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Best of Scoreboards

One of the first postings in the Classic Baseball Scoreboards series was Connie Mack Stadium. Back then I was experimenting with different concepts for the scoreboard illustrations. The original Connie Mack Stadium scoreboard only captured the prominent “Ballantine Beer” upper portion. This time we’ll look at a representation of that entire scoreboard.

Connie Mack Stadium Scoreboard II UW

Connie Mack Stadium Redux

Home of:Philadelphia Athletics (1909-1954) and Philadelphia Phillies (1938-1970)
Last baseball game:October 1, 1970; Demolished: 1976

The original posting (above link) provided background on the scoreboard, so I won’t bother to repeat the interesting facts here.

Ballantine Beer remained a centerpiece atop the scoreboard until the ballpark was closed. The adverting slogan above “Ballantine beer” seemed to change each season. In 1964 (I’m guessing here) the slogan read “TOTEM HOME PENNANT.” Phillies fans know what happened here.

For this illustration I selected the “Save Herman Ballantine” advertising pitch. I only have vague memories of this ad campaign. I believe it dealt with a fictional president of the brewing company (Herman) that discovered someone had changed the Ballantine brew recipe. Perhaps someone has a better recollection of the story and can fill in the details.

So back to the scoreboard, it depicts a Phillies game in progress with the Cardinals on July 10, 1969.

A New Thing to Know

• The 64-feet high Ballantine scoreboard was in play; balls hitting the Longines clock were home runs. Only one player ever cleared the scoreboard – Dick Allen.

Before the massive “Ballantine” scoreboard was installed in 1956, Connie Mack Stadium or Shibe Park (before the Phillies moved in) featured a rudimentary manual scoreboard in right field. In the next edition of Classic Baseball scoreboards, we’ll survey that installation.

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Shea Stadium and Crosley Field are the subjects of this week’s look at classic ballpark scoreboards.

Shea Stadium scoreboard

Shea Stadium

Home of: New York Mets
Last baseball game: September 28, 2008; Demolished:2009

When it opened in 1964 Shea Stadium received praise for its futuristic architecture and functional multi-purpose design. The ballpark featured the “fanciest scoreboard in sports” and one of the largest in major league baseball: 86 feet high, 175 feet wide, and weighed over 60 tons. A preview of the scoreboard features was detailed in the 1963 Mets Yearbook.

This recent 50th anniversary commemorative article about Shea tells the story of the planning, building, and later decline.

Shea and its futuristic Cyclotron scoreboard suffered many design changes over its forty-four year history. Still for many the original scoreboard will always remain one of the best ever.

The graphic illustration recreates the original scoreboard architecture from the 1964 season, but with some minor artistic license modifications. The center message board is what appeared on Opening Day, April 17,1964; the rest of the scoreboard display represents the first night game on May 6,1964.

A Few Things to Know

• The original scoreboard was a multimedia extravaganza of colored lights synched to music, movies and colored slide projections. With 28,000 lights and 80 miles of cable wiring you would expect something might not operate as planned. It didn’t. Short circuits garbled messages the first day. You’ll find one of the message miscues in the illustration!

• The Photorama video or slide projection equipment also didn’t function as planned and was retired part way through the initial 1964 season. The Mets logo was inserted into the screen display.

• The scoreboard inventor, Bob Rosten, also designed the exploding scoreboard for Old Comisky Park.

Rheingold Beer, the Mets radio and TV sponsor at the time, financed the cost of scoreboard.

• Shea was home to the Yankees during the 1974 and 75 seasons. Oddly the scoreboard couldn’t display the letters “DH,” so “B” (for batter) was substituted for the designated hitter.

• In 1988 the original scoreboard was replaced with a new version designed to fit in into the shell of the old one.

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Crosley Field Scoreboard UW

Crosley Field

Home of: Cincinnati Reds
Last baseball game: June 24, 1970; Demolished:1972

During the 58 years the Reds played at Crosley Field no other ballpark experienced as many renovations and makeovers.

The park was located in a developed area of homes and industries. The buildings that occupied the areas beyond the outfield fences were plastered with billboard ads, as described in this link to a comprehensive photo tour of all the Crosley Field outfield and scoreboard advertising.

The scoreboard (1957 and on) was similarly surrounded with advertising that appeared to change nearly every season. The illustration reproduces the 1970 scoreboard version during Crosley Field’s final season.

A Few Things to Know

• The scoreboard with that ubiquitous Longines clock was built in 1957. It was manually operated, except for balls, strikes, and outs that were electronically controlled from the press box. The new scoreboard replaced the art deco styled one from the 1930s.

• The scoreboard was defined in large part by the 8-foot high Longines clock. It was so closely linked to the Reds public face that a digital version was designed into the Great American Ballpark’s scoreboard.

• In 1967 Houston’s Jimmy Wynn hit what is regarded as the longest home run at Crosley Field. Wynn cleared the 58 foot high scoreboard with a blast than landed on I-75.

• The old scoreboard (pre 1957) was linked to an odd ground rule: a batted ball going behind the scoreboard, and remaining behind it, was a double. This and another ground rule along the center field fence are the only ground rules ever painted on a ballpark’s outfield walls.

• A “new” Crosley Field was reconstructed at the Blue Ash (Ohio) Sports Center in 1988, including a replica of the scoreboard.

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I’ve previously noted the prodigious football stadium building spree that occurred in California in the 1920s. The Rose Bowl Stadium was an important part of that construction binge.

Just like its Coliseum cousin, about 15 miles south, the Rose Bowl Stadium has hosted an array of diverse sporting events and concerts, including five Super Bowls, venues for two Olympics, and major soccer tournaments. Like the Coliseum, the Rose Bowl Stadium, is best known for college football, especially the Granddaddy of them all – the Rose Bowl Game.

Rose Bowl Scoreboard UW

Rose Bowl Stadium

Home of: The Rose Bowl game (1923 to present), UCLA (1982 to present), Caltech (1923 – 1993)

Constructed: 1921-22

First Game: October 1922, Cal 12 – USC 0
First Rose Bowl in new stadium:1923, USC 14 – Penn State 3
Renovations: Ongoing

Although there is an ample amount of photography covering the Rose Bowl construction and early twentieth century game action, I wasn’t successful in finding scoreboard imagery from the Stadium’s initial years.

An aerial photo shows both the north and south end scoreboards in place for the 1928 Rose Bowl game. This 1936 Rose Bowl game photo shows an early scoreboard configuration along with an analog time clock.

The scoreboard’s architectural style, with its Spanish tile roof, has remained basically unchanged thought the decades. The scoreboard facade was often modified and upgraded over the years. The analog clock appears to have been replaced with a digital overlay sometime in the late fifties or early sixties.

The Rose Bowl played host to many memorable games on New Year’s Day. The illustration captures the North end scoreboard for one of those games – the 1969 Rose Bowl clash between Ohio State No.1 and USC No.2.

A Few Things to Know

• The Rose Bowl stadium design was inspired by the Yale Bowl built in 1913. Construction of the horseshoe shaped stadium was completed in 1922 at a cost of $272,198 with a seating capacity of 57,000. The southern stands were added in 1928, making the stadium a complete bowl.

• The stadium is both a National Historic Landmark and a California Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

• In 1942 the annual Rose Bowl game on January 1st wasn’t actually played in the Rose Bowl! Think Blue Devils.

• The recent Stadium upgrades included state-of-the-art LED fueled scoreboards supplied by Daktronics. The south end scoreboard, however, retains the vintage architectural design including an analog clock. The scoreboard layout even mirrors past design with elements such as “down,” “yards to go,” “ball on,” and “quarter.”

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Last week in the series I mentioned receiving several requests for the same scoreboard. That venue is the Chicago Stadium with very deep roots in.

I’m not much of a hockey fan and have been to only a handful of NHL and minor league games. So I’m just not that familiar with all the great NHL arenas of the past.

Chicago Stadium Scoreboard

Chicago Stadium

Home of: Chicago Blackhawks (NHL) (1929”“1994), Chicago Stags (NBA) (1946”“1950), Chicago Majors (ABL) (1961”“1963), Chicago Bulls (NBA) (1967”“1994), Chicago Sting (NASL indoor and MISL) (1980”“1988)

Opened: 1929; Closed: 1994; Demolished: 1995

When it opened in 1929 Chicago Stadium was the largest indoor stadium in the world with a seating capacity of 17,000 (approximate). It became the long time home for both the NHL Blackhawks and NBA Bulls. The Stadium was known as The Madhouse on Madison because of the raucous crowd induced into action by Al Megard and his world-famous Barton theater organ.

The scoreboard illustration depicts the Bulova Sports Timer, a unique four-sided analog timing clock. This 10.5 ft x 12 ft timer was installed in 1943 and lasted over three decades.

A Few Things to Know

• The Bulova Magical Sports Timer was actually a multi-function timing clock that could be used in hockey, basketball, and boxing events. It was operated from a console (see the photo in the link above) with a complex array of switches and buttons.

• If you’re not a long time hockey fan, like me, the operation of the Sports Timer may be slightly confusing. Fear not, the Chicago Stadium Wikipedia entry provides a complete tutorial on the function of all clocks and numerals.

• The identical Bulova Sports Timer was a feature at the Boston Garden, the Detroit Olympia, the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, the Rhode Island Auditorium and perhaps others.

• Chicago Stadium was the last NHL arena to use an analog dial-type large four-sided clock. It was replaced with a digital clock in 1976.