, he dropped a decision to Pete Nebo before 20,000. Three months later on September 10, the Little Fish won a spectacular slugfest against Philly's Harry Blitman. 24,000 lucky fans watched as Bass KO'd his foe in six. This bout is arguably the best fight ever staged at Shibe. With the more than 100,000 aggregate spectators who came to see him, Benny Bass is probably the box office champ of Shibe Park.

Tommy Loughran starred in three shows, two before winning the championship and one after giving it up. Tommy beat Jack Burke and Steve Hamas and drew with Jack Delaney. George Godfrey blasted out Jim Maloney in a single round (1927). Kid Chocolate won an unpopular verdict over Gregorio Vidal in 1929. 

The decade of the 1930s was a rather dry spell for the American League baseball park. Only two shows were held - the previously mentioned Loughran-Hamas fight in 1932, and Billy Conn's 1939 destruction of Gus Dorazio. The Philadelphia Phillies started playing their home games at Shibe in 1938, sharing the venue with the Athletics.

Beginning in 1940, Bob Montgomery began his reign as the star of Shibe. He participated in both shows held at the park that year. On June 3, he beat Al Nettlow over 12 rounds. It was the third consecutive match between the two. Three months later Montgomery lost a 10-rounder to Lew Jenkins. It was just the second loss of Bob's still young career. Solid crowds came out for both shows (9,000 & 15,000 respectively), but these were not the days of the golden age of the 1920s.

The summer of 1941 was a good season. First Lou Salica beat Tommy Forte in their rubber match for the bantamweight championship on June 16. One month later on July 21, Sugar Ray Robinson made one of his twenty Philadelphia appearances with a ten round decision victory over Sammy Angott. In September, Bob Montgomery took a decision over Mike Kaplan.

The following year Sammy Angott beat Montgomery over twelve rounds in the sole show at Shibe Park. 17,000 fans witnessed the card promoted by Herman Taylor.

Recently dethroned lightweight champ Beau Jack came to town and stopped Johnny Hutchinson on July 19, 1943 in his campaign for a rematch with his conqueror, Bob Montgomery, who fought a non-title bout with Fritzie Zivic on August 23 at the park. Montgomery won in ten.

1944 brought the first two of five appearances by Ike Williams at Shibe. Williams beat Sammy Angott in both bouts which drew a total of  27,000 customers.

Montgomery returned in 1945 and 1946 for a pair of non-title fights during his second reign as champ. First he beat Nick Moran before a healthy crowd of 20,000. Then he was shocked by youngster Wesley Mouzon in an electrifying second round KO. The teenage phenom's win was such an incredible feat that it landed him a title shot with Montgomery that fall at Philly's Convention Hall. Montgomery retained the belt with his own KO in the rematch, while Mouzon suffered a detached retina in the bout and never fought again. It is safe to say that Mouzon's career highlight occurred on that August night at Shibe Park.

In between the dark years of 1947 and 1949, Williams came back to the venue to score an impressive sixth round TKO over Beau Jack on July 12, 1948. Then in 1950 Williams lost to George "Sugar" Costner in a non-title fight upset.

Young welterweight star Gil Turner took over lead billing at Shibe in 1951 while he built his undefeated record to 31-0. He scored two KOs that year against tough opposition - Charley Fusari and former champ Ike Williams.

In 1953, the stadium was renamed in honor of longtime A's manager Connie Mack.  The final three fight in the history of this venue came under the mantle of Connie Mack Stadium.

On June 15, 1953, the twice-beaten Gil Turner returned for a win over Johnny Saxton. Then in September, number 1 heavyweight contender Ezzard Charles took on number 1 light-heavyweight contender Harold Johnson in a ten round heavyweight bout. It was the smaller Johnson who came away with the points win.

The Athletics moved from Philadelphia in 1954, leaving the stadium to the Phillies.

Finally in the very last show at Connie Mack, up and coming contender Garnet "Sugar" Hart had to settle for a draw against good friend and old war horse Gil Turner. The 8,769 fans didn't like the decision, as Hart seemed to have the better of the action, although he clearly didn't want to hurt his old buddy.

The Phillies continued to play at 21st & Lehigh until October 1, 1970. The 1971 season would be played at the newly built Veterans Stadium in South Philly. 

Connie Mack remained dormant until it was torn down in June of 1976.

In all, just under 50 boxing cards were held at this venue over a span of 41 years. These were some of the biggest and the best boxing events in Philly boxing history.

 
     
     
 

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