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Philadelphia Veterans Stadium (informally called "The Vet") was a professional-sports, multi-purpose stadium located at the northeast corner of Broad Street and Pattison Avenue in Philadelphiamarker, Pennsylvaniamarker, United Statesmarker, as part of the South Philadelphia Sports Complexmarker. The listed seating capacities in 1971 were 62,000 seats for football and 56,371 for baseball.

It housed the National Football League's Philadelphia Eagles from 1971 through 2002 and the National League's Philadelphia Phillies baseball team from 1971 through 2003. The 1976 and 1996 Major League Baseball All-Star Games were held at the venue. The Vet also hosted the annual Army-Navy football game seventeen times, first in 1976 and last in 2001.

In addition, numerous musical concerts were performed here by artists including The Rolling Stones, Genesis, Bruce Springsteen and Pink Floyd (on their final U.S. tour in 1994). The venue also played host to religious events including annual Jehovah's Witnesses conventions and a Billy Graham crusade in 1992.

History

Inception, design and construction

As early as 1959, Phillies owner Bob Carpenter proposed building a new ballpark for the Phillies on 72-acres adjacent to the Garden State Park Racetrackmarker in Cherry Hill, New Jerseymarker. Connie Mack Stadium was 50-years old, did not have sufficient parking, and the sale of alcohol was banned at sports venues in Pennsylvania. Beer sales were legal in New Jersey. The proposed ballpark would have sat 45,000 fans, been expandable to 60,000, and would have had 15,000 parking spaces.

In 1964, following the move of the Philadelphia Athletics to Kansas Citymarker, Missourimarker, after its 1954 season and a fear of losing another professional sports franchise, Philadelphia voters approved a US$25-million- bond issue for a new stadium to replace the dilapidated Shibe Parkmarker (opened in 1909 and later also known as Connie Mack Stadium) and Franklin Fieldmarker (opened in 1895). Because of cost overruns, the voters had to go to the polls again in 1967 to approve another $13 million. At a total cost of $50 million , it was one of the most-expensive ballparks to date.

The stadium was named by the Philadelphia City Council, in 1968, for the veterans of all wars. As early as December 1969, the Phillies expected that they would play at Connie Mack Stadium in April 1970 and begin play at the Vet in May 1970. However, the opening was delayed a year because of a combination of bad weather and cost overruns.

The stadium's design was nearly circular, and was known as an "octorad" design, which attempted to facilitate both football and baseball. As was the case with other cities in which the multi-purpose-stadium approach was employed (for example, RFK Stadiummarker in Washington, D.C.marker; Shea Stadiummarker in New York Citymarker, New Yorkmarker; the Astrodomemarker in Houstonmarker, Texasmarker; Atlanta-Fulton County Stadiummarker in Atlantamarker, Georgiamarker, Busch Memorial Stadiummarker in St. Louismarker, Missourimarker, Qualcomm Stadiummarker in San Diegomarker, Californiamarker; Riverfront Stadiummarker in Cincinnatimarker, Ohiomarker; and the Three Rivers Stadiummarker in Pittsburghmarker, Pennsylvania), the fundamentally different shapes of the playing fields made the stadium inadequate to the needs of either sport.

First game

The Phillies played their first game at the stadium on Saturday, April 10, 1971. The Phillies beat the Montreal Expos, 4–1, before an audience of 55,352. Jim Bunning (named to the National Baseball Hall of Famemarker in 1996) was the winning pitcher while Bill Stoneman took the loss. Boots Day opened the game by grounding out to Bunning. Larry Bowa had the stadium's first hit and Don Money made its first home run.

Final games

The final football game played at the stadium was the Eagles' 27–10 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the National Football Conference championship game on January 19, 2003. The Eagles moved into Lincoln Financial Fieldmarker in August 2003.

The final game ever played at the stadium was the afternoon of September 28, 2003, during which the Phillies lost to the Atlanta Braves. However, the ceremony that followed pulled at the heartstrings of the sellout crowd. Both Paul Owens, a former general manager, and Tug McGraw, a former pitcher, made their final public appearances at the park that day; later that winter both men died. The last publicly broadcast words uttered in the park were by Harry Kalas — a veteran announcer who helped open the facility on April 10, 1971 — who paraphrased his trademark home run call: "And now, Veterans Stadium is like a 3-1 pitch to Jim Thome or Mike Schmidt. It's on a looooooong drive...'IT'S OUTTA HERE!!!" The team moved into Citizens Bank Parkmarker in 2004, with the first game being played there on April 12, 2004.

Demolition and commemoration

On March 21, 2004, the 33-year-old stadium was imploded in a record-setting sixty-two seconds. Frank Bardonaro, president of Philadelphia-based AmQuip Crane Rental Company pressed the "charge" button and Nick Peetros, project manager for Driscoll/Hunt Construction Company pressed the plunger to trigger the implosion while Greg Luzinski and the Phillie Phanatic, the Phillies' mascot, pressed an imaginary plunger for the fans. A parking lot for the current sporting facilities was constructed in 2004 and 2005 at the site.

On June 6, 2005, the anniversary of World War II's D-Day, a plaque and monument to commemorate the spot where the stadium stood and a memorial for all veterans was dedicated by the Phillies before their game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. On September 28, 2005, the second anniversary of the stadium's final game, a historical marker commemorating where the ballpark once stood was dedicated. In April 2006, granite spaces marking the former locations of home plate, the pitcher's mound, and the three bases for baseball, as well as the goalpost placements for football, were added in Western Parking Lot U.

Stadium Features

The stadium was a complicated structure with its seating layered in seven separate levels. The lowest, or "100 Level", extended only part way around the structure, between roughly the 25-yard lines for football games and near the two dugouts for baseball. The "200 Level" comprised field-level boxes, and the "300 Level" housed what were labeled "Terrace Boxes". These three levels collectively made up the "Lower Stands". The "400 Level" was reserved for the press and dignitaries; the upper level began with "500 Level" (or "loge boxes"), the "600 Level" (upper reserved, or individual seats), and finally, the infamous "700 Level" (general admission for baseball), where some of the most-passionate sports fans on the East Coast could be found. Originally, the seats were in shades of brown, terra cotta, orange and yellow, to look like an autumn day, but in 1995 and 1996, blue seats replaced the fall-hued ones.

At one time, the stadium could seat almost 71,000 people for football, but restructuring in the late 1980s brought capacity down to around 66,000.

The stadium was harshly criticized by baseball purists. Even by multi-purpose-stadium standards, the upper deck was exceptionally high, and many of the seats in that area were so far from the field that it was difficult to see the game without binoculars. Akin to most multi-purpose stadiums, foul-ball territory was quite roomy. Although the stadium's size enabled the Phillies to shatter previous attendance records, during the years the Phillies were not doing as well even crowds of 35,000 looked sparse. Approximately seventy percent of the seats were in foul territory, adding to the stadium's cavernous feel. There was no dirt in the infield except for sliding pits around the bases. In the autumn, the football markings were clearly visible in the spacious outfield area.

The stadium had been known for providing both the Eagles and the Phillies with great home-field advantage. In particular, the acoustics greatly enhanced the crowd noise on the field, making it nearly impossible for opposing teams to hear one another.

Playing surface

The field's surface, originally composed of AstroTurf, contained many gaps and uneven patches. In several places, seams were clearly visible, giving it the nickname "Field of Seams". It perennially drew the ranking of the "NFL's worst field" in player surveys conducted by the NFL Players Association, and visiting players often fell prey to the treacherous conditions resulting in numerous injuries. The NFLPA reportedly threatened to sue the city for the poor conditions, and many sports agents told the Eagles not to even consider signing or drafting their clients. The Eagles, for their part, complained to the city on numerous occasions about the conditions at the stadium. Baseball players also complained about the surface. It was much harder than other AstroTurf surfaces, and the shock of running on it often caused back pain.

Two of the most-publicized injuries blamed on the playing surface occurred exactly six years apart. On October 10, 1993, Bears receiver Wendell Davis had his cleat get caught in a seam while running a simple pass route. He tore both of his patella tendons, ending his career. On October 10, 1999, Michael Irvin suffered a neck injury that led to his premature retirement. (The previously winless Eagles rallied from a 10–0 deficit and won 13–10.).

In 2001, the original AstroTurf was eventually replaced by a new surface, NexTurf. It was far softer, and reportedly much easier on the knees. However, the city crew that installed the new turf reportedly did not install it properly resulting in seams being visible in several places.

The first football game on the new turf was scheduled to take place on August 13, 2001, when the Eagles played the Baltimore Ravens. However, Ravens coach Brian Billick refused to let the Ravens take the field for warm-ups when he discovered a trench around an area where third base was covered up by a NexTurf cutout. City crews unsuccessfully tried to fix the problem forcing the game to be canceled. Later, players from both teams reported that they sunk into the turf in locations near the infield cutouts. Team president Joe Banner was irate after the game, calling the stadium's conditions "absolutely unacceptable" and "an embarrassment to the city of Philadelphia." City officials, however, promised that the stadium would be suitable for play when the regular season started.

The problem was caused by heavy rain over the weekend prior to the game, which made the dirt in the sliding pits and pitcher's mound so soft that the cutouts covering them in the football configuration became mushy and uneven. Even when new dirt was shoveled on top, it quickly became just as saturated as the old dirt. The problem was solved by using asphalt hot mix, which allowed for a solid, level playing surface, but required a jackhammer for removal whenever the stadium was converted from football back to baseball (between August and October of each year).

Fans

and meet at The Vet in 2001.
Fans who attended games in the stadium for a football game gained a reputation of being among the most vociferous in sports, especially those in the notorious 700 Level, the highest seating level in the stadium prior to the erection of luxury skyboxes behind that seating area. The stadium became famous for the rowdiness of Eagles fans, although it was not the site of the incident in which fans booed Santa Claus during a halftime show. (The Santa Claus incident occurred on December 15, 1968, at Franklin Fieldmarker, the Eagles' home stadium at the time.)

One of the more well-known examples of the fans' behavior was during the 1989 season at a follow-up game to what many called the "Bounty Bowl." On Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 1989, the Eagles had beaten the Cowboys at Texas Stadiummarker, 27-0. In that game, former Eagles placekicker Luis Zendejas suffered a concussion during a rough block by linebacker Jessie Small after a kickoff. After the game, Cowboys rookie head coach Jimmy Johnson commented that Eagles coach Buddy Ryan instituted a bounty on Zendejas and Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman. Two weeks later, on December 10, they played the rematch dubbed "Bounty Bowl II" at the stadium which the Eagles won 20-10. The stadium seats were covered with snow in the stands. The volatile mix of beer, the "bounty" and the intense hatred for "America's Team" (who were 1–15 that season) led to fans throwing snowballs at Dallas players and coaches. Beer sales were banned after that incident for two games. A similar incident in 1995 at Giants Stadiummarker during a nationally telecast San Diego ChargersNew York Giants game led the NFL to rule that seating areas must be cleared of snow within a certain time period before kickoff.

The Eagles fans' behavior during a Monday Night Football loss to the San Francisco 49ers in 1997 and a 34-0 loss to Dallas a year later was such that the City of Philadelphia assigned a Municipal Court Judge, Seamus McCaffrey, to the stadium on game days to deal with fans removed from the stands. Two years later, fans threw D-Cell batteries at St. Louis Cardinals outfielder J.D. Drew after he spurned the Phillies' offer to play with them, and wound up going back into the draft and picked by the Cardinals.

Notable games and incidents

  • On June 25, 1971, Willie Stargell hit the longest home run in stadium history in a 14-4 Pirates win. The spot where the ball landed was marked with a yellow star with a black "S" inside a white circle until Stargell's 2001 death, when the white circle was painted black., The star remained until the stadium's 2004 demolition.


  • One of the most notable events in the stadium's history was Game 6 of the 1980 World Series on Oct. 21. In that game, the Phillies clinched their first world championship with a 4-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals in front of 65,838 fans. Tug McGraw's Series-ending strikeout of the Royals' Willie Wilson was instrumental in their win.


  • A very notable football game played at the stadium took place less than three months after the Phillies' title, and was the Eagles' 20–7 victory over the hated Dallas Cowboys in the 1980 NFC Championship Game, played on January 11, 1981, in front of 70,696 fans. This contest was famous because the Eagles chose to wear their white jerseys for their home game in order to force the Cowboys into their "unlucky" blue jerseys. At the end of the game, Philadelphia police circled the field with horses and dogs as they had done for the Phillies World Series victory; despite the police presence, Eagles fans successfully rushed the field.


  • Veterans Stadium was host to the latest finishing game in baseball history, a twi-night double-header between the Phillies and the Padres that started on July 2, 1993 at 5:05 PM and ended at 4:40 AM the following morning. The two games were interrupted multiple times by rain showers. The Padres won the first game, and led in the second, but lost in a come-from-behind victory for the Phillies in the tenth inning on an RBI single by Phillies closing pitcher Mitch Williams. The second game ended with an estimated 6,000 fans at the ballpark.




  • The Phillies pitched two no-hit games at the stadium, the only nine-inning no-hitters in stadium history. Both were against the San Francisco Giants. Terry Mulholland pitched the first on August 15, 1990, in a 6–0 Phillies win. Kevin Millwood pitched the second on April 27, 2003 and beat the Giants 1–0, upstaging the Phillie Phanatic's Birthday promotion that afternoon. The Montréal Expos' Pascual Pérez pitched a five-inning no-hitter shortened by rain on September 24, 1988. MLB changed its rules in 1991 to require that fully-recognized no-hitters - past, present and future - be a complete game of at least nine innings.


  • Another game that is best remembered by Eagles fans was known as "The Body Bag Game," which took place on November 12, 1990, when the Washington Redskins visited the stadium for a Monday Night Football game. The Eagles' head coach at that time, Buddy Ryan, was quoted as saying that the Redskins' offense would "have to be carted off in body bags." The Eagles number-one defense scored three touchdowns in a 28–14 win and knocked nine Redskin players out of the game, including both of their quarterbacks. The Redskins were forced to finish the game using running back/returner Brian Mitchell (who would become an Eagles player over a decade later) at quarterback.


  • During the 1998 Army–Navy Game, a serious accident occurred when a support rail collapsed and eight West Pointmarker cadets were injured. That led to the call for new stadiums for football and baseball for the main stadium tenants.


Other events at Veterans Stadium

Baseball

The Liberty Bell Classic, Philadelphia Division I college baseball tournament, was played at the stadium from its inception in 1992 through 2003. The original eight schools were:





In the first championship game in 1992, Delaware defeated Villanova 6-2.

The Eastern League Trenton Thunder played two home games at the stadium in April 1994. The Thunder beat the Canton-Akron Indians, 10 to 9, in front of 483 fans on April 20, 1994, and won 9 to 3 on April 21. Future-Phillies-broadcaster Tom McCarthy was in the booth for the Thunder during these two games.

Soccer

The stadium was the home field for the Philadelphia Atoms and the Philadelphia Fury, both North American Soccer League teams. The Fury drew 18,191 fans for their April 1, 1978, opener at the stadium which they lost 3-0 to the Washington Diplomats. The Fury averaged 8,279 per-match in 1978 NASL, 5,624 per-match in 1979 NASL, and 4,778 in the 1980 NASL seasons. The club was moved to Montreal in 1981 NASL season.

The stadium hosted an August 2, 1991, exhibition soccer match between the U.S. National Team and English professional soccer club Sheffield Wednesday. Sheffield featured John Harkes, the first American to play in the English Premier League. 44,261 fans saw the U.S. score two second-half goals to defeat Sheffield 2 to 0.

Philadelphia established a bid committee to host matches for the 1994 World Cup which was to be played in the U.S. Phillies president Bill Giles was on the Philadelphia bid committee and hoped to use Veterans Stadium for games. In addition to the challenge of installing a natural grass field for the games, FIFAmarker would have required the Phillies to vacate the stadium for a month to allow for sufficient preparation time prior to the matches. Giles could only offer 17-days. Of the nine venues eventually chosen to host matches, not one was home to a professional baseball club.

High-school football

Veterans Stadium hosted Philadelphia's City Title high-school football championship game from 1973 to 1977 and in 1979. The series was suspended in 1980. With the entry of the Philadelphia Catholic League into what is now PIAA District XII (which was formed when the Public League joined the PIAA in 2002), the "City Title Game" was restored in 2008.

Professional Wrestling

The only professional wrestling event held in Veterans Stadium was National Wrestling Alliance/Jim Crockett Promotions "Great American Bash" on July 1, 1986, with an attendance of 10,900. The event was the start of a 14 city stop summer tour.

Photo gallery

Image:Vet_Homeplatemarker.jpg|Home plate at Veterans Stadium, home to the Philadelphia Phillies for thirty-three seasons, is remembered with this granite and bronze marker in the parking lot near Citizens Bank Parkmarker. (unknown date)Image:Vet_Memorial.jpg|A brief history of how the stadium was named and a tribute to veterans of all wars is on display outside where the stadium stood. (unknown date)Image:Vethistoricalsign.jpg|The historic marker shows the stadium's major moments. (2007)Image:Thevetdedication.jpg| Dedication plaque that once was attached to The Vet. (2007)

References

  1. “Guts and Bolts: The Implosion of Veterans Stadium.” - Air date of 7/10/04 on The History Channel


External links



Further Reading




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