Not that long ago, the Philadelphia Phillies played at Veterans Stadium, a concrete oval (officially, they called its shape an "octorad," which sounds like a made-up word), which seated 62,382 fans for baseball in its final years. Granted, about a third of these seats, 20,000 or so, were in the outfield and well back of the action. But with a few exceptions, during the regular season you could show up at the Vet’s ticket window at 7:00 at night, Monday through Saturday, or at 1:00 on a Sunday, and buy pretty much as many seats as you could afford.
It’s a different world at Citizens Bank Park, which opened in 2004. It’s not a multipurpose facility, it’s a baseball-specific stadium. Every seat has sufficient width, legroom and alignment to view a game in comfort. Behind you will be concession stands that are plentiful and varied, restrooms that are clean and not beset by noxious fumes, and no 2-inning-long lines at either. In front of you are informative and attractive scoreboards and a nice, natural-grass field, instead of the hideous lime-green carpet at the Vet. Depending on where you sit, you might even get a good view of the skyline of Center City Philadelphia.
(That turf was often called the worst playing surface in the NFL. I don’t know if it was the worst in baseball, though: Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium and Houston’s Astrodome had artificial fields that looked even worse to me.)
But because “The Bank” is a nice park, and also because the Phillies have been contenders pretty much since it opened, its seats go pretty quickly. So I’m beginning this guide by saying...
Before You Go. You should get your ticket(s) in advance. I’m not kidding about this: Although the Phillies aren't doing well lately, and scalpers are plentiful around the South Philly sports complex, for all 4 major sports, don’t even think of patronizing the scalpers while wearing opposing-team gear, especially if it’s the Mets. Or the Los Angeles Dodgers. Or the St. Louis Cardinals. (The Phils have unpleasant histories with those teams as well, although the one with the cross-State Pittsburgh Pirates seems to have fizzled out, as the Pirates have been crap since 1993.)
Philadelphia is just down the road, so it's in the Eastern Time Zone, and you don't have to worry about fiddling with various timepieces. And the weather will be almost identical to what you'd have on the same day in New York. Still, check the combined website for the Philadelphia newspapers, the Inquirer and the Daily News, before you head out. For the moment, it looks like, for next Tuesday and Wednesday, temperatures in Philly will be in the mid-60s in daylight, and the high 40s at night when the games will be played, so you should bring a jacket.
Tickets. Citizens Bank Park seats 43,651 fans. The Phillies averaged 37,190 last year, in a bad year. This year, with 9 home games under their belt, in chilly April weather, including some afternoon games while kids are in school, and off to a bad start, they're still averaging 29,076. So, yes, order your tickets ahead of time.
Infield 100 sections will be $80, Baseline 100s will be $60, Outfield 100s will be $43, Infield 200s and 300s will be $43, Outfield 200s will be $34, Outfield 300s will be $32, Infield 400s will be $34, and Outfield 400s will be $23. Get a “Power Ticket” for an additional $10, and you’ll receive a $10 credit toward food or merchandise.
Getting There. It’s 99 miles from Times Square in Manhattan to City Hall in Center City Philadelphia, and 111 miles from Citi Field to Citizens Bank Park. (Yes, they both have names of banks slapped on them, and the names are very similar. Don’t be confused, especially since Citi’s dominant logo color is blue and Citizens Bank’s is green, although the parks’ seats reverse those colors, green in Flushing and blue in South Philly.)
This is close enough that a typical Met fan could leave his house, drive to the Citi Field parking lot, meet up with friends, head down to CBP, watch a game, head back to Citi Field, pick up his car, and drive home, all within 10 hours. But it’s also close enough that you could spend an entire day in Philadelphia, and, hopefully, you’ve already done this. Having done so many times myself, I can tell you that it’s well worth it.
If you are driving, you’ll need to get on the New Jersey Turnpike. If you’re not “doing the city,” but just going to the game, take the Turnpike’s Exit 3 to NJ Route 168, which forms part of the Black Horse Pike, to Interstate 295. (The Black Horse Pike later becomes NJ Route 42, US Route 322 and US Route 40, going into Atlantic City. Not to be confused with the White Horse Pike, US Route 30, which also terminates in A.C.)
Take I-295 to Exit 26, which will get you onto Interstate 76 and the Walt Whitman Bridge into Philly. Signs for the ballpark will soon follow, and the park is at 11th Street and Pattison Avenue (though the mailing address is "1 Citizens Bank Way").
From anywhere in New York City, allow 2½ hours for the actual drive, though from North Jersey you might need only 2, and from Central Jersey an hour and a half might suffice. But you’ll need at least another half-hour to negotiate the last mile or so, including the parking lot itself.
If you don’t want to drive, there are other options, but the best one is the train. Philadelphia is too close to fly, just as flying from New York (from JFK, LaGuardia or Newark) to Boston, Baltimore and Washington, once you factor in fooling around with everything you gotta do at each airport, doesn’t really save you much time compared to driving, the bus or the train.
And I strongly recommend not taking the bus. If you do, once you see Philadelphia’s Greyhound terminal, at 10th & Filbert Streets in Center City, the nation’s 2nd-busiest behind New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal, you’ll say to yourself, “I never thought I’d say this to myself, but thank God for Port Authority!” The Philly terminal is a disgrace. I don’t know how many people are in Atlantic City on an average summer day, when both the beaches and the casinos are full (I'm guessing about half a million, or one-third the size of Philly), but it has a permanent population of 40,000 people, compared to the 1.6 million of Philadelphia, and it has a bus station of roughly equal size and far greater cleanliness than Philly’s.
If you do want to take Greyhound, it’s about 2 hours and 10 minutes each way, and $32 round-trip (as little as $12 on advance purchase!), and buses leave Port Authority just about every hour on the hour.
If you can afford Amtrak, and that will be $106 round-trip, it takes about an hour and a half to get from Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan to the 30th Street Station at 30th & Market Streets, just across the Schuylkill River from Center City. Unlike the dull post-1963 Penn Station, this building is an Art Deco masterpiece from 1933, and is the former corporate headquarters of the Pennsylvania Railroad. (Ironically, it never had the official name “Pennsylvania Station” or “Penn Station.”) You might recognize its interior from the Eddie Murphy film Trading Places. (If you can’t afford Amtrak, or if you can but you’d rather save money, I’ll get to what to do in a minute.)
From 30th Street Station, you can take a cab that will go down I-76, the Schuylkill Expressway, to I-95, the Delaware Expressway, to South Broad Street to the Sports Complex. I would advise against this, though: When I did this for a Yankees-Phillies Interleague game at the Vet in 1999, it was $15. It’s probably $25 now.
Instead, you’ll need to take the subway, which, like Philly’s commuter-rail and bus systems, is run by SEPTA, the SouthEastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. You might recognize their “S” logo from Trading Places, and the bus that hits Tommy Morrison at the end of Rocky V. You’ll have to exit 30th Street Station and cross 30th Street itself to get into the 30th St. station on the Market-Frankford Line.
Philadelphia and Toronto are the only 2 cities left on the North American continent, as far as I know, that still use tokens rather than farecards (or "MetroCards" as New York's MTA calls them) or tickets for their subways. One ride on a SEPTA subway train is $2.25, cheaper than New York's, but they don’t sell single tokens at booths. They come in packs of 2, 5 and 10, and these packs are damn hard to open. Two cost $3.60; five are $9.00, and a ten-pack costs $18.00. They are also available for bulk purchase.
From 30th Street, take the Market-Frankford Line to 15th Street (that's just one stop), where you’ll transfer to the Broad Street Line at City Hall Station. Being a Met fan, you’ll notice that the MFL’s standard color is blue, while the BSL’s is orange. Blue and orange. Don’t think that means they want to make Met fans feel at home, though.
From City Hall, if you’re lucky, you’ll get an express train that will make just 2 stops, Walnut-Locust and AT&T (formerly "Pattison" -- yes, they sold naming rights to one of their most important subway stations). But you’ll want to save your luck for the game itself, so don’t be too disappointed if you get a local, which will make 7 stops: Walnut-Locust, Lombard-South, Ellsworth-Federal, Tasker-Morris, Oregon, Snyder and AT&T. The local should take about 10 minutes, the express perhaps 7 minutes.
If you don’t want to take Amtrak, your other rail option is local. At Penn Station, you can buy a combined New Jersey Transit/SEPTA ticket to get to Center City Philadelphia. Take NJT’s Northeast Corridor Line out of Penn Station to the Trenton Transit Center. This station recently completed a renovation that has already turned it from an absolute hole (it was so bad, it made Philly’s bus station look like Grand Central) into a modern multimodal transport facility. At Trenton, transfer to the SEPTA R7 train that will terminate at Chestnut Hill East. Because there will be a lot more stops than there are on Amtrak (especially the SEPTA part), it will take 2 hours and 40 minutes, but you’ll spend $49 round-trip, only a little more than what you'd spend on a same-day purchase on Greyhound, and less than half of what you’d be likely to spend on Amtrak.
And if you are riding NJT and SEPTA, you’ll still get to 30th Street Station, but you’ll need to bypass it and keep going to the next stop, Suburban Station at 17th Street & John F. Kennedy Blvd. (which is what Filbert Street is called west of Broad Street). Getting off there, a pedestrian concourse will lead you to the City Hall station on the Broad Street Line, and then just take that to Pattison.
The subway’s cars are fairly recent, and don’t rattle much, although they can be unpleasant on the way back from the game, especially if it’s a football game and they’re rammed with about 100 Eagles fans who’ve spent the game sweating and boozing and are still loaded for bear for anyone from outside the Delaware Valley. It’s highly unlikely anyone will give you anything more than a little bit of verbal on the subway ride into the Sports Complex, while they might give a little more gusto to the verbal on the ride back. But despite Philly sports fans’ reputation, this will not be the equivalent of the London Underground on a Saturday afternoon in the 1980s: They might tell you that your team sucks (even if your team is ahead of theirs in the standings), but that’s about the worst you’ll get.
Once In the City. Philadelphia is a Greek word meaning "brotherly love," a name given to it by its founder, William Penn, in 1683. So the city is nicknamed "The City of Brotherly Love." The actions and words of its sports fans suggest that this is ridculous. Giants coach Bill Parcells was once caught on an NFL Films production, during a game with the Eagles at the Vet, saying to Lawrence Taylor, "You know, Lawrence, they call this 'the City of Brotherly Love,' but it's really a banana republic." And Emmitt Smith, who played for that other team Eagles fans love to hate, the Dallas Cowboys, also questioned the name: "They don't got no love for no brothers."
On a map, it might look like Penn Square, surrounding City Hall, is the centerpoint, but this is just geographic, and only half-refers to addresses. Market Street is the difference between the north-south numbering on the numbered Streets. But the Delaware River is the start for the east-west streets, with Front Street taking the place of 1st Street. Broad Street, which intersects with Market at City Hall/Penn Square, takes the place of 14th Street.
In the Colonial and Revolutionary periods, Philadelphia was the largest city in America, before being overtaken by New York. As recently as 1970, it had about 2 million people. But "white flight" after the 1964 North Philadelphia riot led to the population dropping to just over 1.5 million in 2000. It has inched back upward since then. The metro area as a whole -- southeastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey and most of Delaware -- is about 7 million, making it the 6th-largest in the country, behind New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston.
The sales tax is 6 percent in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Massachusetts, Virginia and Kentucky are also "commowealths" in their official State names), 8 percent within the City of Philadelphia.
Going In. The Philadelphia sports complex once included Sesquicentennial/Municipal/John F. Kennedy Stadium (1926-1992), The Spectrum (1967-2009), and Veterans Stadium (1971-2004). The arena now known as the Wells Fargo Center was built on the site of JFK Stadium. Citizens Bank Park, the new home of the Phillies, was built to the east of The Vet. And Lincoln Financial Field was built south of the new ballpark, and east of the Spectrum.
There is plenty of parking in the complex, including a lot on the site of The Vet. But you'll be a lot better off if you take the subway. Not really because of the price of parking: At $16, it's one of the cheaper fares in baseball. But traffic is going to be awful. The first time I went to a sporting event in Philadelphia, it was a 4th of July celebration at the Vet, and 58,000 people showed up to see the Phils face the Houston Astros, with Nolan Ryan pitching. The game and the fireworks combined did not last as long as it took to get out of the parking lot and onto the Walt Whitman Bridge: 2 hours and 40 minutes. Trust me: Take the freakin' subway.
Coming out of the AT&T subway station, you’ll walk down Pattison Avenue, with a parking lot on the former site of Veterans Stadium to your left, and the site of the Spectrum, the 1967-1996 76ers & Flyers arena, to your right.
Further to your right is the successor to the Spectrum, the Wells Fargo Center. This building is 18 years old and is now under its 5th name. It was built on the site of John F. Kennedy Stadium, formerly Municipal Stadium, a 105,000-seat structure that hosted all kinds of events, from the Army-Navy Game to heavyweight title fights (Gene Tunney taking the title away from Jack Dempsey in 1926 and Rocky Marciano doing the same to Jersey Joe Walcott in 1952), from the occasional Eagles game that was too big for Shibe Park in the 1940s and ’50s to the U.S. half of Live Aid in 1985. And it hosted the Phils’ victory celebration in 1980, with its huge capacity coming in handy.
By that point, it was crumbling, and it surprised no one when it was demolished to make way for the new arena. The 76ers and Flyers moved in for the 1996 season. The Republican Party had their Convention there in 2000, nominating George W. Bush; the Democratic Party will meet there in 2016.
Continuing on Pattison Avenue until 11th Street, Citizens Bank Park will be on your left, and the new home of the Eagles, Lincoln Financial Field (a.k.a. The Linc), will be on your right. CBP has 6 statues, 4 of them outside. A statue of old-time Athletics owner-manager Connie Mack that was first placed outside the stadium named for him, and later moved to the Vet, now stands outside the 3rd base stands. One of 1970s-80s Phillies slugger Mike Schmidt is outside the 3rd base gate. One of 1950s Phils ace Robin Roberts is outside the 1st base gate. And one of 1970s-80s Phils ace Steve Carlton is at the left field gate. I'll get to the two that are inside shortly.
Don’t be fooled by the map: Philadelphia International Airport is 4 miles from the Sports Complex, so you won’t get rattled by plane after plane after plane going overhead, like in Flushing Meadow.
Inside the park, concourses are wide and well-lit, a big departure from the Vet (as Citi Field’s are from Shea Stadium). Escalators are safe and nearly always work, as opposed to the Vet, which did not have escalators, only seemingly-endless ramps. Getting to your seat should be easy.
The park faces north, and buildings such as the Comcast Center (tallest building in Pennsylvania), One Liberty Place (tallest between New York and Chicago when it was completed in 1987), Two Liberty Place and City Hall (tallest in the world from 1901 to 1908) can be seen from seats behind home plate. The field, thankfully, is natural grass. Outfield distances are as follows: Left-field pole, 329; left-center, 374; deepest part of the park, left of dead center, 409; center, 401; right-center, 369; right-field pole, 330.
The longest home run at Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium isn't clear, as Jimmie Foxx (A's) and Dick Allen (Phillies) regularly launched drives over the double-decked bleachers in left field. Mickey Mantle also hit a couple of blasts over it, most notably in April 1953, a month in which he also crushed them out of the old parks in Washington (the alleged 565-footer) and St. Louis. Foxx and Lou Gehrig each hit a drive out to Shibe's distant center field corner, 447 feet away from home plate.
In spite of epic blasts by Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski (including hitting the replica of the Liberty Bell on the upper deck in 1972, leading to that area of seating being nicknamed the Bull Ring), the longest home run at the Vet was hit by Pittsburgh's Willie Stargell, in 1971, well over 500 feet, into the 600 Level. Which is only fair, because, while "Pops" had the longest homer at several stadiums, Luzinski had the longest at his home park, Three Rivers, in 1979. Ryan Howard, with a 505-foot blast in 2007, currently has the longest home run at Citizens Bank Park.
Citizens Bank Park hosted the NHL Winter Classic on January 2, 2012 -- the day after New Year's Day, because January 1 was a Sunday, and the NFL was finishing its regular season. The whole point of the Winter Classic isn't to evoke memories of childhood hockey on outdoor ponds, but to give the NHL a single day every season where it is the focus of attention -- its "Super Bowl" in midseason. The rink was laid out over the infield, dugout to dugout. Unfortunately, the Flyers lost to the one team I would want them to beat, the Rangers.
Food. From Old Original Bookbinder's (125 Walnut Street at 2nd, now closed) and Le Bec Fin (1523 Walnut at 16th) to the Reading Terminal Market (Philly's "South Street Seaport" at 51 N. 12th St at Filbert) to the South Philly cheesesteak giants Pat’s, Geno’s and Tony Luke’s, Philly is a great food city and don’t you ever forget it. The variety of food available at Citizens Bank Park is unbelievable. Little of it is healthy (no surprise there), but all of it is good.
Some of the best is at the outfield concourse known as Ashburn Alley, named for Richie "Whitey" Ashburn, the 1950s center fielder and longtime broadcaster (and original 1962 Met center fielder), whose statue is in the Alley beyond straightaway center field. In left field is Harry the K’s, a bar named for Ashburn’s former broadcast partner, the late Harry Kalas. A statue of Kalas, microphone in hand, is outside.
In right field is Bull’s BBQ, named for 1970s slugger Greg Luzinski, a takeoff on the Boog Powell concept at Baltimore’s Camden Yards, right down to the Bull himself often being there to pose for pictures with fans. And Luzinski’s stuff is better than Boog’s. Seriously: I've tried them both, and while Boog's is good, it's a little too spicy for my taste; as for Bull's, as my girl Rachael Ray would say, “Yum-O.”
Ashburn Alley also includes outlets of Tony Luke’s cheesesteaks, and another South Philly legend, Chickie’s & Pete’s. This is a seafood restaurant – or, should I say, “Dis is a fish joint” – famous for its “crab fries.” Turns out, it’s just French fries with Old Bay seasoning mix, not fries with crabmeat. They’re okay, nothing special; unlike Bull's BBQ (or Shake Shack), you shouldn't go out of your way to get some. Chickie’s & Pete’s has a restaurant near the Sports Complex at 1526 Packer Avenue; one on the Black Horse Pike in Egg Harbor near Atlantic City; one on the Wildwood Boardwalk; and one at Arm & Hammer Park, home of the Trenton Thunder, a Yankee farm team.
Team History Displays. Next to Ashburn’s statue is a display of every Phillie that has made the All-Star Team at each position -- as far as I know, this is a feature no other MLB team has at its park. Behind the Alley are their championship pennants: The 1980 and 2008 World Championships (red with white numbers); the 1915, 1950, 1983, 1993 and 2009 National League Pennants (blue with white numbers); and the 1976, 1977, 1978, 2007, 2010 and 2011 NL Eastern Division titles (white with blue numbers).
On the wall holding up these pennants are the Phils' retired numbers. In addition to the Number 42 retired for all of baseball for Jackie Robinson, they are: 1, Richie Ashburn; 14, 1960s pitcher Jim Bunning; 20, Mike Schmidt; 32, Steve Carlton; and 36, Robin Roberts. They also have "P" designations for pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander, who played before uniform numbers were worn, and for 1930s slugger Chuck Klein, who changed numbers so many times it wasn't worth retiring a single number for him.
Along the Alley is the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame. The Phillies used to honor one ex-Phillie and one ex-Athletic every season, with the exception of 1983, which was the Phils’ 100th Anniversary season. That year, they polled the fans for their Centennial Team, and posted a plaque with the winners on it. When they left the Vet, the A’s plaques were taken to a museum dedicated to the memory of the A’s, while each year still sees the induction of a new Phils hero.
Despite Ashburn having played his last season with the expansion Mets, the honoree most Met fans will be interested in is Tug McGraw, Met reliever in the 1969 and 1973 World Series, and the man who closed out so many games for the Phils, including the clinching Game 6 of the 1980 World Series. But “Ya gotta believe” that no Met fan will be interested in seeing Juan Samuel’s plaque on this wall.
As yet, Lenny Dykstra, whom the Mets foolishly traded for Samuel in 1989, has not been honored. Since "Nails" is now a convicted felon, and is now in prison for up to 3 years, his induction is not likely to come anytime soon. But, just as some members of the '86 Mets have been honored in the Mets Hall of Fame, so, too, are some of the '93 "Macho Row" Phils honored. The honorees are as follows:
From the 19th Century: Left fielder Ed Delahanty, right fielder Sam Thompson and center fielder Billy Hamilton.
From the early 20th Century: Right fielder Sherry Magee.
From the 1915 Pennant: Alexander and right fielder Clifford "Gavvy" Cravath.
From the 1920s, '30s and '40s: Klein and center fielder Cy Williams.
From the 1950 "Whiz Kids" Pennant: Roberts, Ashburn, left fielder Del Ennis, 2nd baseman Granville "Granny" Hamner, pitcher Curt Simmons, and 3rd baseman Willie "Puddin' Head" Jones.
From the 1964 near-miss: Bunning, pitcher Chris Short, 3rd/1st baseman Dick "Don't call me Richie!" Allen, right fielder Johnny Callison, 2nd baseman Tony Taylor, and broadcaster Ashburn.
From the 1980 World Champions: Carlton, Schmidt, Luzinski, McGraw, manager Dallas Green (who was also a pitcher on the '64 team), general manager Paul Owens, shortstop Larry Bowa, center fielder Garry Maddox, catcher Bob Boone, infielder John Vuckovich (later a longtime coach), and broadcasters Ashburn and Harry Kalas. MLB's ban on Pete Rose has prevented the Phils from officially honoring him in this way.
From the 1983 Pennant: Manager/GM Owens, Carlton, Schmidt, McGraw, Maddox, 2nd baseman Juan Samuel, and broadcasters Ashburn and Kalas.
From the 1993 Pennant: Catcher Darren Daulton, 1st baseman John Kruk, pitcher Curt Schilling, and broadcasters Ashburn and Kalas.
From the interregnum between the 1993 and 2008 Pennants: Catcher Mike Lieberthal and broadcaster Kalas.
Kalas, who died early the next season, is the only person yet honored from the 2008 title. Although he, like Kalas, has received the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford Frick Award, Byrum "By" Saam has not been elected to the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame. Bill Campbell, who also broadcast for the Phils, has received the broadcaster's award for the Basketball Hall of Fame.
On the other side of this wall is a history of the Phils’ former home fields: Recreation Park, 1883 to 1886; National League Park, 1887 to 1894 when it burned down; Baker Bowl, built on the site of National League Park in 1895 and abandoned in 1938; Shibe Park, built for the A’s in 1909, the Phils moved in during the 1938 season, renamed Connie Mack Stadium in 1952, the A’s left after 1954 and the Phils did so after 1970; and Veterans Stadium, 1971 to 2003.
In 1999, Schmidt and (despite his ban) Rose were named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. That same year, The Sporting News named them, Alexander, Klein, Roberts and Carlton to their 100 Greatest Players.
Stuff. The Phillies love to sell team-themed merchandise, from DVDs (including team histories and a tribute to Ashburn) to books to caps to jerseys to autographed balls. They sell stuffed Phanatic dolls and children's books with the Phanatic as the protagonist, written by Phanatic portrayer Tom Burgoyne, who succeeded original Phanatic Dave Raymond (who wore the outfit from 1978 to 1993). There's even a takeoff on the "build-a-bear" theme, "Build Your Own Phanatic." I don't think I've ever seen so much team merchandise available per square foot at any stadium or arena I’ve ever visited.
As yet, there is no Essential Games of the Philadelphia Phillies or Essential Games of Veterans Stadium DVD. But there are some terrific books written about the Phillies -- some favorable, such as You Can't Lose 'Em All: The Year the Phillies Finally Won the World Series (Frank Fitzpatrick's book about the 1980 team); some not so favorable, such as The Fall of the 1977 Phillies: How a Baseball Team's Collapse Sank a City's Spirit (Mitchell Nathanson's Philly answer to The Bronx Is Burning).
During the Game. This is not Veterans Stadium. You can wear your Met gear at CBP without fear of drunken bums physically hassling you. And you don’t have to worry about them making fun of your less-traditional Met gear (such as orange caps or black jerseys). If they do, just remind them that the Phillies' uniforms haven’t always been classy red-pinstripe jobs. (The 76ers have had some whacked-out togs as well, and don’t even get me started on the Flyers’ 1980s duds. Seriously, long pants for hockey?)
The Mets and Phillies have hardly ever both been good at the same time. This is a good thing, considering the proximity of the two cities. Giants vs. Eagles has been very nasty at times. (The one Eagles game I ever saw at the Vet was the 2001 season finale, when a furious Giant comeback fell just short and the Eagles won the NFC East. It was Christmas/New Year’s week, it was about zero degrees, and the only hot things were the coffee, the hot chocolate, and the tempers.) The Flyers have had hard rivalries with all 3 New York Tri-State Area hockey teams: In the 1970s and ‘80s, Rangers-Flyers was always good for a punch-up, either on the ice or in the stands, Garden or Spectrum; the Islanders beat the Flyers to win their first Stanley Cup in 1980 (do not mention the name of referee Leon Stickle to a Philadelphian), and fans of the Devils and Flyers have been going at it hammer and tongs pretty much since the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals. (I don’t think Ron Hextall has seen that 65-foot wobbler off the stick of Claude Lemieux yet.)
But the Mets and Phillies? I saw the matchup twice at the Vet, and on neither occasion did I see anybody get rough with anybody else. (And on neither occasion did the Mets win -- in fact, in both games they blew a lead.) Of the 5 seasons with the most combined wins for the Mets and Phils, 3 were 2006, ’07 and ’08. The top 2 were 1986, when the Mets won 108 and the Phils 86; and 1976, when the Phils won 101 and the Mets 86. To this day, 2008 is the only season in which both teams won as many as 88, and only 8 times in their 51 years of joint existence have both teams even finished above .500 – 4 of those, half, from 2005 to 2008. And 1986 and 2006 are the only seasons in which the Mets and Phils have finished 1st and 2nd, in that order; and 2007 and 2008 are the only times it was the other way around. While the Yankees and the Philadelphia Athletics had a real rivalry in the first half of the 20th Century, especially from 1927 to 1932, Mets vs. Phillies simply hasn't been of the same caliber.
So, unlike the hatred that exists between Philly fans and the New York Giants (football edition), the Dallas Cowboys, the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the New York-area hockey teams (but not between the 76ers and Knicks or Nets), Mets-Phils is still a recent thing in terms of a rivalry. As a result, while I can’t guarantee anything, you will probably be safe.
Except, maybe, from the Phillie Phanatic. He might come into your section and razz you a bit, but, since he’s supposed to be silent, it’ll be limited to gestures. Nothing obscene, of course, since he’s supposed to be there to entertain kids. But he might blow the kazoo streamer that serves as his “tongue” out of his nose and hit you with it. Usually, though, there’s an usher nearby in case the Phanatic makes a mistake and does it too hard. (This wouldn’t be unprecedented, though: For this and other reasons, he is the most-sued mascot in sports history.)
During the 7th inning stretch, after “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is played, the Phanatic and two young lady ushers will jump up onto the roof of the Phils’ dugout and dance to some song or other. In the 1980s and early ‘90s, it was usually “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry. Now they mix the songs up, and it could be anything from the 1950s up to the present day. The Phanatic usually stays on the dugout roof for the entire bottom of the 7th, and gets back on in the top of the 9th (if the Phils are winning) or the bottom (if they're losing or tied).
If a Phillie hits a home run, the big white Liberty Bell replica over right-center field will light up, and sway from side to side as it “tolls,” complete with sound effects, while fireworks (something Philly knows a bit about) shoot off from the roof. This will also happen at the end of the game if the Phillies win. This bell replaces the one that used to hang from the outfield roof of the Vet, and before that from the Vet’s mezzanine until Luzinski hit it with a home run. (I wonder if it cracked on impact?)
An interesting feature is included in the out-of-town scoreboard: Minor-league games. A running score is kept of the Phils’ farm teams, some of which are not that far away: The Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs in Allentown, the Double-A Reading Phillies, and the Single-A Lakewood BlueClaws near the Jersey Shore. As far as I know, the Yankees and the Mets have never done this, despite each having, since 2001, a farm team actually in The City (the Staten Island Yankees and the Brooklyn Cyclones).
If the Phillies win, they'll play a version of the Frank Sinatra song "High Hopes," sung by Kalas during a locker room victory celebration in the Pennant season of 1993.
After the Game. Philadelphia is a big city, with all the difficulties of big cities as well as many of the perks of them. Especially at night, the risk of Phils fans getting rough increases, as they’ve had time to drink, but not by much. If it were an Eagles or Flyers game, you might have to worry, but probably not after a Phillies game. After all, just because they like to call CBP “the National League’s answer to Fenway Park” (it isn’t, Wrigley Field is), doesn’t mean that they’ll act like the drunken boors of Kenmore Square.
What you should do at the end of the game depends on what time it is and how you got there. Except for non-ESPN Sundays, the occasional Thursday afternoon “Businessperson’s Special,” and rain-forced day/night doubleheaders, all Phillies home games are night games.
If you took the train(s) down, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting back onto the subway, and to Suburban Station, in time to catch the 10:45 PM SEPTA R7 back to Trenton, which will allow you to get the 12:10 AM NJ Transit train back to New York, arriving at Penn Station at 1:35 AM. If, for whatever reason (extra innings, you stopped somewhere along the way, something else), you end up missing this train, there will be another an hour later, but the NJT train it connects to at Trenton at will be the last train of the night.
If you drove down, and you want to stop off for a late dinner and/or drinks (except, of course, for the designated driver), the nearby Holiday Inn at 9th Street & Packer Avenue has a bar that is co-owned by former Eagles quarterback, now ESPN pundit, Ron Jaworski. As I mentioned earlier, the original outlet of Chickie’s & Pete’s is at 15th & Packer. Right next to it is a celebrated joint, named, appropriately enough, Celebre Pizzeria.
(The legend is true: Richie Ashburn and his broadcast partners, Harry Kalas, Chris Wheeler and Andy Musser mentioned their great-tasting pizzas on the air so often that, since Phils broadcasts were then sponsored by a pizzeria chain, they couldn’t mention Celebre’s anymore. So, just as Ashburn’s New York counterpart, Phil Rizzuto, liked to mention birthdays and food, especially Italian food, on the air, “Whitey” rattled off a few birthday wishes, and said, “And I’d like to wish a Happy Birthday to the Celebre’s twins, Plain and Pepperoni! Say, Wheels, how old are Plain and Pepperoni?” And Wheeler said, “Oh, about 20 minutes, I hope!” Sure enough, 20 minutes later, the delivery of the 2 pizzas was made. And nobody fired Richie Ashburn -- although he died from a diabetes-induced heart attack in 1997, and his eyesight was already getting bad enough that he was getting pressured to retire, and was considering it. He died at the Grand Hyatt adjacent to Grand Central, during a Phils roadtrip to play the Mets -- and he wasn't alone as initially reported: He had his mistress with him.)
The legendary Pat's and Geno's Steaks, arch-rivals as intense as any local sports opponents, are across 9th Street from each other at Passyunk Avenue in the Italian Market area. My preference is Pat's, but Geno's is also very good. Be advised, though, that the lines at both are of Shake Shack length, because people know they're that good. Also, Pat's was "the original Soup Nazi": You have to have your cash ready, and you have to quickly order your topping, your style of cheese, and either "wit" or "widdout" -- with or without onions. I haven't been there in a while, but I've been there often enough that I have a "usual": "Mushroom, whiz, wit." Both Pat's and Geno's are open 24 hours, but, because of the length of the line, unless you drove down to the game, I would recommend not going there after the game, only before (if you can make time for it). Broad Street Line to Ellsworth-Federal, then 5 blocks east on Federal, and 1 block south on 9th.
There is one place I know of in Philadelphia that caters to New York fans: The Tavern on Broad, at 200 S. Broad Street at Walnut, seems to be the headquarters of the local Giants fan club. A particular favorite restaurant of mine is the New Deck Tavern, at 3408 Sansom Street in University City, on the Penn campus. You can also pick up a sandwich, a snack or a drink at any of several Wawa stores in and around the city. If you came in via Suburban Station, there's one at 1707 Arch, a 5-minute walk away; if the game lasts 3 hours or less, you have a shot at getting in, getting your order, getting out, and getting back to the station in time to catch your train.
Sidelights. The Philadelphia sports complex once included 3 buildings that have all been replaced and demolished: From north to south, the Vet, the Spectrum and JFK Stadium. The arena now known as the Wells Fargo Center was built on the site of JFK Stadium. Citizens Bank Park, the new home of the Phillies, was built to the east of The Vet. And Lincoln Financial Field was built south of the new ballpark, and east of the Spectrum.
* Sesquicentennial/Municipal/JFK Stadium. Built in 1926 for a 150th Anniversary (Sesquicentennial of American independence) world's fair in Philadelphia, this 105,000-seat horseshoe (open at the north end) was designed for football, but one of its earliest events was a fight for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. For the 1st time, that title changed hands on a decision, rather than on a knockout. But Gene Tunney so decisively outfought champion Jack Dempsey that no one disputed it. (When they had their rematch a year later, at Soldier Field in Chicago, that was another story.)
The stadium was renamed Municipal Stadium in 1931 (sometimes it was called simply Philadelphia Stadium), and, due to being (roughly) halfway between the service academies, became the site of the Army-Navy Game from 1936 to 1941, and again from 1945 to 1979, before it was moved to The Vet.
The Eagles played home games there from 1936 to 1939, and select games thereafter, including the 1950 season opener that was, as soccer fans would call it, a "Charity Shield" game: The 2-time defending NFL Champion Eagles vs. the Cleveland Browns, 4-time titlists in the All-America Football Conference. The Browns were 47-4-3 over the AAFC's 4-season history; the Eagles, 22-3-1 over the last 2 years, thanks to a 5-2 alignment that was the 1st defensive unit to have a memorable nickname: Before San Diego and Los Angeles had a Fearsome Foursome, Philly had a Suicide Seven.
Some people then called it "The Game of the Century," and some now think of as an unofficial "first Super Bowl" -- ironic, since neither team has won an NFL Championship in the Super Bowl era, and the Browns haven't even been to a Super Bowl yet. Playing on a Saturday night -- making it, sort of, not just "the 1st Super Bowl" but "the 1st Monday Night Football game" -- in front of 71,237 fans, still the largest crowd ever to watch a football game in Philadelphia (and nearly double the capacity of Shibe Park, which really limited the Eagles' attendance), the Browns beat the Eagles 35-10, stunning football fans all over the nation. The Eagles never recovered, while the Browns won the NFL title that year, and appeared in 7 title games in 8 years, winning 3.
In 1964, Municipal Stadium was renamed John F. Kennedy Stadium. On August 16, 1966, the Beatles played there. On July 13, 1985, it hosted the American end of Live Aid. But that show exposed to the world that it already falling apart. The Rolling Stones, who had packed the place on their 1981 Tattoo You tour, chose the considerably smaller Vet for Steel Wheels in 1989. It was demolished in 1992, and the new arena opened on the site in 1996.
* The Spectrum. This modern (for its time) arena opened in 1967, and 2 teams at the opposite ends of the competitive, uh, spectrum moved in: The 76ers, the NBA's defending Champions; and the Flyers, an NHL expansion team. Although the Flyers won inspirational (and confrontational) Stanley Cups in 1974 and '75, they also lost in the Finals in 1976, '80, '85 and '87. And while the Sixers won the 1983 NBA title in a dominating season-long performance, they also lost in the Finals in 1977, '80 and '82, and were lost after a couple of puzzling Draft Day trades in 1986.
The Spectrum hosted the NCAA Final Four in 1976 and 1981, both times won by Bobby Knight's Indiana. Since 1976 was the Bicentennial year, it also hosted the NBA and NHL All-Star Games. The Vet also hosted baseball's All-Star Game that year. And the Spectrum was the site of both fights between Philly native Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed, the former in the first Rocky, on New Year's Day 1976, and the latter in Rocky II, on Thanksgiving of that year. (All the movies' fights were actually filmed at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, due to its proximity to Hollywood.)
The Spectrum was also a big arena for college basketball: Villanova used it for home games that were too big for its on-campus Pavilion, the Atlantic 10 Conference used it for its tournament, and it hosted NCAA Tournament games at the sub-Final Four level, including the 1992 thriller that put Duke into the Final Four at Kentucky's expense, thanks to the last-second shot of Christian Laettner. The first rock concert there was by Cream, on their 1968 farewell tour. The last, and the last public event there, was by Pearl Jam in 2009.
The Spectrum became, in the words of its promoters, "America's Showplace" and the most-used sports arena in the world. This was a blessing and a curse: They could make a lot of money off of it, but it was limited. So Spectacor, the company that owned the Spectrum and the Sixers, built Spectrum II -- which, in a series of naming-rights changes due to bigger banks swallowing old ones, became the CoreStates Center, the First Union Center (Flyer fans loved calling it "the F.U. Center"), the Wachovia Center and now the Wells Fargo Center.
From 1996 to 2009, the arenas stood side-by-side. The main Spectrum tenants said goodbye as follows: The Flyers with an exhibition game on September 27, 2008, with all their former Captains on hand, as the Fly Guys beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2; Villanova with the building's last college basketball game on January 28, 2009, a win over the University of Pittsburgh; and on March 13, 2009, the Sixers beat the Chicago Bulls 104-101 in a special regular-season game.
The Spectrum was demolished the next year, and replaced in part with a live concert venue called "Xfinity Live!" (Yes, the exclamation point is included in the official name.) This structure now hosts the statues that were outside the Spectrum: For Julius Erving, for Kate Smith, and a statue titled "Score!" depicting Gary Dornhoefer's overtime goal against the Minnesota North Stars in the 1973 Playoffs. The statue of Sylvester Stallone as Rocky was moved, appropriately enough, to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, not far from the steps he ran up in every movie. A hotel is planned for the rest of the Spectrum site.
* Veterans Stadium. When it opened on April 10, 1971, it was considered state of the art and wonderful. And, as the Phillies had a great team from 1976 to 1983, reaching 6 postseasons in 8 years, winning 2 Pennants and the 1980 World Series, it became beloved by Phils fans. The Eagles, too, had a resurgence in the late 1970s, and hosted and won the 1980 NFC Championship Game. The Vet was seen as everything that Connie Mack Stadium was not: New instead of old, in good shape instead of falling apart, in a safe place instead of a ghetto (unless you were a New York Giants or Dallas Cowboys fan), and representative of victory instead of defeat.
The Eagles had a down period in the mid-1980s, but rebounded toward the end of the decade. But the Phils had collapsed, and the Vet's faults began to be seen: It was ugly, the sight lines were bad for baseball, and the turf was bad for everything, from eyes to knees. By the time the Phils won the Pennant in 1993, Camden Yards had opened just down the road in Baltimore, and suddenly everyone wanted a "retro park," and no one wanted a "cookie-cutter stadium."
It took a few more years, and a lot of complaints from opposing NFL players that the stadium was deteriorating and the turf was dangerous, for a new stadium to be approved. The Eagles closed the Vet out with a shocking and devastating loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2002 NFC Championship Game, and the Phils did so with a loss to the Atlanta Braves on September 28, 2003. The Eagles had already moved into their new stadium by that point, and the Phils moved into theirs the next April, a few days after the Vet's demolition. The baseball and football sculptures that were outside have been placed on Pattison Avenue, in front of the parking lot where the Vet once stood.
The Vet hosted the Army-Navy Game every year from 1980 to 2001, except for 1983, 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2000. (The 1983 game was played at the Rose Bowl, the 2000 game at the new Ravens' stadium in Baltimore, and the rest, as well as the 2002 game, at the Meadowlands.) Various pro soccer teams, including the North American Soccer League's Philadelphia Atoms, also played there.
* Wells Fargo Center. Despite having 5 different names in its 1st 15 years, this arena, built on the site of JFK Stadium, is a big improvement over the Spectrum, which had a common flaw in arenas built in the 1960s, '70s and '80s: Two levels of seats but only one level of concourse. The Fargo has a lot more concourse space, and even a sellout doesn't feel cramped.
Since it opened, the Flyers have made their sport's Finals twice, in 1997 and 2010; the Sixers, once, in 2001; all 3 were lost. While the new arena is much more comfortable for the fans, it's not especially intimidating: The sound doesn't carry as well as it did in the Spectrum. No opposing hockey player is afraid of the noise that Flyer fans make anymore, the Sixers don't exactly have a good home-court advantage, and as for anyone being afraid of Villanova, well, be serious.
The arena includes a statue of Philly native, and former Warriors and Sixers star, Wilt Chamberlain, dedicated a few years after his death in 1999. (Dr. J got his statue shortly after he retired.) It hosted the Republican National Convention in 2000, nominating George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. So if you need a reason to dislike the place, there's a good one.
* Lincoln Financial Field. The new home of the Eagles has seen them make the Playoffs more often than not, and reach the Super Bowl in the 2004 season. And fan behavior, while still rowdy, is not as criminal as it was at The Vet: No more municipal court under the stands is necessary.
"The Linc" has hosted the Army-Navy Game every year since it opened, except for 2007 and 2011. It will also not host it this year or in 2016, as Baltimore will on those occasions. It's hosted 3 games of the U.S. National Soccer Team, an MLS All-Star Game, and several games by touring European teams such as Manchester United, Glasgow Celtic and A.C. Milan.
If you drove down, or you came by train early on Saturday and have the whole day to yourself before a 7:05 gametime, in addition to the other stadiums and arenas at the Sports Complex, there are lots of interesting locations for you to check out. Remember that, although the city's centerpoint is technically Broad & Market Streets, where City Hall is, the numbering of north-south streets starts at the Delaware River, so that Broad takes the place of 14th Street.
* Deliverance Evangelistic Church. This was the site of Shibe Park, renamed Connie Mack Stadium in 1952. This is where the A's played from 1909 to 1954, the Phils from 1938 to 1970, and the Eagles in 1940, and from 1942 to 1957. The A's played World Series there in 1910, '11, '12, '13, '14, '29, '30 and '31, and the Phils (against the Yanks) in '50.
The Eagles played and won the 1948 NFL Championship Game there, beating the Chicago Cardinals 7-0 in a snowstorm, and also won the NFL title in '49 (though the title game was played in Los Angeles against the Rams). The Frankford Yellow Jackets sometimes used it in the 1920s, winning the 1926 NFL Championship. On October 14, 1948, shortly after Israel declared its independence, its national soccer team faced the U.S. at Shibe Park, shortly after doing so at Yankee Stadium. These were Israel's 1st 2 matches, and the U.S. won them both.
Be advised, though, that this is North Philly, and the church is easily the nicest building for several blocks around. Across the street is Dobbins Tech, a high school known for its great basketball program. (Remember the story of Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble? They went to Dobbins. So did Dawn Staley.) 21st Street & Lehigh Avenue. By subway, use the North Philadelphia station on the Broad Street Line, and walk 7 blocks west on Lehigh.
* Site of Baker Bowl. This was where the Phils played from 1887 to 1938, and the Eagles from 1933 to 1943 (though sometimes moving to Municipal Stadium, the one renamed for JFK). The Phils won one Pennant there, in 1915. It was also the Eagles' 1st home, in the 1933, '34 and '35 seasons.
Southwest corner of Broad Street and Lehigh Avenue, 8 blocks east of the Connie Mack Stadium site. Same subway stop as Shibe/Connie Mack. The A's original home, Columbia Park, is at 29th Street & Columbia Avenue, but I wouldn't recommend going there. If you're going to any of these, do it in daylight.
* The Palestra. Built in 1927, this is the arena aptly nicknamed the Cathedral of Basketball. It even has stained-glass windows. (I swear, I am not making that up.) The home gymnasium of the University of Pennsylvania (or just "Penn"), it also hosts some games of Philly's informal "Big 5" basketball programs when they play each other: Penn, Temple, La Salle, St. Joseph's and Villanova.
Penn, a member of the Ivy League, has one of the nicest college campuses anywhere, but do not be fooled by its Ivyness: In Philadelphia, even the Ivy Leaguers are tough. 235 South 33rd Street. Take the "Subway-Surface Line" trolley, either the Number 11, 13, 34 or 36, to the 33rd Street stop.
As I said, Philadelphia has hosted 2 NCAA Final Fours, both at the Spectrum. 'Nova has made it 4 times: 1939, 1971, 1985 and 2009. La Salle made it in back-to-back years, 1954 and 1955. Temple made it in 1956 and 1958, although never under legendary coach John Chaney. St. Joe's made it in 1961, and just missed in 2004. Penn made it in 1979, under future Detroit Pistons coach Chuck Daly. Temple won the NIT in 1938, but the only Philly-based National Champions under the NCAA banner (which began in 1939) are La Salle in 1954 and 'Nova in 1985.
* Franklin Field, right next to the Palestra. The oldest continuously-used college football site, Penn has played here since 1895 (which is also when the Penn Relay Carnival, the nation's premier track-and-field event, began), and in the current stadium since 1922. That year, it supposedly hosted the first football game ever broadcast on radio (a claim the University of Pittsburgh disputes), and in 1939 it supposedly hosted the first football game ever televised (a claim New York’s Columbia University disputes). The amazing building in the west end zone is the University administration building.
The original Franklin Field was the 1st midpoint/neutral site game for Army vs. Navy: 1899 to 1904, 1906 to 1912, and 1914. The current structure hosted it in 1922, and 1932 to 1935, before it was moved to Municipal/JFK Stadium.
The Eagles played here from 1958 to 1970, including their last NFL Championship, December 26, 1960, beating the Green Bay Packers in a thriller, 17-13. Half a century. Penn’s football team has been considerably more successful, having won 14 Ivy League titles since the league was formally founded in 1955.
The stadium is in surprisingly good shape (must be all those Penn/Wharton Business School grads donating for its upkeep), although the playing field has been artificial turf since 1969. Same trolley stop as the Palestra.
* Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. This was the site of the Philadelphia Civic Center, including the Convention Hall, where Franklin D. Roosevelt was nominated for President by the Democrats in 1936, Wendell Willkie by the Republicans in 1940 and both Harry Truman and Thomas E. Dewey were nominated in 1948 – that year’s Republican Convention being the first televised convention. It was built on the site of the Exposition Auditorium, where the Republicans renominated William McKinley in 1900.
(The Democrats met in Atlantic City at the Convention Hall, now named Boardwalk Hall, in 1964, nominating Lyndon Johnson. 2301 Boardwalk at Mississippi Avenue. New Jersey Transit Atlantic City Line from 30th Street Station. The Beatles played there a few days before.)
The Beatles played here on September 2, 1964. Pope John Paul II said Mass here. The Philadelphia Warriors played here from 1952 to 1962, when they moved to San Francisco (and now the "Golden State Warriors" play in Oakland), and the 76ers from 1963 until the Spectrum opened in 1967. Titles were won here by the 1956 Warriors and the 1967 76ers. The Philadelphia Blazers played the 1st World Hockey Association season here, 1972-73, but were terrible, and with the Flyers on the way up, nobody wanted to see the WHA team. They moved to Vancouver the next season.
So many Philly area greats played here, in high school, college and the pros, but you need know one name -- pardon the pun -- above all others: Wilt Chamberlain. I saw a concert here in 1989, and the acoustics were phenomenal, with a horseshoe of seats and a stage at one end, much like Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City and the building once known as the Baltimore Civic Center.
Built in 1931, it was demolished in 2005 to make way for an addition to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. 34th Street & Civic Center Boulevard. Same stop as the Palestra and Franklin Field, which are a block away.
* Site of Philadelphia Arena. Built in 1920, this was the first home of the NBA's Warriors from 1946 to 1952, and site of some 76ers home games as well. It seated only 6,500 at its peak, so the Civic Center and later the Spectrum were preferable.
The worst team in NHL history played there: The 1930-31 Philadelphia Quakers. After 5 seasons as the Pittsburgh Pirates, they clowned their way to a record of 4 wins, 40 losses and 4 ties, making them about as bad as the worst team in NBA history, the 1972-73 76ers (9-73). They were strapped during this 2nd indoor sports season of the Great Depression, and went out of business thereafter. Although several minor-league teams would play at the Arena, it would not be until 1967, with the opening of the Spectrum and the beginning of the Flyers, that Philly would have another NHL team.
Philly's ABC affiliate, Channel 6, formerly WFIL and now WPVI, built its studio next-door. It still stands. The Arena does not: It caught fire on August 24, 1983, and had to be demolished. A housing project is on the site today. 4530 Market Street. Market Street Line to 46th Street.
* PPL Park. Built in 2010 for the expansion Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer, it seats 18,500 people, on the bank of the Delaware River in Chester, under the Commodore Barry Bridge (U.S. Route 222), linking it with Gloucester County, New Jersey. (UPDATE: In 2015, PPL was bought out by Talen Energy, and the stadium was renamed Talen Energy Stadium.)
The main supporters' section is called the River End, and is home to The Sons of Ben. The group named themselves after Benjamin Franklin, and they created an alternate logo for the team, showing a skull, with a Liberty Bell-style crack in it, wearing Franklin's hairstyle and bifocals, on a kite-shaped background. Of course, fans of the rival New York Red Bulls and D.C. United tend to call them The Daughters of Betsy -- after Ross. The U.S. national team played Colombia there on October 12, 2010, but lost.
1 Stadium Drive, in Chester. SEPTA R2 train to Highland Avenue (not to the Chester Transportation Center), then a 15-minute walk. If you're only going for a visit, not a game when there would be plenty of police protection, do not visit at night: Chester can be a dangerous city.
* Temple University. Straddling the border between Center City and the mostly-black North Philadelphia ghetto, Temple has given thousands of poor urban kids a chance to make something of themselves, including comedian Bill Cosby, who ran track for the school, including in the Penn Relays at Franklin Field.
Temple now plays basketball at the Liacouras Center, at 1776 N. Broad Street, across from its former arena, McGonigle Hall, at 1800. Broad Street Line to Cecil B. Moore station.
The Owls have played football at the South Philly complex since 1978, first at The Vet and now at the Linc. From 1928 to 1977, they played at Temple Stadium, a 20,000-seat facility on the city's northern edge. On September 25, 1968, the U.S. soccer team played Israel to a draw there. It was demolished in 1996, and, like Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium, the site is now home to a church. 2800 Pickering Avenue at Vernon Road. Broad Street Line to Olney Transportation Center, then transfer to the Number 18 bus toward Cedarbook Mall.
* LaSalle University. All of Philly's Big 5 basketball universities are private; unlike Penn and Temple, La Salle, St. Joe's and 'Nova are Catholic. LaSalle is in the northernmost reaches of the city, its bookstore at 1900 W. Olney Avenue, and its new Tom Gola Arena, named for their late 1950s superstar and 1960s coach, and 2100 W. Olney. Broad Street Line to Olney Transportation Center.
* St. Joseph's University. St. Joe's straddles the western edge of the city, on a hill bisected by City Line Avenue. Their fieldhouse, now named the Michael J. Hagan Arena, is at 2450 N. 54th Street, and features a plaque commemorating a 1967 speech by Martin Luther King. Number 44 bus from Center City.
* Villanova University. Famously, they played a Big 5 game against St. Joe's at the Palestra a few years back, having beaten each of the other Big 5 schools, and, pulling away, their fans chanted, "We own Philly!" The St. Joe's fans, no fools, reminded them of their location, in the town of Villanova, 18 miles northwest of Center City: "You ain't Philly!"
Jake Nevin Field House, their home at the time of their 1985 National Championship, and The Pavilion, which that success allowed them to build, are next to each other, along with their bookstore, at 800 E. Lancaster Avenue. They also have a 12,500-seat stadium for their Division I-AA football team. SEPTA R5 commuter rail to Villanova Station.
Of the Big 5, only Temple plays Division I-A football: Temple, 'Nova and LaSalle play I-AA, and while St. Joseph's Prep has one of the better programs in Philly-area high school football, their collegiate namesake doesn't play football at all.
* Spike's Trophies. When the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society closed its facility in the northern suburb of Hatboro, they moved their operations, and the plaques honoring A's greats that used to be on the concourse wall at the Vet, to this store near Northeast Philadelphia Airport. 2701 Grant Avenue at Ashton Road. Market-Frankford Line to Frankford Transportation Center, then transfer to Number 50 Bus.
* Laurel Hill Cemetery. This is the final resting place of former Phillies manager Harry Wright, who founded the 1st professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, in 1869; and of longtime broadcaster Harry Kalas. 215 Belmont Avenue in Bala Cynwyd, not far from the St. Joe's campus. Use the Number 44 bus to get to both.
* Gladwyne Methodist Church. Kalas' longtime broadcast partner, the Hall of Fame center fielder Richie "Whitey" Ashburn, is laid to rest here. 316 Righters Mill Road in Gladwyne. The Number 44 bus can also be used for this.
* Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. This is the final resting place of Connie Mack. 3301 W. Cheltenham Avenue. Broad Street Line to Olney Transportation Center, then Number 22 bus.
Philadelphia is home to Independence National Historic Park, including Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The Visitor's Center is at 6th & Market Streets: At this complex, there will be people there to advise you on what to do. 5th Street on the Market Street Line.
The President's House -- that's as formal a name as it had -- was where George Washington (1790-97) and John Adams (1797-1800) lived while Philadelphia was the national capital before Washington, D.C.. It was demolished in 1832. When digging to build the new Liberty Bell Center, the house's foundation was found, and somebody must've asked, "Why didn't anybody think of this before?" So, an exhibit has been set up, at 530 Market Street at 6th. The new Liberty Bell Center is between it and Independence Hall (Chestnut Street between 5th and 6th). Be advised that since 9/11 -- and since the movie National Treasure -- they're understandably a bit finicky about security there.
The oldest surviving Presidential residence (chosen specifically for the President, not counting homes like Mount Vernon or Monticello) is the Germantown White House, which still stands at 5442 Germantown Avenue. George Washington and John Adams used it to escape the heat and, more importantly, the yellow fever epidemics of what's now Center City Philadelphia, making it less "the first Summer White House" and more "the first Camp David." SEPTA R7 to Germantown, then 3 blocks down Armat Street and a left on Germantown Avenue. Definitely not safe at night.
Speaking of George Washington, Valley Forge National Historical Park is just an hour's bus ride from Suburban Station. On JFK Blvd. at 17th Street, board the SEPTA 125 bus. Valley Forge Casino Resort and the King of Prussia Mall are a short drive (or a moderate walk) away. The fare is $4.75 each way ($9.50 total).
Only one President has ever come from Pennsylvania, and he might be the worst one of all: James Buchanan, whose Administration began with the Panic of 1857 and ended with the secession of several Southern States. (Whether Buchanan was gay has been debated since even before he became President, but the evidence is flimsy.) His home, Wheatland, still stands at 1120 Marietta Avenue in Lancaster, and he's buried about a mile away in Greenwood Cemetery. But Lancaster, the heart of "Pennsylvania Dutch Country," is 80 miles west of Philly. It's a cheap trip by Amtrak standards, but unless you've always wanted to visit the area, or you're a big history buff, I'd suggest forgetting about it if you're pressed for time.
The Musical Fund Hall hosted the 1st Republican National Convention in 1856, nominating John C. Fremont for President. (He lost to Buchanan.) It was one of many historical meetings at this building, which has stood since 1824. 808 Locust Street, Center City. The Academy of Music hosted their 1872 Convention, renominating President Ulysses S. Grant. It opened in 1857, and hosted the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1900 to 2001, when the Kimmel Center opened across Locust Street. 240 S. Broad Street, Center City.
And the Walnut Street Theatre, which opened in 1809 and is the oldest continuously operating theater in America, hosted the 1st Presidential Debate of the 1976 campaign, between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. 825 Walnut Street, Center City.
Philadelphia's answer to the Museum of Natural History is the University of Pennsylvania Museum, at 33rd & South Streets, across from Franklin Field. (Same trolley stop.) Their answer to the Hayden Planetarium -- and a better one -- is the Franklin Institute, which is also the national memorial to Big Ben, the man who, more than any man made any city in the Western Hemisphere, made Philadelphia. 20th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Number 76 bus. 76, get it? The bus is nicknamed "The Ben FrankLine."
At the other end of the Parkway, at 25th and Spring Garden Streets, is Philly's answer to the Metropolitan, the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Rocky Balboa statue is here, and it doesn't cost anything except sweat to run up the steps.
The chocolate city of Hershey, Pennsylvania is 95 miles west of Center City, and only 15 miles east of the State Capitol in Harrisburg. The smell of chocolate wafts over the city, and is the source of the nickname "The Sweetest Place On Earth." Amtrak goes from 30th Street station to Harrisburg and nearby Middletown (the home of the infamous Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, which is still in operation and hasn't had an incident since the one in 1979), but if you want to go to any prominent place in Hersey, you'll have to rely on local bus service.
There are 4 prominent places. There's the Hershey's chocolate factory. There's Hersheypark amusement park. There's Hersheypark Stadium is a 15,641-seat high school football stadium, opened in 1939. On May 9, 1990, the U.S. soccer team beat Poland there. Most notably, Hersheypark Arena, formerly Hershey Sports Arena, which now seats 7,286 people. The Warriors and 76ers played a few home games here, including the March 2, 1962 contest between the Warriors and the Knicks, when Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points.
The minor-league Hershey Bears used it from its opening in 1936 until 2002, when the 10,500-seat Giant Center opened next-door. It still hosts college hockey and concerts. Appropriately, the address of the Arena is 100 W. Hershey Park Drive.
No college football rivalry has been played more than Lafayette College and Lehigh University, separated by 17 miles of U.S. Route 22 in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Lafayette is in Easton, 69 miles north of Center City; Lehigh is in Bethlehem, 56 miles north. On occasion, they've played each other twice and, during World War II, even 3 times a season. Now, they limit themselves to 1. This coming November 22, they will play each other at the new Yankee Stadium, in their 150th meeting. Lafayette leads the series, 77-66-5. Lehigh's Goodman Stadium hosted a U.S. soccer game on October 23, 1993, a draw vs. Ukraine -- although I doubt too many people in the Delaware Valley were paying attention, as that was the day of Game 6 of the World Series, which the Phillies lost on the Joe Carter home run.
Believe it or not, it's easier to reach both Easton and Bethlehem without a car from New York than it is from Philadelphia: Transbridge Lines runs buses from Port Authority into the Lehigh Valley, and Susquehanna Trailways runs them from Philly's Greyhound Terminal at 1001 N. Filbert Street, across from the Market East Station.
Not surprising for a city of its size, Philadelphia has had a few TV shows set there, but not many actually filmed there. Boy Meets World was filmed entirely at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. (Its sequel series, Girl Meets World, featuring Cory & Topanga Matthews and their kids, is set in New York.) Neither does It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia film in Philly -- and it is not always sunny there. Nor did Thirtysomething film there. Nor did Body of Proof. And, being a cartoon, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids didn't have to "film" anywhere. The 1960s flashback series American Dreams did some filming under the Market Street Elevated Line, but most of it was filmed in L.A. The films Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Story and The Philadelphia Experiment had a few Philly locations put in, but all filming was done in Southern California.
Probably the best-known film set in the city is Trading Places -- except a lot of it was filmed in and around New York! The New York Chamber of Commerce Building (65 Liberty Street) and the Seventh Regiment Armory (643 Park Avenue) stood in for the Heritage Club. Mill Neck Manor for the Deaf on Long Island stood in for the Duke Brothers' estate. And, of course, the climactic scene was set at the New York Mercantile Exchange, at 4 World Trade Center, which was at destroyed in the 9/11 attacks. Locations in the film that were absolutely in Philly were: 30th Street Station; Duke & Duke, at Fidelity Bank at 135 S. Broad Street, 2 blocks south of City Hall; and Lewis Winthorpe's residence, with exterior shots at 2014 Delancey Place at 20th Street, near Rittenhouse Square, which is where Eddie Murphy pretended to be a blind, legless Vietnam veteran. (This is a private residence: Walk down there if you like, but leave the residents alone.)
So, to sum up, I would definitely recommend to any baseball fan, even a Met fan, that they take in a Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park. I think it's the best of the 1992-present "retro ballparks" -- even if the home fans aren't always nice.
I’d tell you to have fun, but, since you’re Met fans, facing Philly fans, I’ll say, instead, “Try not to get yourself or anybody else killed.”