Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Parade Year Gone By

The last parade was in 1983, but the best was in 1905, and the A's didn't even win it all.

The 76ers’ 1982-83 NBA championship was celebrated with a parade along Broad Street. Perhaps the 2000-01 team, which lost in the Finals, deserved one as well.
The 76ers’ 1982-83 NBA championship was celebrated with a parade along Broad Street. Perhaps the 2000-01 team, which lost in the Finals, deserved one as well.Read moreInquirer file photo

And so, for Philadelphia's tormented sports fans, 2007 will conclude like the 23 fruitless years that preceded it, without the one thing they desire most:

A Broad Street parade.

Maybe they've set the celebratory bar too high. Maybe a world championship by one of the city's four major pro teams is too high a standard for a street party.

Why not have a parade after any great season, even those that end with a sudden, unpleasant thud in the finale? Think of how the city could have lauded the beloved 1993 Phillies? Or the 2004 Eagles? Or even the '97 Flyers?

In fact, the greatest sports parade in Philadelphia's long history came nine days after the Athletics had been spanked by the New York Giants in the 1905 World Series.

The fact that those American League champion A's had been beaten in four of five games, failing to score a single earned run, in baseball's first best-of-seven Series didn't diminish the wild celebration one bit.

A crowd estimated by several newspapers at 500,000 - out of 1.3 million Philadelphians - packed Center City for the event, pushing through barricades and policemen, clogging Broad, Chestnut and Market Streets to such an extent that there often was not enough room for the paraders to parade.

That march on Oct. 23, 1905, was so packed with participants that it had to be divided into six divisions. It began at Broad and Girard at 7:30 p.m. The A's and several of the victorious Giants, who'd gathered for a dinner at the Bingham House, joined in when the parade passed the hotel at 1026 Market St.

By the time its 10,000 marchers; its 100 bands; its 150 Columbia Park employees; its 100 child roller skaters carrying red, white and blue umbrellas; its live elephants; its hundreds of elaborate floats; its bicyclists; its firemen and overwhelmed mounted police units; its amateur and semipro teams; its fraternal organizations and civic clubs; and its newfangled automobiles carrying players, owners, and managers Connie Mack and John McGraw finally completed the people-clogged route, it was almost 1 a.m.

The next day's papers, six of which had cosponsored the event, could barely contain their breathless awe.

"Baseball Players Kings in Monster Parade," screamed a Ledger headline.

"Unprecedented throngs," announced the Evening Bulletin.

"No pageant in ancient Rome ever welcomed laurel-crowned gladiators with more genuine enthusiasm," wrote the Record's reporter. "Philadelphia never before witnessed such a parade."

"[The ballplayers] experienced a taste of real fame and actual glory such as seldom comes to men," The Inquirer reported.

Parades were as common as cluttered parlors in that Victorian age. They were popular vehicles for mourning, commemorating, celebrating and promoting.

Philadelphia had witnessed enormous marches marking a variety of historical events, from Lincoln's funeral to the nation's centennial, to the city's 200th anniversary, to the A's first American League pennant in 1902.

None, apparently, could equal this one.

"Compared to the demonstration of three years ago [when the 1902 A's were feted]," proclaimed the Ledger's anonymous writer, "it was as the glorious glare of the midsummer sun at noonday to the uncertain flicker of a damp sulphur match."

The World Series was a new concept in 1905.

The American League was just four years old, and the more established National League usually chose to ignore its rivals, many of whom, like the A's, were located in NL cities.

There was no Series in 1901 or when the A's won their first pennant in 1902. But a year later, the NL champion Pirates accepted a challenge from Boston for a nine-game series. In 1904, the feisty McGraw rejected an offer to meet that same Boston club and was roundly criticized.

That criticism made a World Series almost inevitable in 1905.

Mack's Athletics, walloping the NL's fourth-place Phillies in the attendance race (554,576 to 317,932), played at Columbia Park, 29th and Columbia in Brewerytown.

No A's player hit higher than .285, but the team had three future Hall of Fame pitchers in Rube Waddell, Eddie Plank and Chief Bender. Philadelphia's 92-56 record was two games better than the White Sox.

The pennant was clinched in Washington on Oct. 6, concluding what one paper, in typical hyperbolic fashion, reported was "the fiercest struggle in the history of organized baseball." At 10:30 that night, when they arrived back in Philadelphia, the A's got a taste of the celebration to come.

"[The players were] greeted by an immense crowd so thick it was almost impossible to get through it to the street," wrote Norman Macht in his new biography of Mack, Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball. "Most of the players went through the baggage room to escape the throng. Bender and Waddell, aided by police escort, pushed through the mob to the streetcars."

The Giants, led by the lusty McGraw, agreed to a seven-game format. They were the perfect Series foil for the sober Quaker City's A's and the high-collared Mack.

It was McGraw, after all, who had provided the A's with their mascot. A few years earlier, in response to Philadelphia's acquisition of several big names, McGraw had scoffed that Mack had bought himself a "white elephant."

But the Series, which began at Columbia Park on Oct. 9, proved anticlimactic. Waddell was out with arm problems. New York's Christy Mathewson shut out the A's in Games 1, 3 and 5 - a span of six days - and, despite stellar pitching of their own, the A's were beaten in five.

Players on both teams had agreed to split their World Series shares (each got $451), a practice later prohibited. New York's Mathewson and Roger Bresnahan refused to contribute to the pool, however, and other Giants never paid up.

Mack had consistently painted the World Series as a bonus. The pennant, contested over a long, hot season, was the thing. The city's many newspapers and passionate fans apparently agreed.

Plans for a nighttime parade to celebrate the pennant were made hastily, with prominent citizens put in charge of its various divisions. Mayor John Weaver announced that the architect, Maj. Williams S. Allen, would be grand marshal.

Monday, Oct. 23, was a beautiful fall day - clear skies, temperatures in the upper 50s. Throughout the city, residents started preparing early.

Fireworks and torches were set all along the route, which proceeded south on Broad from Girard, around City Hall, down Chestnut to Independence Hall, then west again on Market. Not surprisingly, that took paraders past all the sponsoring newspapers' offices.

Businesses hung laurel wreaths and colorful buntings on their buildings' facades. Floats depicting everything from ancient mythology to the Athletics themselves began rolling along streets crowded with horses and the occasional automobile.

"There were figures made up to represent A's players," said Bob Warrington, a baseball historian and member of the Philadelphia A's Historical Society. "An old-fashioned farmer for Rube Waddell, a robed ghost for Ossee Schreckengost, Schrecongosta roly-poly fat boy for Socks Seybold, a monocled Britisher for Briscoe Lord, an armored knight for Jack Knight, two people carrying big crosses labeled 'Lave' and 'Monte' for Lave and Monte Cross, a whopping Redskin for Chief Bender, and a great plank for pitcher Eddie Plank."

Of them all, Waddell, the flaky lefthander with a penchant for confounding Mack, was by far the crowd's favorite.

"There never was and never will be such a pitcher as Mr. Rube Waddell," the Ledger wrote.

Another float carried dozens of female telephone operators sitting at ersatz switchboards. The young ladies were among the most popular attractions for what was a male-dominated, well-lubricated crowd.

And fans weren't the only ones drinking. The members of one Frankford club set to march in the event began partying that morning. They reportedly stopped at each tavern they passed on the long walk to Broad and Girard.

By 7:30, there were so many people along North Broad Street that organizers had to delay the start while police cleared a path. Several people, including 9- and 12-year-old boys, were injured in the hubbub at the intersection.

Finally, it began. Spectators had a long wait for the ballplayers they had come to see. The A's and Giants came between the third and fourth divisions. So did the Phillies, who were graciously invited to join the festivities, perhaps because the Athletics had so thoroughly won over the city's baseball lovers.

AL president Ban Johnson and A's owner Ben Shibe rode in the first car (all of them were decorated in the team's blue-and-white colors). A day earlier, Shibe's son, Thomas, a club official himself, had narrowly escaped death when his 40-foot yacht exploded near Toms River, N.J.

Mack ("amiably grinning") and the A's - all of whom save Lave Cross and pitcher Weldon Henley were present - came next. They were followed by those Giants, including McGraw, Mathewson and owner John T. Brush, who had come by train.

As darkness fell, fireworks exploded, cannons were fired, and thousands of torches were lit.

"Chestnut Street for squares was lighted by rockets and red fire," the Record reported. "It was one long stupendous ovation."

The marchers, due to arrive at Broad and Chestnut Streets by 8:30, didn't reach that intersection until 9:30.

Vendors hawked flags, noisemakers, feather ticklers - all incorporating the ubiquitous white elephant - and silk scarves bearing the team's photo.

There were several elephants in the parade, including one provided by the Philadelphia Zoo. Organizers originally had wanted to paint the zoo animal white but instead opted to cover it in cloth.

No one had seen crowds like this. One official said it was the largest gathering in Philadelphia since the 1883 Civic Day celebration marking the city's 200th birthday.

Philadelphia, still run with its prudish Quaker traditions, typically shut down at nightfall. Residents of Rittenhouse Square were outraged when the parade rolled on till nearly 1 a.m., and when it left behind a monumental load of trash and debris.

Eventually, the parade route emptied and the trash was cleaned. The city got back to normal.

Then, two nights later, at the Bingham House, the A's hosted a gigantic banquet for players, sportswriters and others.

Five years later, when the A's, by then moved into luxurious Shibe Park, won the World Series, the parade that followed was tepid by comparison. The newspapers noted that it couldn't compare with the monster of 1905.

"The staid old Quaker City roared," said the Press in reflection of that event. "In the history of Philadelphia parades, there was never anything like it."

Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068 or