A century ago Philadelphia sports fans followed their beloved Athletics as rabidly as the fans of today support their Phillies.
The Athletics christened a new baseball stadium, Shibe Park, in 1910. Constructed at a cost of $315,249, the American League franchise shared the field with the National League Phillies. The park, with its distinctive French Renaissance style facade, ornate tower and arched windows, was the envy of the baseball world.
A ticket to the 1910 World Series, matching the American League champion A's against the National League Chicago Cubs, was a prize possession. Three days before the series began at Shibe Park, the Tamaqua Courier advised local fans not to venture to the ballpark if they didn't have a ticket to the game.
One writer said that Schuylkill County baseball fans would have a difficult time even obtaining a bleacher seat.
"The demands of the people of the Quaker city for seats must be satisfied, so the management says, and this means that no one will find it worthwhile applying. Even after the half million dollar park is filled, there will be a vast army of waiting ones outside who will not be able to get in."
The Athletics had captured the hearts of baseball fans around the state. Even in the halls of county government in Pottsville the talk was on the series.
"The one absorbing topic of conversation and argument among the row office clerks today was the World Series between the Athletics and Chicago, a number of the clerks and officials having witnessed the clashes of Monday and Tuesday," the Courier reported. "It is now generally conceded by those who saw the games that the Athletics are the fastest team, and, provided the fifth game is played at Philadelphia on Saturday, nearly all the clerks on the hill and the officials of all the offices will attend."
While the Courier had discouraged fans from trying to attend the game without a ticket, a number of area fans were fortunate to have reserved seats.
"Tamaqua was well represented at the World Series at Philadelphia," the Courier stated. "Not only could local supporters of the Athletics be found in the bleachers, but many of them held choice reserved seats in the grandstand having written for them months ago"
Some 50 men and women "anxious to get to the city early and breathe the baseball atmosphere" left the Tamaqua station at 1:40 a.m. early Monday for that afternoon's opening game on Oct. 17. Another 250 fans headed to the series on the later 6:40 a.m. train.
Among those traveling to the game were F.P. Krebs, S. Livingstone, S. G. and Harry Seligman, E.M.R. Shepp, James Tinley, J.F. McGinty, Christ Fulmer, Samuel Beard, A.T. Johnson, Allan Christ, Fred D. Freudenberger, Samuel Wagner (and his son), Robert Hobart, James Burns, James Brady, John Boyle and C.S. Shindel.
Fulmer, a one-time major league prospect, was a coal region scout for Connie Mack, Philadelphia's legendary manager.
A primary focus of attention, especially for Tamaqua fans at the game, was the Game 1 starting pitcher for the Athletics, Charles Albert "Chief" Bender. Born to the Ojibwa tribe in Minnesota, Bender graduated from Carlisle Indian Industrial School and also attended Dickinson College.
While he faced discrimination throughout his career, he drew great respect for the way he handled racial taunts. As one example, when fans would heckle him with war whoops on the field, he was known to reply to them by cupping his hands around his mouth and shouting, "Foreigners!
Bender would prove to be a patriotic American. In 1918 he left baseball to work in the shipyards during World War I.
In 1902 Tamaqua came very close to landing Bender for its semi-pro team. The Tamaqua team was in need of a pitcher at the time and Frank Cannon, who managed the local club, had seen him pitch at Carlisle, He had a contract prepared to sign the Indian.
Bender was reportedly waiting in the Reading depot at Harrisburg for his train to Tamaqua when he was intercepted by one of manager Connie Mack's scouts from Philadelphia, who was also hot on his trail. He signed Bender on the spot, thus putting the ace pitcher on track for his brilliant Hall of Fame baseball career.
"The Indian, whose name is spoken from coast to coast today, missed coming to Tamaqua by a hair's breath," the Courier reported after Bender pitched the A's to a 4-1 victory in Game 1 of the 1910 series. One footnote to the series is that Bender and Jack Combs were the only two pitchers that the A's used during the five-game series, an amazing fact in today's era of pitching specialists and pitch counts.
Local fans were well represented during that opening game of the series.
"In all parts of the grandstand could be seen familiar faces, all happy over the victory of the Athletics," a Courier writer stated. "To the left in the grandstand and directly behind the Chicago bench 15 Tamaquans sat together, and they were a proud bunch when they saw the Indian (Bender) pass inning after inning, pitching winning ball."
Another face familiar to many locals was John Walters, the former police chief of Tamaqua, who was working stadium security duty in the grandstand area.
"He stood directly in back of the first base line and had a pleasant word for all his friends as they passed to their seats," the reporter said.