Photograph © Michael Collins
Bill Veeck knew that the reason the players favored the old ballpark is the fact that they could pad their numbers there. The League Park outfield was far easier to hit HRs in, then this structure. That CF fence you see when this photo was taken, wasn't there in the 1930's and 1940's. Neither were were those picnic tables or that first row of bleachers that touch the field. If you look in back of those there is that big blue concrete retaining wall that comes down in back of the temporary bleachers that touch the field. This blue wall fronts the "real" bleacher section. That was where the outfield always used to end and where you had to hit a baseball if you wanted a home run... 489 feet from home plate! So Veeck created that outfield wall that you see now, but made it portable. It was able to be moved in and out by 15 feet depending on how strong the offense was. The American League office which was always mad a Veeck for something were furious about this move and after the season announced that when a season opens, the ballpark's dimensions must remain static throughout the entire season. That's why when a new stadium opens up and balls are either flying out of the ballpark in record numbers... or there is too much room and team ERA's are approaching record numbers... those dimensions must be kept all season long no matter how ridiculous it may seem. You can thank Bill Veeck and his mobile wall for that. 1.5 million came to the ballpark in 1947. This jump in attendance may have seemed tremendous at the time but it was nothing compared to what would happen if the Indians actually became a winning ballclub. That feat would occur in 1948. Branch Rickey and the Dodgers had set the world on fire in 1947, with the controversial signing of Jackie Robinson. The first negro ballplayer in Major League Baseball was the scorn of many but his talents couldn’t go un-noticed even by his strongest detractors. With Robinson taking over the National League, Veeck decided that the Indians should follow suit and 11 weeks later, signed the first Negro player ever to play in the American League. That player would be 23 year old Larry Doby. Doby would play just a few games with the Indians and bat only .156 but he would join the team full time in 1947. Veeck wasn’t done. Knowing that Satchel Paige would go down in history as perhaps the best Negro League player ever, Veeck signed an aged 42 year old Satchel Paige to his first Major League contract, as Satchel became the first black pitcher in Major League Baseball.