Veterans Stadium has recently become nothing but another memory. The "Vet" opened on April 10, 1971 at the corner of Broad Street and Pattison Avenue in Philadelphia. It would be home to Phillies baseball for the next 33 years.
The Phillies played their first game at the Vet on Saturday, April 10, 1971. The Phils beat Montreal, 4-1, before 55,352. Jim Bunning 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 hit the first homerun.
When the Vet opened, it's seating capacity was 56,371 for baseball and 62,000 for Philadelphia Eagles games.
The new "wave" of baseball stadiums were being built as multi purpose venues that would house both baseball and football.
These behemoth colliseums were constructed of concrete, concrete and more concrete! Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium and Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium were built around the same time with the same goal in mind.
Way back in 1964, Philadelphia voters approved a $25 million bond for the new stadium. In 1967 they would approve another $13 million. The total cost of $50 million made it one of the most expensive baseball stadiums ever.
Philadelphia City Council named the new stadium after veterans of all wars. It was supposed to open in 1970 but costs and bad weather postponed the opening for a year.
The seating arrangement of Veterans Stadium was a seven level design. The "100 level" ran only part way around. The "200 level" was made up of field level box seats. The "300 level" had what were known as "Terrace Boxes". This was the lower stands.
The Vet's "400 level" was reserved for VIPs and the press. The "500" and "600 level" were upper deck, reserved seats. The famous "700 level" was general admission for baseball.
The seats at Veterans Stadium were originally painted brown, terra cotta, orange and yellow, to look like an autumn day. They were re-painted blue in 1995.
Many old time baseball people did not like Veterans Stadium. It was not an intimate ball park to say the least. The upper decks, especially the 700 level, were so far from the field, that fans needed binoculars to see the action on the baseball field. The only dirt anywhere on the field was in the sliding pits around the bases. And of course, there was no grass since the Vet was completely Astro-Turfed(In 2001, Nex Turf replaced the Astro Turf).
The Vet's Astro Turf playing surface was rated the hardest of all synthetic playing surfaces. It was literally "coming apart at the seams". The seams were clearly visible and contained many gaps which led to it being called the "Field of Seams". It continually ranked the NFL's worst field by player surveys. A number of opposing players were injured due to the poor field condition.
On October 10, 1993, Chicago Bears wide receiver Wendell Davis caught his cleat in a seam. He tore both of his patella knee tendons, ending his career.
Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt ended his career with bad knees, partially due to the hard surface.
The original AstroTurf was eventually replaced by a new surface, NexTurf, in 2001. The new surface was far softer, and reportedly much easier on the knees. However, the city crew that installed the new turf didn't install it properly, resulting in seams being visible in several places.
The first football game on the new turf was due 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 tried to fix the problem to no avail, forcing the game to be cancelled. 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 Vet'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.
Of course the most memorable Veterans Stadium moment is the 1980 World Series. After several seasons of coming close and winning the eastern Division, the Philadelphia Phillies finally made it in 1980.
Thanks to the MVP performance of Mike Schmidt and the pitching of Steve Carlton, the Phillies defeated the Kansas City Royals in six games. The sixth game thriller was won at Veterans Stadium, giving the Philadelphia Phillies their first World Championship.
In 1983, the Phillies again won the Eastern Division against the Los Angeles Dodgers. They also won the National League pennant only to lose the World Series to the Baltimore Orioles.
Ten years later, the Phillies again took the Eastern Division title at Veterans Stadium against the Atlanta Braves. This would be the last League Championship series with a two division format. The Phillies would lose the World Series in six games to the Toronto Blue Jays.
On August 15, 1990, Terry Mulholland threw the first no hitter at the Vet, beating the San Francisco Giants 6-0. The only other nine inning no hitter at Veternas Stadium was tossed by Kevin Milwood on April 27, 2003. Again defeating the Giants 1-0.
In 1971, Willie Stargell hit the longest home run in stadium history. The spot where the ball landed was marked with a yellow star with a black "S" inside a white circle. When Stargell died, the white circle was painted black. The marking stayed until the Vet was demolished.
During the 1998 Army-Navy game, a serious accident occurred when a support rail collapsed and eight West Point cadets were injured. That led to the call for new stadiums for football and baseball.
On September 28, 2003, the Phialdelphia Phillies played their final game at Veterans Stadium. They lost to the Braves. The final ceremony that followed the game brought tears to many of the capacity crowd. Former manager and general manager Paul Owens and former Philadelphia Phillie relief pitcher (and crowd favorite) Tug McGraw made their final public appearences. Later that winter, both men died.
The last public address was by long time Phillies announcer Harry Kalas,"And now, Veterans Stadium is like a 3-1 pitch to Jim Thome or Mike Schmidt. It's a looooooong drive...IT'S OUTTA HERE!!!"
Veterans Stadium was demolished on March 21, 2004. The site is now the parking lot for the new Phillies ball park, Citizens Bank Park.
On June 6, 2005, the anniversary of 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 of that same year, the second anniversary of the final game, a historical marker commemorating where the ballpark once stood was dedicated. Granite spaces marking the former locations of home plate, the pitching mound, and the three bases for baseball, as well as the goalpost placements for football, were added onto the parking lot in April 2006.
Veterans Stadium only lived for 33 years. But for fans of the Philadelphia Phillies and Eagles, she stood as a monument to their home town heroes. Like so many others before it, the "Vet" is now just a Stadium In Time".
Veterans Stadium Dimensions:
The Vet was reffered to as "one of those cookie cutter stadiums". It's dimensions were symetrical. The left and right field lines were 330 feet from home plate. Left and right center power alleys were at 371 and center field stood at 408 feet. The backstop was 58 feet behind home plate. Unlike the old baseball stadiums, the wall surrounding the outfield was the exact same height and design all the way around.