MUSIC - Tunnel of love by Bruce Springsteen
Veterans Stadium - Opened in 1971, closed in 2003 and demolished / imploded in 2004. Site is now parking for Citizens Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field. Known as Philadelphia Veterans Stadium "The Vet".
Location - 3501 S. Broad Street Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The trinity of sports venues, right across the street from JFK Stadium (now demolished) and the Spectrum (also now demolished).
"If a horse can't eat it, I don't want to play on it." Dick Allen, recalling the artificial turf at the Vet. Allen, like most players was NOT fond of the plastic grass, that so many of the "new" stadiums of the 70s had.
Probably one of the most maligned stadium of the modern era stood at the corner of Broad Street and Pattison Avenue, in south Philadelphia. For 33 years, the Vet, was home to both the Phillies and the Eagles, as well as the annual Army Navy football game.
The Vet was born out of necessity. Antiquated Connie Mack stadium was in a very rough neighborhood in north Philadelphia, and Franklin field was no longer a viable option for the Eagles. So after over a decade of debate, the Vet made it's debut on a cold April day in 1971. Actually, the Vet, was the last of the "cookie cutter stadiums" to be built. THANK GOD! It all started with RFK stadium in Washington, Fulton County stadium in Atlanta, Busch stadium II in St. Louis, Riverfront stadium in Cincinnati, 3 rivers in Pittsburgh and finally the Vet. The Vet wasn't so much circular as it was octorad in shape. It may have been the last, but it was probably the most hated. From bad astroturf, to an antiseptic feel about it, the Vet was the subject of constant ridicule. When the Vet opened, it was considered state of the art. But quickly fell out of favor with the media as well as visiting teams and fans. One of the main problems was the seating bowl in the upper deck. You needed binoculars to watch the action from the 700 level.
The Phillies opened Veterans stadium on April 10th, 1971 with a game against the Montreal Expos. The Phillies behind Jim Bunning beat the Expos 4-1. Larry Bowa of the Phillies had the first hit and his teammate Don Money hit the first home run. The Pittsburgh Pirates Willie Stargell hit the longest home run in the history of the Vet. In 1971, his blast landed in the upper deck in right field. A gold star marked the seat where the ball landed. When Stargell passed away in 2001, the Phillies had the seat painted black in his memory. The Phillies captured their only worlds championship at the Vet. In 1980, they beat the Kansas City Royals in game 6 to capture the series. Many Phillie fans can still see the image of Tug McGraw flinging his glove in the air after he struck out Willie Wilson to end the series. Two Phillies threw no hitters at the Vet. The first to do it was Terry Mullholland. He beat the San Francisco Giants 6-0 on August 15, 1990. Three seasons later, on April 27, 2003, Kevin Millwood beat the same Giants 1-0. The Phillies closed out the Vet on September 28, 2003, with a 5-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves. Greg Maddux beat Kevin Millwood on that cold overcast Sunday afternoon. The final home run was hit the day before by Phillie first baseman Jim Thome. After the final game, a long procession of Phillie greats past and present made an entrance onto the field for the last time. Longtime Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas uttered this phrase over the PA system "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!!!". And with that, 33 years of history came to a close.
The Eagles called the Vet home for 32 of those years. In 2003, the Eagles flew to their new nest, Lincoln financial field, which was built a block away and directly across the street from the new home for the Phillies. The Eagles closed out their stay at the Vet with a lackluster conference playoff loss to the eventual super bowl champion Tampa Bay Bucs. The 27-10 score was an afterthought though. MOST teams hated playing at the Vet. Mostly due to two things, the horrible field conditions and the Eagles fans. The fans could be the loudest and well not very pleasant group around. Yes, it is true the Eagles fans booed Santa when he didn't leave the field quick enough after a halftime show. BUT that was in 1968 and it happened at Franklin field, not the Vet. Two of the most severe injuries happened on the well worn Vet turf. On October 10, 1993, the Bears Wendell Davis blew out BOTH of his patella tendons when his cleats got caught in the turf. The injury was so severe that it ended his career. The Cowboys Michael Irvin hit his head so hard on the turf, that the ensuing concussion ended his career prematurely.
The other tenants of the Vet were Temple University football, the Philadelphia Atoms and later the Fury of the NASL, and the Philadelphia Stars of the USFL. Contrary to popular belief, the old Philadelphia Bell of the WFL did not play their home games at the Vet. Instead, they opted for ancient JFK stadium, which was directly across Pattison Ave from the Vet. JFK stadium was razed in 1992. The Wachovia center arena now sits on the site. The Vet was also home to the annual Army Navy game 17 times.
The usual suspects of concerts, tractor pulls, religious revivals, and other shows used the Vet facilities. The final concert was by Bon Jovi, Live Aid was not held at the Vet either. The July 13, 1985 concert was held across the street at the old JFK Stadium.
Death came quickly to the Vet. After the Phillies moved out in 2003, the Vet was stripped of everything that could be sold. Lockers, seats, signs, turnstiles, urinals, just about anything that wasn't built into the stadium was sold. On the morning of March 21, 2004, the Vet was imploded. Greg Luzinski pushed the plunger with one more "Bull Blast" and in a matter of seconds, the 33 year old structure was reduced to rubble. Most visiting players and a lot of fans probably didn't shed a tear when the Vet was torn down. It was maligned, criticized, cussed out, and even made fun of, but for 33 years it was home to two major sports teams. The Vet is now gone, but the site has special meaning. It was the place where the Phillies won their only worlds championship. The site is now the western parking lot for Citizens Bank park and Lincoln Financial field. So if you are ever in south Philadelphia, go to the corner of Broad Street and Pattison Avenue and look for the markers. They are directly across the street from the Spectrum arena. She may be gone now, but she had a place in Philadelphia sports lore.
The Vet one year before it closes. 6/02
The Vet from I-95 during a hellacious thunderstorm. 7/76
A September evening looking west at the Vet. 9/91
The statue of Connie Mack outside the Pattison Street entrance. 9/91
The statue of Mike Schmidt outside the East entrance. 9/91
Entering the Vet from centerfield. 9/91
The Vet with the multi colored seating. You can see the luxury boxes above the 700 level in the upper deck. 9/91
The view from behind home plate. The Phillies were playing St. Louis this late September night. 9/91
The view above the Phillies dugout on the first base side. You can see the liberty bell on the roof in dead center. 9/91
A view from the 500 level in the upper deck. 9/91
A view of the two stadiums. The Spectrum is in front. It's the former home of the Flyers and 76ers. It still stands to this day. 7/94
On the 200 level of the Vet. It basically is the main concourse. Sorry for the blurry shot! 7/94
The Vet set up for a Billy Joel - Elton John concert. 7/94
The Phillies dugout on the first base side. 7/94
The visitors dugout at the Vet. 7/94
One of the tunnels leading to the seating bowl. 7/94
The Richie Ashburn statue outside gate B. 7/94
A view of the Vet from the corner of Broad and Pattison. The SEPTA station building can be seen on the corner. 7/94
The Vet looking splendid on a hot summer afternoon. It would be gone from view 21 months later. 6/02
It was eleven years in between games that I saw at the Vet. It changed a little. Dark blue seats replaced the multi colored ones. Also, a new carpet was installed. 6/02
One last look at the playing surface of the Vet. 6/02
The Spectrum arena from the upper deck of the Vet. 6/02
Another view of the two arenas. 6/02
The Vet. April 10,1971 - March 21, 2004
The Vet site is to the right of the photo. All the debris is gone. Soon a parking lot will be poured. 4/05
A better view of where the Vet once stood. The view is from the new Citizens Bank park. The Vet was roughly in the middle of the photo where the light colored ground is. 4/05
Looking west, you can see the huge dirt lot in the middle of the picture. That is where the Vet once stood. It is in the process of being paved over for parking. You can also see the Connie Mack statue at the bottom left of the picture. April 05
The marker in the asphalt where homeplate at the Vet once stood.
One of the markers on the Pattison Avenue side. 9/05
One of the markers for the Vet put up by the Pennsylvania historical society. 9/07
The construction site of the new park for the Phillies. 6/02
The much talked about and complained about Vet. It had it's moments. From the Phillies winning the world series in 1980 to the bounty bowl for the Eagles and Cowboys, the Vet saw it all. Millions of Philadelphians as well as people from south Jersey and Delaware called the Vet their second home. It was, after all, a multi purpose stadium. All that remains are the memories. The rubble has long been hauled away. Now the site serves to park cars for the new parks of the Phillies and Eagles.