Sunday, November 30, 2014

Teams of the Year In New York Sports

Note: The following refers to the calendar year. In other words, while the Jets' Super Bowl team would qualify for both 1968 and 1969, there is another candidate for 1969, whereas there really isn't for 1968, so the Jets "win 1968."

1901 Brooklyn Superbas (Dodgers). Finished ahead of the Giants.
1902 Brooklyn Superbas (Dodgers). Finished ahead of the Giants.
1903 New York Giants (baseball). Came closest to winning a Pennant.
1904 New York Giants (baseball). Won Pennant.
1905 New York Giants (baseball). Won World Series.
1906 New York Highlanders (later Yankees). Came closest to winning a Pennant.
1907 New York Giants (baseball). Came closest to winning a Pennant.
1908 New York Giants (baseball). Came closest to winning a Pennant.
1909 New York Giants (baseball). Came closest to winning a Pennant.
1910 New York Giants (baseball). Came closest to winning a Pennant.
1911 New York Giants (baseball). Won Pennant.
1912 New York Giants (baseball). Won Pennant.
1913 New York Giants (baseball). Won Pennant.
1914 New York Giants (baseball). Came closest to winning a Pennant.
1915 Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers). Came closest to winning a Pennant.
1916 Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers). Won Pennant.
1917 New York Giants (baseball). Won Pennant.
1918 New York Giants (baseball). Came closest to winning a Pennant.
1919 New York Giants (baseball). Came closest to winning a Pennant.
1920 Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers). Won Pennant.
1921 New York Giants (baseball). Won World Series.
1922 New York Giants (baseball). Won World Series.
1923 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1924 New York Giants (baseball). Won Pennant.
1925 New York Giants (baseball). Came closest to winning a Pennant.
1926 New York Yankees. Won Pennant.
1927 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1928 New York Rangers. Won Stanley Cup. Yankees also won World Series.
1929 New York Rangers. Reached Stanley Cup Finals.
1930 New York Rangers. Reached Stanley Cup Semifinals.
1931 New York Rangers. Reached Stanley Cup Semifinals.
1932 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1933 New York Giants (baseball). Won World Series. Rangers also won Stanley Cup.
1934 New York Giants. Won NFL Title.
1935 New York Giants. Reached NFL Title Game.
1936 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1937 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1938 New York Giants. Won NFL Title. Yankees also won World Series.
1939 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1940 New York Rangers. Won Stanley Cup.
1941 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1942 New York Yankees. Won Pennant.
1943 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1944 New York Giants. Reached NFL Title Game.
1945 New York Yankees. Came closest to winning a Pennant.
1946 New York Giants. Reached NFL Title Game.
1947 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1948 New York Yankees. Came closest to reaching a Finals.
1949 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1950 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1951 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1952 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1953 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1954 New York Giants (baseball). Won World Series.
1955 Brooklyn Dodgers. Won World Series.
1956 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1957 New York Yankees. Won Pennant.
1958 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1959 New York Giants. Reached NFL Title Game.
1960 New York Yankees. Won Pennant.
1961 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1962 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1963 New York Giants. Reached NFL Title Game. Yankees also won Pennant.
1964 New York Yankees. Won Pennant.
1965 New York Knicks. Came closest to making the Playoffs.
1966 New York Knicks. Came closest to making the Playoffs.
1967 New York Rangers. Only team to make Playoffs.
1968 New York Jets. Won AFL Title.
1969 New York Mets. Won World Series. Jets also won Super Bowl.
1970 New York Knicks. Won NBA Title.
1971 New York Knicks. Reached NBA Eastern Conference Finals.
1972 New York Rangers. Reached Stanley Cup Finals. Knicks also reached NBA Finals.
1973 New York Knicks. Won NBA Title.
1974 New York Nets. Won ABA Title.
1975 New York Islanders. Reached Stanley Cup Quarterfinals.
1976 New York Nets. Won ABA Title.
1977 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1978 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1979 New York Rangers. Reached Stanley Cup Finals.
1980 New York Islanders. Won Stanley Cup.
1981 New York Islanders. Won Stanley Cup.
1982 New York Islanders. Won Stanley Cup.
1983 New York Islanders. Won Stanley Cup.
1984 New York Islanders. Reached Finals.
1985 New York Mets. Came closest to reaching a title.
1986 New York Mets. Won World Series.
1987 New York Giants. Won Super Bowl.
1988 New York Mets. Reached National League Championship Series.
1989 New York Mets. Came closest to reaching a title.
1990 New York Giants. Came closest to reaching a title.
1991 New York Giants. Won Super Bowl.
1992 New York Rangers. Came closest to reaching a title.
1993 New York Islanders. Came closest to reaching a title.
1994 New York Rangers. Won Stanley Cup.
1995 New Jersey Devils. Won Stanley Cup.
1996 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1997 New York Knicks. Came closest to reaching a title.
1998 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
1999 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
2000 New Jersey Devils. Won Stanley Cup. Yankees also won World Series.
2001 New York Yankees. Won Pennant.
2002 New Jersey Nets. Won Conference Title.
2003 New Jersey Devils. Won Stanley Cup.
2004 New York Yankees. Reached American League Championship Series.
2005 New York Jets. Came closest to reaching a title.
2006 New York Mets. Reached National League Championship Series.
2007 New York Yankees. Reached American League Division Series.
2008 New York Giants. Won Super Bowl.
2009 New York Yankees. Won World Series.
2010 New York Yankees. Reached American League Championship Series.
2011 New York Jets. Reached AFC Title Game.
2012 New York Giants. Won Super Bowl.
2013 New York Knicks. Came closest to reaching a title (and it wasn't all that close).
2014 New York Rangers. Won Conference Title.

Yankees 35
Giants (B) 20
Giants 10
Rangers 10
Knicks 7
Islanders 6
Mets 6
Dodgers 6
Devils 3
Nets 3
Jets 2

Baseball 67
Hockey 19
Football 12
Basketball 10

Warm-Weather 67
Cold-Weather 41

Outdoor 79
Indoor 29

Manhattan 44
Bronx 37
New Jersey 11
Long Island 9
Queens 7
Brooklyn 6

Outer Boroughs 50
Manhattan 44
Suburbs 20

Old Teams 88
New Teams 20

From 1968 onward:
Old Teams 27
New Teams 20

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How to Be a New York Basketball Fan In Philadelphia -- 2014-15 Edition

Tonight, the Brooklyn Nets visit the Philadelphia 76ers. The New York Knicks' 1st visit of the season will be later in the season.

Along with the Boston Celtics, and each other, the Sixers are a team that could be called a rival to the New York NBA teams -- the Nets more so, because the franchises are historically linked, in what was a turning point for both. In order to enter the NBA for the 1976-77 season, the New York Nets, as they were then known, had to pay both an expansion fee and a territorial indemnification fee to the Knicks. As a result, they had to sell their best player, Julius "Dr. J" Erving. Management figured, the Knicks are trying to screw us over, so let's screw them over, by selling him to their biggest rivals. But that would be the Boston Celtics, defending NBA Champions, and we don't want to make them stronger. So who's their next-biggest rivals? The 76ers, and they stink. Dr. J. can't help them that much, right?

Result: In just 1 season, the Sixers went from being a team that hadn't won a Playoff round in 8 years to within 2 games of an NBA title; while the Nets went from a team that had dominated the last few years of the ABA, including winning the last title and 2 of the last 3, to the worst team in the NBA. In the NBA, 1 player can make a gigantic difference -- as they would find out 25 years later, in the other direction, with Jason Kidd.

The Nets would move from the Nassau Coliseum to the Rutgers Athletic Center, becoming the New Jersey Nets, and then to the Meadowlands, and then to the Prudential Center, and finally Brooklyn 2 years ago, never winning a title, and only twice making the Finals. In Dr. J.'s 1st 7 seasons with the 76ers, they would reach the Eastern Conference Finals 6 times, reach the NBA Finals 4 times, and win the 1983 NBA Championship.

It's silly to blame the 76ers for the Nets' misfortunes, though. This is a franchise that has continually shot itself in the foot, to the point where their feet have more bullet than bone.

This season, the 76ers have lost their 1st 14 games, on a pace to break the record for worst record in NBA history, 9-73 -- set by the 76ers themselves in 1972-73. Wouldn't it be just like the Nets -- in Long Island, in Central Jersey, in North Jersey, or in Brooklyn -- to give the Sixers their 1st win of the season?

Before You Go. 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 there's going to be weather disruption. There could be snow. At the very least, there will be rain. Still, the combination of the weather, the Sixers being lousy for the moment, and the fact that tomorrow is Thanksgiving, mean you just might be able to show up at the box office within a few minutes of tipoff, and be able to purchase a ticket.

Still, be wary of the weather. The worst of it should be over by the time you arrive, but it's still going to be wet, possibly slushy, and probably slippery. While you should always watch yourself in the parking lot at the Philadelphia sports complex's parking lots, this time, it's because of the weather, not the nastiness of the Philly fans.

Tickets. Due to being lousy, the 76ers are averaging just 14,594 fans per home game, 28th in the league, ahead of only Milwaukee and Detroit. They're averaging just 71.8 percent of capacity, 29th, ahead of only Detroit. (The Knicks, no surprise, are averaging 100.0 percent, while the Nets are at 93.3 percent, which is great by their standards.) So getting tickets, even at this late hour, shouldn't have been an issue even if the weather were going to be good.

Lower bowl seats are $105 to $190 between the baskets and $40 to $80 behind them. Upper level seats are among the cheapest in the NBA: $20 to $48 between the baskets and $15 to $29 behind them.

Getting There. It’s 99 miles from Times Square in Manhattan to City Hall in Center City Philadelphia, and 101 miles from Madison Square Garden to the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia.

This is close enough that a typical Knicks or Nets fan could leave his house, drive to his home arena or some other meeting place, pick up some friends, head down to the WFC, watch a game, head back, drop his friends off, and drive home, all within 7 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 (considering the weather, I would advise just going to the game this time), take the Turnpike’s Exit 3 to N.J. Route 168, which forms part of the Black Horse Pike, to Interstate 295. (The Black Horse Pike later becomes N.J. Route 42, U.S. Route 322 and U.S. Route 40, going into Atlantic City. Not to be confused with the White Horse Pike, U.S. 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 "3601 South Broad Street").

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 take at least another half-hour to negotiate the last mile or so, including the parking lot itself, due to the weather, if not to traffic for a game that might not attract anywhere near a full house.

Ordinarily, I would advise going down by some means other than driving, and provide specifics, including fares. But, since this is the day before Thanksgiving, the busiest travel day of the year, avoid Greyhound and Amtrak. You know what happens when you assume? Well, this time, forget that old line, and assume that both will be sold out. And even if it wasn't too close to fly, the airlines would probably be all booked up, too.

You could take New Jersey Transit from New York's Penn Station to the Trenton Transit Center, and, from there, transfer to 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.) Both NJT and SEPTA are running extra trains today, and, while it'll take longer than either Amtrak or Greyhound, it'll be cheaper.

With the game starting at 7:00 PM, you can leave Penn Station at 3:27, make the transfer at Trenton at 5:10, and arrive at Suburban Station at 6:05. With the game ending at around 9:15, you should have no trouble taking the Subway back to Suburban Station, and taking the Trenton Line out at 9:56, making the transfer at Trenton at 11:18, and arriving back at Penn Station at 12:55 AM. Round-trip, NJ Transit from New York to Trenton will be $31, while SEPTA from Trenton to Philadelphia will be $18, for a total of $49.

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 Suburban Station, there's a pedestrian concourse that leads to the Broad Street Line at City Hall Station. If you're a Knick fan -- or a Net fan who also either a Met fan or an Islander fan -- you’ll notice that the Market-Frankford Line’s standard color is blue, while the BSL’s is orange. Blue and orange. Don’t think that means they want to make New York 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, SEPTA 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.

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 ridiculous. 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 7.1 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 "commonwealths" 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 prices in sports. But traffic could well 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. And with the projected weather, making streets slippery? 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 to your right.

Further to your right is the successor to the Spectrum, the Wells Fargo Center, named for the banking and insurance company. 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.

Inside the arena, concourses are wide and well-lit, a big departure from the Spectrum. 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.

Food. From the famed 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) and 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 the Wells Fargo Center is unbelievable. Little of it is healthy (no surprise there), but all of it is good.

On the lower Main Concourse Level, the South Jersey restaurant chain P.J. Whelihan's has stands behind both goals. Tim Hortons, the Canadian doughnut chain founded by the Toronto Maple Leafs legend, has stands at all 4 corners. Chickie's & Pete's, whose main outlet is nearby at 1526 Packer Avenue (near the also-famed Celebre's Pizza), has stands on the west side and in the northeast corner, to sell their fish and their “crab fries” -- French fries with Old Bay seasoning mix, not fries with crabmeat. The northeast corner also has that wonderful junk food staple of Pennsylvania Dutch country (and the Jersey Shore), funnel cake. The legendary South Street pizzeria Lorenzo & Sons has stands on both the east and west sides. Each of these brands can also be found on the upper, Mezzanine Concourse Level.

Team History Displays. The Flyers seem to have more banners than the 76ers, but that might just be because their bright orange banners with black lettering tend to stand out more than do the 76ers' banners, which are red with white lettering. The Flyers' banners are at the arena's north end, the 76ers' at the south end.

With one exception (1967), the 76ers don't "double-up" on their banners; i.e., no separate banners for their 1983 NBA, Conference and Division titles. They have banners for their 1967 and 1983 NBA Championships; their 1977, 1980, 1982 and 2001 Eastern Conference Championships; their 1966 and 1967 Eastern Division Championship; and their 1978, 1990 and 2001 Atlantic Division Championships.

The 76ers also won an NBA title in 1955, under their previous incarnation, the Syracuse Nationals. And the Golden State Warriors, as the Philadelphia Warriors, won titles in 1947 (the 1st NBA season) and 1956. There is no notation in the arena for any of these titles.

The 76ers have retired 8 uniform numbers. From the 1967 title: 13, center Wilt Chamberlain; 15, guard Hal Greer; and 32, forward Billy Cunningham, who was also the coach for their 1983 title. From the 1983 title: 6, forward Julius Erving; 10, guard Maurice Cheeks; and 24, forward Bobby Jones. Officially, the Number 2 of Moses Malone, the key performer on that 1983 title, has not been retired, but neither have they given it back out. Since then, they have retired 34 for forward Charles Barkley and 3 for guard Allen Iverson.

They also have a banner with a microphone on it, for Dave Zinkoff, public-address announcer for the Warriors and 76ers from the birth of the NBA in 1946 until his death in 1986. He had also been the P.A. announcer for the Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium until replaced in 1972 by Dan Baker, who's still at the Phils' mike.

In addition to the 76ers' and Flyers' banners, there are also banners honoring music legends Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel. Each has their number of sellout concerts in the city on his banner (all venues combined): Bruce, 53; Billy, 48. Although Bruce has a higher total, Billy holds the sellout record at the WFC: 18. (The Grateful Dead had the most sellouts at the Spectrum, but there is nothing reflecting this at the WFC.)

There were 4 statues outside the Spectrum. One was of Sylvester Stallone in character as Rocky Balboa. That one has been moved, appropriately enough, to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, not far from the steps he ran up in every movie. One was for Dr. J. The other 2 were for the Flyers. One was titled "Score!" depicting Gary Dornhoefer's overtime goal against the Minnesota North Stars in the 1973 Playoffs. It bears a striking resemblance to Bobby Orr's "Flying Goal" that wont the 1970 Stanley Cup for the Boston Bruins.

Another was for Kate Smith, whose recording of "God Bless America," played in place of "The Star-Spangled Banner," was a good luck charm for the Flyers, to the point where she was invited to sing it live before Game 6 of the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals, which they won for their 1st title.

The Dr. J, Score! and Kate Smith statues have been moved to Xfinity Live! on the site of the Spectrum. Outside the Wells Fargo Center, a statue has been added for Wilt Chamberlain, who played for the Warriors and the 76ers.

Stuff. The Flyers have a team store, run by Forty Seven Brand ('47), in the northwest corner of the lower concourse, which is also open on non-game days. The 76ers have a Fan Gear Store, at the opposite, southeast corner.

The Phillies, Eagles and Flyers all seem to have more books written about them than the 76ers. Wayne Lynch collaborated with Billy Cunningham, the one man with on-bench connections to both titles, on Season of the 76ers: The Story of Wilt Chamberlain and the 1967 NBA Champion Philadelphia 76ers. For the 1983 title, the general manger wrote Pat Williams: Tales from the Philadelphia 76ers: 1982-1983 NBA Champions.

In between, going from the sublime to the ridiculous -- or, if you don't mind the awful pun, going to the other end of the spectrum -- Charley Rosen has a new book out, perhaps perfectly times to dovetail with their 0-14 start this season: Perfectly Awful: The Philadelphia 76ers' Horrendous and Hilarious 1972-1973 Season. Like Jim Bouton's baseball book Ball Four, it tells of things that couldn't possibly have gone wrong in real life, but did. Indeed, while the Seattle Pilots only existed in that form for 1 season, making Ball Four seem like a novel, about a fictional team, the '73 76ers were all too real, though it's hard to believe some of these stories are for real.

But if you really want to get a feel for Philly sports, get these 3, all co-written by WIP host Glen Macnow with one of his colleagues: The Great Philadelphia Fan Book with Anthony Gargano, The Great Philadelphia Sports Debate with Angelo Cataldi (who is Philly's answer to Mike & the Mad Dog, all in one guy), and The Great Book of Philadelphia Sports Lists, with Ed Gudonis, a.k.a. Big Daddy Graham, also a Philly and Jersey Shore-based standup comic and a great guy who writes a regular column for Philadelphia magazine.

As for DVDs, The NBA Dynasty Series includes Philadelphia 76ers: The Complete History, running from their arrival from Syracuse in 1963 until the DVD's release in 2012. There are also DVDs (or, in some cases, VHS'es) on Amazon.com honoring Dr. J, Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson.

During the Game. The Mets-Phillies, Giants-Eagles, Rangers-Flyers, Islanders-Flyers and Devils-Flyers rivalries don't really carry over into either Knicks-Sixers or Nets-Sixers. So you shouldn't have too much of a problem with your safety. Yes, these people do root for the Phils, Eagles and Flyers, but you're not going to get beaten up, as long as you don't go out of your way to antagonize them.

The team might play the old fight song "1-2-3-4-5-Sixers!" And, perhaps more than any other team, the 76ers breakout throwback uniforms. They dropped Hip Hop, their shades-wearing, trampoline-jumping-and-dunking rabbit mascot, after the 2011 lockout, and have not adopted a new one, although there was a rumor in the offseason that a dribbling Benjamin Franklin would be both new mascot and new logo. They went out of their way to deny it. Maybe they should have gone ahead with it. Curse of Ben Franklin?

After the Game. Philadelphia is a big city, with all the difficulties of big cities as well as many of the perks of them. But with 76ers fans not having the reputation of Eagles or Flyers fans, and with the weather and the holiday probably keeping a lot of people away, you'll almost certainly be safe. But watch your step on the wet streets and sidewalks, and be wary of cars.

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. 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.

* Citizens Bank Park. It opened in 2004, and the Phils were in the Playoff race until September that year. In 2005 and '06, they were in it until the last weekend. In 2007, they won the Division. In 2008, they won the World Series. In 2009, they won another Pennant. In 2010 and '11, they won the Division -- 5 straight Playoff berths, and 8 seasons in the ballpark with all good-to-great seasons. Only in 2012, when injuries flurried in and the team suddenly seemed to get old all at once, did the bad times return.

Baker Bowl was a dump. Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium was already neglected due to Mack's strapped finances by the time the Phils arrived, and by the time they left the neighborhood was a ghastly ghetto. The Vet was a football stadium. CBP is a ballpark, and a great one. (Okay, on January 2, 2012, it was a hockey rink. To make matters worse, the Flyers lost to the one team I would want them to beat, the Rangers.)

"The Bank" has statues of Phils greats like Richie Ashburn and Mike Schmidt, great food like Greg Luzinski's Bull's Barbecue, and lots and lots of souvenirs, some of which don't involve the Phillie Phanatic. And, with the Phils now being terrible, tickets are easier to get.

* 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 and site of old ballpark. 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.

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.

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 "the first White House" 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; the evidence is interesting, but hardly conclusive.) 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.

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, 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 due to travel restrictions canceling out longer roadtrips, even 3 times a season. Now, they limit themselves to 1.

This past Saturday, they played each other for the 150th time, but the 1st time outside Pennsylvania, at Yankee Stadium. A near-sellout crowd of 48,256 saw Lafayette win 27-7.  Lafayette now leads the series, 78-67-5. 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, except for the 1st, 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 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 Knicks or Nets fan to follow their team to nearby Philadelphia. But be warned: These are Philadelphia fans. They're not as rough for the 76ers as the are for the Phillies, Eagles and Flyers, but, still, don't antagonize them. Stay safe, and good luck. (To the team, too.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Joe DiMaggio: A 100th Birthday Appreciation


November 25, 1914, 100 years ago today: Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio Jr. is born in Martinez, California. With his name anglicized to Joseph Paul DiMaggio, he grew up in nearby San Francisco.

From 1936 to 1951 -- except from 1943 to 1945, when he was in the U.S. Army Air Force, serving in World War II -- he played center field for the New York Yankees. In his 13 seasons, he made the All-Star Game every year, won 10 Pennants and 9 World Championships. His older brother Vince and his younger brother Dom were also All-Star major league outfielders.

Since his death on March 8, 1999, Joe's reputation has taken a beating, for his rudeness, for his cheapness, for his treatment of his wives (actresses Dorothy Arnold and, later, Marilyn Monroe), for his apparent association with organized crime figures, and for his ego, insisting upon being introduced as what a 1969 poll chose him as: "Baseball's Greatest Living Player."

But for an entire generation of fans, the ones who grew up in the Great Depression of the 1930s (and thus did not see Babe Ruth, or see Lou Gehrig at his best), and went off to World War II in the 1940s, he was The Guy.

"Joe DiMaggio played his last game in 1951. I was born in 1952. And my father, and every guy I ever met in my father's generation, said the same thing: 'Willie Mays? Great. Mickey Mantle? Hit the ball out of sight. You never saw DiMaggio, kid. You never saw the real thing.'"
-- Bob Costas

In 1967, Paul Simon, also a native New Yorker (born in Newark but grew up in Forest Hills, Queens) and similarly short, tried to address the turbulence of the times by thinking of someone who represented reliability, someone who could be counted on. He made his choice in the song "Mrs. Robinson":

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
Woo woo woo.
What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson?
Joltin' Joe has left and gone away.
Hey hey hey.
Hey hey hey.


My generation, the generation of the children of the one that produced Costas and Simon, knew DiMaggio as an old Yankee coming out of the dugout on Old-Timers' Day in a navy blue suit (or, if you're a little older, maybe an updated version of his old Number 5 Yankee uniform), or as the commercial spokesman for Mr. Coffee coffeemakers and The Bowery Savings Bank of New York. (Subsequent buyouts have The Bowery's assets under the ownership of Capital One Bank. I'm not sure whether Joe would have liked those ads with the Vikings -- or are they Visigoths? or Huns? -- but my mother says she can definitely see Joe asking the Capital One tagline: "What's in YOUR wallet?")

And yet, in 1999, right after his death, The Sporting News ignored the fact that Joe played only 13 seasons (missing 3 due to The War and maybe 3 more due to an early retirement due to injury), and selected him at Number 11 on their list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players -- not first among the then-living, trailing Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron and Mays, who was Number 2 overall behind Babe Ruth.

And, in fan balloting done by MasterCard, baseball fans of all generations -- including those who, like me, had never seen him play, this nearly half a century after his last game -- voted him to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. He finished 5th among outfielders, behind Ruth, Aaron, Williams and Mays, and right ahead of Mantle, generally considered the most popular (if not necessarily the greatest) of the following era.

This is a repeat of a piece I did on the 75th Anniversary of his major league debut, on May 3, 1936, at the original Yankee Stadium. He started the season late due to injury. The Yankees beat the St. Louis Browns 14-5, and Joe went 3-for-6. Only 25,000 fans came out, despite Joe having already been about as hyped as a rookie could be in those radio and newsreel, pre-TV, pre-ESPN, pre-Internet days. If they only knew.

Top 10 Joe DiMaggio Moments

Honorable Mention. Date unknown, 1943, 1944 or 1945, and the story may be apocryphal, so I can't count it in the Top 10, but I do have to mention it. Joe served in the Army Air Force (forerunner of the U.S. Air Force) during World War II, although not in combat. He also played for a USAAF baseball team, and supposedly it played a Marine Corps team that featured Chicago White Sox pitcher Ted Lyons, a fellow future Hall-of-Famer. Seeing Joe, Lyons allegedly said, "I enlisted to get away from DiMaggio, and now here he is!" As I said, the story may be apocryphal, and, as a result, I have no record of what happened when they faced each other in this wartime game.

10. January 14, 1954. Joe marries Marilyn. It didn't last the year. But when the most popular living athlete married one of the biggest (and still very much rising) actresses in the world, it sent the popularity, and indeed the legacy, of each soaring. Even though Joe's entire career was done before they met, and Marilyn's best work probably came after they divorced, it is now hard to think of either without the subject of the other coming up.

And unlike a lot of people who knew Marilyn (or say they knew her well), Joe never cashed in on her reputation. His own, sure: He made more money in a year on the memorabilia circuit than in his entire career (though he was the 2nd ballplayer, after Hank Greenberg, to get paid $100,000 a season). But if someone gave him a picture of Marilyn to sign, even if he was also in the picture, he would refuse, maybe even get up and leave. Right after Joe died, comedian Bill Maher, who normally enjoys lasciviousness, said he wanted salute Joe, "for living to be 84 years old, and never writing a book about banging Marilyn Monroe."

9. October 8, 1939. Game 4 of the World Series. The Yankees were readying a sweep of the Cincinnati Reds. In the top of the 10th inning, Joe got a hit, and Reds outfielder Ival Goodman bobbled the ball. Charlie Keller came around to score, and he crashed into the Reds' future Hall of Fame catcher, Ernie Lombardi. Lombardi was stunned, and lost the ball for a few seconds. Seeing this, Bill Dickey, the on-deck hitter, yelled for Joe to try to come all the way around and score as well.

On the film -- which doesn't make the Keller-Lombardi collision look all that bad, but apparently Keller, not sliding, had kneed Lombardi in the groin -- Dickey can be seen gesturing for Joe to slide. Whatever he was yelling, it apparently "woke up" Lombardi, who finally grabbed the ball, and moved to tag Joe, who executed a perfect hook slide, throwing his entire body away from the plate, except his right foot, which just sort of brushed the plate. The run meant nothing, as Keller had already scored the go-ahead run. But it was still the best slide I've ever seen.

8. August 8, 1941. Following the streak, a song commemorating it, titled "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio" was written by Alan Courtney (words) and Ben Homer (music), and recorded on this date by Les Brown & His Band of Renown (one of the most popular of the "Big Bands"), with Betty Bonney singing lead. It's not a great song, but it's a great baseball song.

7. October 3, 1937. The Yankees beat the Red Sox, 6-1 at the old Yankee Stadium, and Joe completes perhaps the best season any righthanded hitter has ever had for the Yankees. He batted .346, had 215 hits, 35 doubles, 15 triples, 46 home runs (a record for Yankee righthanders until 2005), and 167 RBIs (a record for Yankee righthanders that still stands). His OPS+ was 166 -- and as amazing as that was, he didn't even lead the team: Lou Gehrig had a 176! And the Yanks went on to beat the Giants in the World Series.

 And, by the way, he was still a few weeks away from turning 23 years old.

6. September 30, 1939. Again, the Yankees close the season with a game with the Red Sox, only this time, they lose, 4-2. It doesn't matter: In the season that concluded with the aforementioned incident with Ernie Lombardi, the Yankees lost 1st baseman and Captain Gehrig to a fatal illness, yet still won 106 games, the most they (or any of the New York teams) would win between 1927 and 1961.

This was because the leadership slack was picked up by catcher Bill Dickey (Gehrig's best friend on the team served as a kind of unofficial captain thereafter), and the hitting slack was picked up by DiMaggio, whose .381 batting average that season remains the 2nd-highest in Yankee history, behind Babe Ruth's .393 in 1923; no player for any New York team (Yankees, Dodgers, Giants or Mets) has topped it since. This was also the 1st of Joe's 2 batting titles and the 1st of his 3 Most Valuable Player awards. And he wasn't yet 25.

5. October 5, 1950. Game 2 of the World Series. Robin Roberts, exhausted from so much pitching down the stretch, has gone 9 innings for the Philadelphia Phillies. But, having thrown Roberts out for the regular-season finale just 3 days earlier, and having desperately started his usual reliever, Jim Konstanty, in Game 1 (it almost worked, the Yanks won, 1-0), Phils manager Eddie Sawyer sends Roberts out for the 10th inning.

DiMaggio takes advantage of the valiant Roberts' fatigue and sends a home run into the long bleachers that extended from left to center field at Shibe Park (later known as Connie Mack Stadium), to give the Yanks a 2-1 win and a 2-0 lead in the Series. The Yanks completed the sweep 2 days later.

4. July 2, 1941. When Joe started his hitting streak on May 15, the Yankees were .500, 14-14, and in 4th place, 5 1/2 games behind the League-leading Cleveland Indians. Having surpassed the American League record of 41 straight games set by George Sisler in 1922, and having tied the overall major league mark of 44 set by Willie Keeler in 1897, Joe walked onto the field at a broiling hot Yankee Stadium (95 degrees), and the Yanks were 45-26, .634, 3 games ahead of the Indians.

The Yanks' opponents that day were the Boston Red Sox, in 3rd place, 8 games back, and it didn't matter that the Sox' Ted Williams was batting .401 and Joe "only" .348: Anybody who thinks that Ted was "robbed" of the MVP that year is an idiot. Even if the award were for "Most Outstanding" rather than "Most Valuable," Ted might not have deserved it.

Joe hit a 3-run homer off Sox starter Dick Newsome, to give him the record of 45 straight, eventually reaching 56 straight. Lefty Gomez, the Yanks' Hall of Fame pitcher and Joe's best friend on the team, who not only started this game but also the last one in which Joe didn't get a hit, told him, "You not only broke Keeler's record, but you did it by following his advice: You hit 'em where they ain't!" Oh yeah, the Yanks won the game, 8-4.

3. June 28, 29 & 30, 1949. Joe missed the 1st 2 months of the season with bone spurs in his heel. Then, one day, he got out of bed, put his weight on his foot, and felt no pain. He played in an exhibition game against the cross-river New York Giants, and felt no pain. He traveled with the team to Boston to play the Red Sox.

In the 1st game of the series, he went 2-for-3 with a home run. In the 2nd game, he went 2-for-4, both hits being home runs, and 4 RBIs. In the 3rd game, a plane flew overhead, trailing a banner that read, "THE GREAT DIMAGGIO." Now, Joe's younger brother Dom was the center fielder for the Red Sox, but he was just a really good DiMaggio. The Great DiMaggio helped the Yankees complete the sweep of the Sox by going 1-for-3 with a 3-run homer.

Three games, 5-for-10, 4 homers, 8 RBIs. Remember, he hadn't played at all until that series started. He ended up playing in just 76 games, but batted .346 with 67 RBIs -- in what amounted to half a season.

2. October 1 & 2, 1949. In spite of Joe's return, the Yanks blew a 12-game lead over the Sox, and it came down to the last 2 days of the season, and the schedulemaker nailed it: Sox vs. Yanks at the original Yankee Stadium. The Sox led by 1 game: If they won either, they would win the Pennant. The Yanks had to take both to do it.

The Yankees had scheduled the opener as Joe DiMaggio Day. Joe wanted to cancel it, and not play, as he was sick with pneumonia. But he maintained the attitude he had when he was quoted as saying, "There might be somebody out there who's never seen me play before. He deserves my best."

He came out, accepted the cheers and the gifts, and thanked the team, his teammates, and the fans, and closed with, "I'd like to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee." He did play that day, and got 2 hits, and the Yanks came from 4-0 down to win, 5-4, on an 8th inning home run by Johnny Lindell.

The next day, the Yanks led 5-1 in the 9th, ready to clinch, but Joe, still sick, dropped an easy fly ball, to make it 5-3. He walked off the field, knowing he was now a liability. The Yankees got the last out and won the Pennant. (Funny, Red Sox fans never mention how Ted Williams got THAT year's MVP instead of a deserving Yankee.)

1. July 27, 1991. What's this, the Number 1 Yankee Clipper moment coming nearly 40 years after he played his last game? This will take some explaining.

It was Old-Timers' Day, and I was sitting at the back of Main Level Section 8 at the old (but post-renovation) Yankee Stadium. The subject of the day's ceremony was the 50th Anniversary of Joe's 56-game hitting streak.

Of his 1941 teammates, 7 were still alive, and 5 showed up: Phil Rizzuto, Tommy Henrich, pitcher Marius Russo, first baseman Johnny Sturm (who only played that one year in the majors, went off to war and never regained his batting eye), and Stanley "Frenchy" Bordagaray, who played for several teams and won Pennants with the '39 Reds and '41 Yankees. The 2 who did not return were the ailing Bill Dickey and Frank Crosetti, who had a policy of never returning for Old-Timers' Day. After Henrich's death in 2010, they're all gone now.

The ceremony closed with Joe doing something he rarely did: Public speaking. He may have spoken more in those 7 minutes than he did in the 13 years he played. He mentioned that, in Game 3 of the 1941 World Series, Russo pitched a complete game: "The reason I mention this is that, today, that's considered a great achievement." He mentioned that Henrich had loaned him a bat, after the bat Joe had used for the first 41 games of the streak had been stolen.

And of the Scooter, not yet having received his rightful election to Cooperstown, he said, "Nobody had a better view than I did of him playing shortstop... And, Phil, I just want to tell you that you're my Hall-of-Famer. And I mean that."

Biggest ovation of the day, even bigger than those for Joe, Mickey Mantle, and, in what turned out to be his first Old-Timers' Day back with the Yankees, Reggie Jackson.

I had also seen Joe on Old-Timers' Day in 1987, and would see him again on Old-Timers Day 1994, and I saw him throw out the first ball on Opening Day 1995. But this Old-Timers' Day 1991 was special. We got to see and hear Joe DiMaggio, not as a flickering image on black-and-white film, and not as a man telling us how good his bank or his coffeemaker was, but being what he was: The defining baseball player of his era... and a real, live human being.


Joe is gone now, and while he was alive, he wasn't the easiest person to get to know, and if you got on his bad side, you were out, permanently. It seems the only person he ever tried to reconcile with was Marilyn.

But when the old Yankee Stadium was closing in 2008, they asked the current Yankee players what item they would like to keep. Derek Jeter made his choice, and it was kept secret for a while. Eventually, it got out that he wanted, and got, a sign in the tunnel that led from the Yankee clubhouse to the dugout, the sign with Joe's quote, "I'd like to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee."

I hope Hank & Hal Steinbrenner had a new sign made up. Or, at least, one with another of Joe's quotes, either the one about the fan that's never seen you play before and he deserves your best effort, or the one where he said, "Just putting on the Yankee uniform was the highlight of my career."

Monday, November 24, 2014

Cutting Down On the Trip Guides

I wanted to do the Trip Guides for all 30 NBA teams, all 30 NHL teams, and every road opponent for the Giants and the Jets this season.

But, through circumstances both within my control and not, too many of them got delayed.

As a result, for the rest of the NFL, NBA & NHL seasons, I'll only be doing them for the following teams:

* The Rangers, upon the Devils' next visit.

* The Islanders, upon the Devils' next visit, as this is the last season in which they'll play in the Nassau Coliseum.

* The Philadelphia 76ers...

* The Boston Celtics and...

* The Washington Wizards, as they're nearby opponents for the Knicks and Nets. The fact that I've already done Trip Guides for the hockey teams that play in the same arena will help.

* The Miami Dolphins, as they're the last remaining Divisional roadtrip for either the Giants or the Jets.

* The Montreal Canadiens, as they are still, despite not having won the Stanley Cup in 21 years, the Yankees of hockey.

* The Buffalo Sabres, as I still haven't done one of these for Buffalo.

The Jets were supposed to play away to the Buffalo Bills yesterday, but that freak snowstorm got the game moved to Detroit. I'll do one of these for Jets at Bills next year.

The other NFL, NBA & NHL teams that I haven't done yet? They'll have to wait until the 2015-16 season.

This has been a very difficult year, and something had to give. This was it.

I will, however, update the Guides for all 30 MLB teams starting in March.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

How to Be a Devils Fan In Calgary -- 2014-15 Edition


The Devils continued their Western roadtrip last night in Calgary, against the Flames. They blew a 2-goal lead in the 3rd period and lost in a shootout. Typical Peter DeBoer-coached team. They had a chance to sweep the Alberta teams on the road, and blew it.

Once again, I did not have this piece done before puck-drop. Once again, I apologize, and hope I will get it done on time next year. I'm sorry, but it couldn't be helped. All information should be considered for next year.

Before You Go. Aside from Edmonton's Rexall Place, no arena in the NHL is further north than the Saddledome -- indeed, aside from each Alberta city's CFL stadium, no venue in North American sports is further north except Rexall Place. And this is late November. It will be cold. The Calgary Herald is predicting that temperatures will be in the low 20s by day and the mid-teens by night. Bundle up.

This is Canada, so you will need your passport. You will need to change your money. At this writing, C$1.00 = US$1.12, and US$1.00 = C 89 cents. And I advise you to call your bank and let them know that you will be in a foreign country, so they won't see credit or debit card purchases from a foreign country pop up and think your card has been stolen.

Also, remember that they use the metric system. A speed limit of 100 kilometers per hour means 62 miles an hour. And don't be fooled by the seemingly low gas prices: That's per liter, not per gallon, and, in spite of Canada being a major oil-producing nation, you'll actually be paying more for gas up there. So, in order to avoid both confusion and "sticker-shock," get your car filled up before you reach the border.

Calgary is in the Mountain Time Zone, so they are 2 hours behind New York and New Jersey. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

Tickets. The Flames averaged 19,302 fans per home game last season, over a sellout. As you might expect from a Canadian city. Tickets will be hard to get.

Seats in the lower level, the 100 sections, are $202 throughout. In the upper level, the 200 sections, they're $140 between the goals and $76 behind them. The uppermost level, labeled PL (for "Press Level"), has seats for $52. And since that comes from ticketmaster.ca, that's probably in Canadian dollars, so they're probably even more expensive to us than that. But that's still a lot cheaper than the Edmonton Oilers.

Getting There. Once again, I apologize for being too late for this category for this season. So, let's suppose, just for the hell of it, that I was writing this with 6 days to spare, last Saturday, and not a day late, this Saturday...

It's 2,445 miles from the Prudential Center in Newark to the Saddledome in Calgary. Even if I weren't so late in posting this, your first thought would be to fly.

If you're driving, you'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. From this point onward, you won’t need to think about I-80 until you head home; I-90 is now the key, through the rest of Ohio and Indiana.

Just outside Chicago, I-80 will split off from I-90, which you will keep, until it merges with Interstate 94. For the moment, though, you will ignore I-94. Stay on I-90 through Illinois, until reaching Madison, Wisconsin, where you will once again merge with I-94. Now, I-94 is what you want, taking it into Minnesota and the Twin Cities.

However, unless you want to make a rest stop actually in Minneapolis or St. Paul, you're going to bypass them entirely. Take Exit 249 to get on Interstate 694, the Twin Cities' beltway, until you merge with Interstate 494 to reform I-94. Crossing Minnesota and North Dakota, you'll take Exit 211 to Montana Route 200, and take that up to the town of Circle. There, you take Montana Route 13 until it splits and forms Montana Route 25. After just 6 miles, that takes a right turn in the town of Wolf Point, and then a quick left to U.S. Route 2 West. In Shelby, you'll leave US-2 for Interstate 15, and take that to the Canadian border.

Presuming you don't do anything stupid that makes Customs officials keep you out of Canada, I-15 will become Alberta Provincial Route 4. At Lethbridge, you'll turn onto Provincial Route 3 West. Take Provincial Route 23 to Provincial Route 519 to Provincial Route 2. From Route 2, take Exit 245 for Southland Drive, make a left on Southland, and then a quick right onto Blackfoot Trail. A left on 42nd Avenue and a right on MacLeod Trail, and you'll be at the edge of downtown Calgary, with the Saddledome on your right.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 4 hours in Ohio, 2 and a half hours in Indiana, an hour and a half in Illinois, 2 and a half hours in Wisconsin, 4 and a half hours in Minnesota, 6 hours in North Dakota, 7 and a half hours in Montana, and 6 hours and 45 minutes in Alberta. That's 42 hours. Throw in rest stops, and we're talking closer to 56 hours -- 2 and one-third days. You'd have to really love both driving and hockey, and not mind cold weather, to do that.

Taking Greyhound takes 70 hours, and you have to transfer in Toronto and Winnipeg. Round-trip fare is $622. The Greyhound station is at 850 16th Street NW at Bow Trail. Forget the train: You'll have to switch from Amtrak to VIA Rail Canada in Toronto, take a train to Edmonton, and then take a bus to Calgary. Round-trip, it would take 8 days. No, the train is no good.

So flying is easily the best way to get there. You can fly Air Canada from Newark to Calgary and back, changing planes in Toronto, for a little under $1,000.

Once In the City. At 1.1 million people, Calgary is the 3rd-largest city in Canada, behind Toronto and Montreal, and ahead of Vancouver and Edmonton. However, like most of Canada's larger cities, the huge area contained within its city limits means it has almost no suburbs, and its metropolitan area gives it only 1. 2 million, 5th behind Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa -- but still ahead of Provincial capital Edmonton.

Founded in 1882 at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers, there is some dispute as to the origin of the name, although both accepted versions are Scottish in origin. Some say it's from the Gaelic meaning "beach of the meadow," or "pasture." Others say it comes from the words the Vikings brought to northern Scotland's Hebrides, meaning "cold garden."

The Bow River and, east of its bend, Memorial Drive separate Calgary addresses into North and South, while Centre Street separates them into East and West. The sales tax in the Province of Alberta is 5 percent, and it doesn't go up in the City of Calgary. The city has buses and light rail, and a single fare is $3.00 (which works out to about $2.67, so it's more expensive than New York's).

Going In. The Scotiabank Saddledome -- originally the Olympic Saddledome, and built in 1983 for the Flames and as the centerpiece of the 1988 Winter Olympics -- is at 555 Saddledome Rise SE, across Olympic Way from the Stampede Corral, site of the world's largest rodeo, the Calgary Stampede. It's about a mile and a quarter southeast of the downtown shopping district. If you're driving, parking is $10. If you're coming in by light rail, it's about a 12-minute ride to Victoria Park-Stampede station, and then you'll have to walk across a big parking lot to get to the arena, entering from the west.

Like the Capital Centre, the suburban Washington arena that was once home to the Bullets (now Wizards) and Capitals, it has a saddle-shaped roof; hence, the name "Saddledome." (Why a bank based in Nova Scotia, in Canada's eastern Maritime Provinces, bought the naming rights to a western arena, I have no idea.) The rink is laid out east-to-west, and the Flames attack twice to the west end. The arena is also home to the minor-league Calgary Hitmen, and their rivalry with the Edmonton Oil Kings is nearly as intense as the "Battle of Alberta" between the Flames and the Oilers.

Food. There's not much information available online about Saddledome concession stands, but the arena's website mentions several onsite restaurants, including Dutton's Lounge, the Alumni Lounge and the King Club. The Saddleroom Restaurant is on the arena's north side, and the Platinum Club on the south side, but these are open only to season-ticket holders, much like the Prudential Center's Fire Lounge and Ice Lounge.

Team History Displays. All in a row, the Flames hang banners for their various championships and their retired numbers. The title banners including: The 1989 Stanley Cup; the 1986, 1989 and 2004 Conference Championships; the 1986, 1989, 1994, 1995 and 2006 Division titles; and the 1988 and 1989 President's Trophy for best overall record in the NHL regular season.

Despite having played for 34 years, the Flames have only 2 retired numbers, both from the 1989 Cup winners: 9, for right wing Lanny McDonald; and 30, for goaltender Mike Vernon.

In 2012, the Flames organization introduced "Forever A Flame," to honor team legends while still allowing future Flames the opportunity to wear the numbers of some of the team's all-time greats -- essentially, a team hall of fame. Defenseman Al MacInnis was the first to earn this distinction, with a banner with his picture and the Number 2 raised to the rafters. Center Joe Nieuwendyk (who also won a Cup with the Devils) followed him this past March, with a banner with his Number 25 on it. So that's 4 honorees, all from the 1989 Cup win. I suspect that, when Jarome Iginla retires as a player, he will be honored as well.

There is no reference to the Flames' time in Atlanta (the name references the burning of Atlanta during the American Civil War), unless you count the "A" for Alternate Captain being the Flames' old A logo. (The "C" for Captain is the current C logo.) The Flames didn't win anything in Atlanta, although they did make the Playoffs there.

Stuff. There is a Flames Fan Attic team store at the Saddledome, although I can't find a reference as to where in the arena. There are also Flames Fan Attics at the North Hill Centre mall and Calgary International Airport. I suspect that, due to the city's Western heritage, you can buy cowboy hats with the Flames' logo on them.

In spite of having won a Stanley Cup, and nearly winning 2 others, there aren't many books about the Flames. The Calgary Herald staff put together a coffee-table book titled Calgary Flames: The Fire Inside, but that's a big book at a big price.

The NHL has released a DVD set, Calgary Flames: 10 Great Playoff Games. They include a Game 7 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in 1981, their 1st season in Calgary; the shocking Game 7 win over the arch-rival Oilers in 1986, won by Steve Smith's own goal; another Game 7 win in 1986, over the St. Louis Blues; a Game 7 win over the Vancouver Canucks in 1989; the Cup-clincher of 1989, the only time a team ever clinched over the Montreal Canadiens at the Montreal Forum; the 1991 Game 6 win over the Oilers won by Theoren Fleury's goal that produced a memorable celebration; the Game 7 win over Vancouver in 2004; the Game 5 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004; and the Game 3 win over the San Jose Sharks in 2008.

During the Game. You are not Edmonton Oilers fans. You will not be wearing Oilers gear. Therefore, you will almost certainly be safe.

Don't be fooled by the "C of Red." The Flames' home jerseys are red, like the Devils'. I don't know if it would be better to wear a red Devils jersey to fit in, or a white one to stand out. But the C of Red is as pervasive as the one in the St. Louis Cardinals' Busch Stadium.

There isn't much in the way of fan chants or songs, just "Go, Flames, Go!" Their goal song is "Righteous Smoke" by Monster Truck. Although they sometimes wear a 3rd jersey with a fire-breathing dragon on it, their mascot is Harvey the Hound, a big white silly-looking dog with its tongue hanging way out -- which has driven some frustrated fans, and even one opposing coach (Craig MacTavish of the arch-rival Oilers), to grab it and try to rip it out. He was introduced in 1983, and was the 1st mascot in NHL history.

After the Game. Canada does not have much of a problem with crime, and while hockey fans like to drink, Flames fans will probably leave you alone. Just don't praise the Oilers, and you should be safe.

Mavericks Dining Room & Lounge is on 2nd Street, at the southwest edge of the parking lot. Effectively, it marks the beginning (or the end) of the Red Mile, a strip of bars and restaurants along 17th Avenue that gained fame for its party atmosphere during the 2004 Playoffs.

Sidelights. As with the other major cities of Canada, Calgary isn't just about hockey.

* Stampede Corral. Home to the Calgary Stampede, the world's largest rodeo, since 1950, the Flames played here from their 1980 move from Atlanta until the Saddledome opened across the street in 1983. At just 6,475 seats, it was too small to be their long-term home, but with the Saddledome already planned, they could afford to wait. Several minor-league hockey teams had used it before the Flames arrived. 10 Corral Trail SE at Olympic Way. (There are no plans to build a new arena to replace the Saddledome.)

* McMahon Stadium. Home to the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League, and the University of Calgary football team, since 1960, it was named for a pair of brothers who funded its construction. Its current capacity is 37,317. Temporary seating raised it to 60,000 so that it could host the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 1988 Winter Olympics.

The Stampeders, a.k.a. the Stamps, won the Grey Cup, Canada's Super Bowl, while playing here in 1971, 1992, 1998, 2001 and 2008. (Previously, they played at Mewata Stadium, and won the 1946 Grey Cup while playing there. That facility was built in 1906 and demolished in 1999.) The stadium hosted the Grey Cup in 1975, 1993, 2000 and 2009. It hosted an NHL Heritage Classic between the Flames and the Canadiens in 2011, which the Flames won, 4-0. 1817 Crowchild Trail NW at 23rd Avenue.

* Foothills Stadium. Adjacent to McMahon Stadium, this 6,000-seat ballpark went up in 1966, and is the home of the University of Calgary baseball team. It was home to several minor league teams, including the Calgary Expos, who won Pioneer League Pennants there in 1979 and 1981. The Pacific Coast League's Calgary Cannons won Division titles in 1985, 1987, 1989 and 1991, but never won a Pennant. 2255 Crowchild Trail NW. Banff station on light rail.

* Museums. Calgary's best-known museum is the Glenbow, which is both their Museum of Natural History and their Metropolitan Museum of Art. 130 9th Avenue SE at 1st Street downtown, across from the iconic Calgary Tower.

Gasoline Alley Museum at Heritage Park Historical Village sounds like a copy of the Henry Ford Museum outside Detroit, as it documents the dawn of the automobile age, with first- and second-generation automobiles and a recreated turn-of-the-20th-Century street scene -- significant because Alberta didn't turn from Territory to full Province until 1905. visitcalgary.com says of it, "It's probably the only time you'll ever find yourself in the thick of a traffic jam without a hint of road rage." 1900 Heritage Drive SW at 14th Street, on Glenmore Reservoir. Light rail to Heritage station, then switch to 502 bus.

Calgary has produced 2 Prime Ministers. The current PM, Stephen Harper, represents a Calgary district (or "riding" as they'd say in Canada). The other is Richard B. Bennett, who served from 1930 and 1935, rising to power after the 1929 stock market crash but was seen as doing nothing to ease the Depression, and became the most hated man in the country's history, so much so that he left Canada for the mother country, Britain. He's the only head of government in either America or Canada who died on foreign soil, or is buried in it. As you might guess, there's no historic site in his memory, either in Calgary or in his hometown in the Province of New Brunswick.

The tallest building in Calgary, and in Canada between Toronto and Vancouver, is The Bow, a weird-looking X-framed downtown building, 774 feet high. 500 Centre Street SE

TV Shows set in Calgary are generally not shown in America. Probably the best-known movie to use Calgary and/or its environs as a filming location was Brokeback Mountain.

*

Calgary is Canada's Dallas and its Denver rolled into one, its great Western city of toughness and excess. And it's a great hockey town. Hopefully, next season, I can get this done on time, so you can actually enjoy it.