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 the Nets 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 3 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.
Then again, that's also been true of the 76ers the last 30 years. They broke the record for the longest losing streak in American professional sports history, with 27 straight loses over last season and this season, with a 116-114 loss to the Houston Rockets. The losing streak reached 28 games before they got their 1st victory, at home over the Los Angeles Lakers. (This in a season where the former Philadelphia NBA team, the Golden State Warriors, won their 1st 24 games before finally losing last night, to the Milwaukee Bucks.)
The Sixers are currently 1-23, 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 a rare win in this 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 not going to be a weather disruption. There's a 20 percent chance of rain for Friday. Temperatures are expected to be in the low 50s in daylight, and the mid-30s at night. A winter jacket should be enough.
Tickets. Due to being lousy, the 76ers are averaging just 14,820 fans per home game, 26th in the league, ahead of only Milwaukee, Minnesota, Denver, and, uh, the Nets. (The Nets are 28th, Denver last.) They're averaging just 72.9 percent of capacity, 27th, ahead of only Detroit, Minnesota and Denver. (The Knicks, no surprise, are averaging 100.0 percent, while the Nets are at 80.7 percent, which is great by their standards.) So getting tickets shouldn't be an issue.
Lower bowl seats are $127 to $203 between the baskets and $51 to $74 behind them. Upper level seats are among the cheapest in the NBA: $25 to $59 between the baskets and $18 to $26 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. If you want to plug a specific address into your GPS, 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.
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.) This will be cheaper than Amtrak.
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 $33.50, while SEPTA from Trenton to Philadelphia will be $18, for a total of $51.50. (I know, I know: "That's insane!" It's still cheaper than Amtrak.)
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.
Train on the Broad Street Line
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, whose official address is 3601 South Broad Street, 3.7 miles south of City Hall, 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 in 1996 on the site of JFK Stadium. Citizens Bank Park, the new home of the Phillies, was built in 2004 to the east of The Vet. And Lincoln Financial Field was built in 2003 south of the new ballpark, and east of the Spectrum.
The Sports Complex, sometime between 1971 and 1992.
Top to bottom: The Vet, The Spectrum, JFK Stadium.
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 19 years old and is now under its 5th name, which it got when it was 14 years old. One of the previous names was the First Union Center, and fans, especially watching Flyer games, liked called it "The F.U. Center." It is 1 of 10 arenas currently hosting an NBA team and an NFL team.
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. The court is aligned north-to-south. Seats are red, so, if you're also a New Jersey Devils fan, but haven't been inside yet (and after 19 years, why not?), it will have some familiarity to you (as long as you don't look up at the bright orange Flyer banners).
The WFC, whose seating capacity tops out at 21,600, hosts the 76ers, the Flyers, some home games for Villanova University basketball, and the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League. It also hosts NCAA Tournament basketball, concerts, and Sportsradio WIP's annual pre-Super Bowl gorgefest, the Wing Bowl. With the exception of the Soul, who hadn't been founded yet, all of these events were previously held at The Spectrum. The WFC also hosted the Republican Convention in 2000 (George W. Bush was nominated), and will host the 2016 Democratic Convention.
(The Democrats met at Convention Hall, now Boardwalk Hall, in Atlantic City in 1964. 2301 Boardwalk at Mississippi Avenue. Atlantic City Rail Line from 30th Street Station.)
The arena has also been home to Arena Football's Philadelphia Soul since 2004. They've been in 3 ArenaBowls, winning in 2008. The arena has not, however, hosted an ArenaBowl.
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 donut 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.
The 76ers banners for their 1967 and 1983 NBA Championships; their 1967, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983 and 2001 Eastern Conference Championships; their 1966 and 1967 Eastern Division Championships; and their 1977, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1983, 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. With his recent death, they've announced that it will be officialy retired -- not this season, but next season (2016-17).
Among players for the Sixers since the 1983 title, 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.
Dolph Schayes, who starred in Syracuse before making the move to Philadelphia as the 76ers' 1st coach while still playing, was named to the NBA's 25th Anniversary Team in 1971. Chamberlain and Erving were named to the 35th Anniversary Team in 1980. Those 3, Greer, Cunningham, Malone and Barkley were named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players in 1996.
All of those, plus 1960s forward Chet Walker (his Number 25 is not retired), and coaches Alex Hannum, Jack Ramsay and Larry Brown are in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
UPDATE: In 2016, Iverson was elected to join them.
Dr. J's statue. Sorry, but he no longer had the Afro
by the time the Sixers won the 1983 NBA title.
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.
Wilt was so much larger than life, he needed two figures on his statue.
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 wrote a book that shows that this season's horrendous start is hardly unprecedented: 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. A November 13, 2014 article on DailyRotoHelp ranked the NBA teams' fan bases, and listed the 76ers' fans 24th, in the bottom quartile of the league. This is not a reference to the legendary nastiness of Philly fans, but to the atmosphere as Sixers games, to the fact that they don't really show up for them anymore: Like Charlotte, Atlanta, Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Louisville, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City, Seattle and San Francisco, Philadelphia is a great basketball city, but it's not a great pro basketball city unless the home team is winning (as Cleveland and San Francisco/Golden State currently are).
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 76ers hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular singer, like the Flyers do with Lauren Hart. The team might play the old fight song "1-2-3-4-5-Sixers!" And, perhaps more than any other team, the 76ers break out throwback uniforms.
They dropped Hip Hop, their shades-wearing, trampoline-jumping-and-dunking rabbit mascot, and have adopted a new mascot, a big blue dog named Franklin (named for Ben), whose "uniform number" is a paw print.
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.
The Tavern on Broad, at 200 S. Broad Street at Walnut, seems to be the headquarters of the local Giants fan club. The Fox & Hound, at 1501 Spruce Street, is also said to be a Giant fans' hangout. Revolution House, at 200 Market Street in Old City, is the local Jet fan center. A particular favorite Philly 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.
If your visit to Philly is during the European soccer season (which is in progress), you can probably watch your favorite club at Fadó Irish Pub, at 1500 Locust Street in Center City. Be advised that this is home to supporters' groups for Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Celtic FC; so if you're not particularly fond of any of those teams, you might want to stay away.
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 fights in the 1st 3 movies were actually filmed at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, due to its proximity to Hollywood. The fights in Rocky IV were filmed in Vancouer.)
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. Elvis Presley sang at The Spectrum on November 8, 1971, June 23, 1974 (2 shows), June 28, 1976 and May 28, 1977. 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, now the WFC.
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, games of the 2003 Women's World Cup, 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, the Penn Quakers have 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 1st 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.
Like the Palestra, the stadium at Franklin Field 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.
* Site of the Philadelphia Civic Center. This complex included 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 1st televised convention. It was built on the site of the Exposition Auditorium, where the Republicans renominated William McKinley in 1900.
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.
1964 Liberty Bowl. Note the lack of end zones,
so the field could fit. Utah beat West Virginia 32-6.
The game had been held at Municipal/JFK Stadium
from 1959 to 1963, and moved to Memphis the next year.
I chose this photo as the best inside shot I could find of the Convention Hall.
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.
(The Democrats met in Atlantic City at the Convention Hall, now named Boardwalk Hall, in 1964, nominating Lyndon Johnson. 2301 Boardwalk at Mississippi Avenue. New Jersey Transit Atlantic City Line from 30th Street Station. The Beatles played there a few days before.)
* 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 -- the Arrows, the Comets, the Ramblers, the Falcons and the Rockets -- 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.
Baseball pitcher-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday delivered sermons there in the 1920s, and Charles Lindbergh used it for an America First speech in 1940. Early in his career, Elvis sang at the Arena on back-to-back days, doing 2 shows each on April 5 and 6, 1957.
1977. The end was near.
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.
* Talen Energy Stadium. Built in 2010 for the expansion Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer, and named PPL Park until last year when PPL was bought by Talen Energy, 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 Wilmington/Newark Line to the Chester Transportation Center, then shuttle buses will take you to the stadium every 20 minutes. 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.
* Site of Frankford Stadium. Philadelphia's 1st pro football team was the Frankford Yellow Jackets, who played at Frankford Stadium in Northeast Philly from 1924 to 1930, winning the 1926 NFL Championship, before a fire on the eve of the 1931 season forced them into Baker Bowl and then into folding.
The stadium was on a plot bounded by Frankford Avenue, Devereaux Avenue, Hawthorne Street and Benner Street. An AutoZone (at 6137 Frankford) and rowhouses are on the site now. Market-Frankford Line to Frankford Transportation Center, then transfer to SEPTA Bus 66 Frankford & Harbison Avenues.
* Site of Broadwood Hotel. From 1924 to 1991, this hotel stood at the intersection of Broad and Wood Streets, just north of Center City. From 1924 to 1946, its ballroom was the home of the Philadelphia SPHAs -- a basketball team run by the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association, even though it wasn't in South Philly. This team would evolve into the Warriors. A parking deck for Hahnemann University Hospital is on the site now. Broad Street Line to Race-Vine.
* Site of Cherry Hill Arena. Before the Devils, the 1st hockey team with major league pretensions to call New Jersey home was actually in South Jersey. In the 1973-74 World Hockey Association season, the former New York Raiders set up shop at the Cherry Hill Arena in Bergen County, and renamed themselves the Jersey Knights.
The building went up in 1959 as the Ice House, and was later renamed the Delaware Valley Gardens before assuming its most familiar name, but no one was confusing it with Madison Square Garden (old or new), the Boston Garden or Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. Sports Illustrated called it "perhaps the worst facility" used by any WHA team, noting that it lacked showers in the dressing room for visiting teams, who had to dress at a Holiday Inn 2 miles away, and that the ice surface was not even level, giving the home team a distinct advantage, as, 2 periods out of every 3, the visitors would have to skate uphill to the opponent's goal.
The Eastern Hockey League placed 2 teams there: The Jersey Larks in 1960-61, and the Jersey Devils (the 1st pro hockey team with the name) from 1964 until 1973, when the arrival of the Knights forced their move. The Philadelphia Warriors played an occasional "home game" there.
The Knights left for San Diego after the 1973-74 season. In 1978, the Arena was renamed The Centrum, and the Northeastern Hockey League placed the Jersey Aces there, but they only lasted a few games. The Arena was demolished in 1981.
The site is now a parking lot for a shopping center that includes a Burger King and a Retro Fitness. 1447 Brace Road, at Haddonfield-Berlin Road. Not easy to reach by public transit: PATCO train to Haddonfield, then almost a half-hour walk.
* 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 the Explorers' 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. They are known for their Hawk mascot flapping his wings throughout the game, never stopping, thus leading to the chant, "The Hawk will never die!" This, of course, leads their Big 5 opponents to chant, "The Hawk must die!" and, if victorious, "The Hawk is dead!"
Their fieldhouse, now named the Michael J. Hagan Arena, is at 2450 N. 54th Street, and features a plaque commemorating a 1967 speech delivered there by Martin Luther King. Number 44 bus from Center City.
* Villanova University. The Wildcats just won their 2nd National Championship, defeating North Carolina in a thriller in Houston, 31 years after their even more amazing upset of Georgetown in Lexington, Kentucky.
Famously (well, famous within the Philadelphia area, anyway), 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 Lansdale/Doylestone Line commuter rail to Villanova Station.
Of the Big 5, only Temple plays Division I-A football: Temple, 'Nova and LaSalle play I-AA, and while St. Joseph's Prep has one of the better programs in Philly-area high school football, their collegiate namesake doesn't play football at all.
* Spike's Trophies. When the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society closed its facility in the northern suburb of Hatboro, they moved their operations, and the plaques honoring A's greats that used to be on the concourse wall at the Vet, to this store near Northeast Philadelphia Airport. 2701 Grant Avenue at Ashton Road. Market-Frankford Line to Frankford Transportation Center, then transfer to Number 50 Bus.
* Laurel Hill Cemetery. This is the final resting place of former Phillies manager Harry Wright, who founded the 1st professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, in 1869; and of longtime broadcaster Harry Kalas. 215 Belmont Avenue in Bala Cynwyd, not far from the St. Joe's campus. Use the Number 44 bus to get to both.
* Gladwyne Methodist Church. Kalas' longtime broadcast partner, the Hall of Fame center fielder Richie "Whitey" Ashburn, is laid to rest here. 316 Righters Mill Road in Gladwyne. The Number 44 bus can also be used for this.
* Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. This is the final resting place of Connie Mack. 3301 W. Cheltenham Avenue. Broad Street Line to Olney Transportation Center, then Number 22 bus.
Philadelphia is home to Independence National Historic Park, including Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The Visitor's Center is at 6th & Market Streets: At this complex, there will be people there to advise you on what to do. 5th Street on the Market Street Line.
The President's House -- that's as formal a name as it had -- was where George Washington (1790-97) and John Adams (1797-1800) lived while Philadelphia was the national capital before Washington, D.C.. It was demolished in 1832. When digging to build the new Liberty Bell Center, the house's foundation was found, and somebody must've asked, "Why didn't anybody think of this before?" So, an exhibit has been set up, at 530 Market Street at 6th. The new Liberty Bell Center is between it and Independence Hall (Chestnut Street between 5th and 6th). Be advised that since 9/11 -- and since the movie National Treasure -- they're understandably a bit finicky about security there.
The oldest surviving Presidential residence (chosen specifically for the President, not counting homes like Mount Vernon or Monticello) is the Germantown White House, which still stands at 5442 Germantown Avenue. George Washington and John Adams used it to escape the heat and, more importantly, the yellow fever epidemics of what's now Center City Philadelphia, making it less "the first Summer White House" and more "the first Camp David." SEPTA Chestnut Hill East Line to Germantown, then 3 blocks down Armat Street and a left on Germantown Avenue. Definitely not safe at night.
Speaking of George Washington, Valley Forge National Historical Park is just an hour's bus ride from Suburban Station. On JFK Blvd. at 17th Street, board the SEPTA 125 bus. Valley Forge Casino Resort and the King of Prussia Mall are a short drive (or a moderate walk) away. The fare is $4.75 each way ($9.50 total).
Only one President has ever come from Pennsylvania, and he might be the worst one of all: James Buchanan, whose Administration began with the Panic of 1857 and ended with the secession of several Southern States. (Whether Buchanan was gay has been debated since even before he became President, but the evidence is flimsy.) His home, Wheatland, still stands at 1120 Marietta Avenue in Lancaster, and he's buried about a mile away in Greenwood Cemetery. But Lancaster, the heart of "Pennsylvania Dutch Country," is 80 miles west of Philly. It's a cheap trip by Amtrak standards, but unless you've always wanted to visit the area, or you're a big history buff, I'd suggest forgetting about it if you're pressed for time.
The Musical Fund Hall hosted the 1st Republican National Convention in 1856, nominating John C. Fremont for President. (He lost to Buchanan.) It was one of many historical meetings at this building, which has stood since 1824. 808 Locust Street, Center City. The Academy of Music hosted their 1872 Convention, renominating President Ulysses S. Grant. It opened in 1857, and hosted the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1900 to 2001, when the Kimmel Center opened across Locust Street. 240 S. Broad Street, Center City.
And the Walnut Street Theatre, which opened in 1809 and is the oldest continuously operating theater in America, hosted the 1st Presidential Debate of the 1976 campaign, between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. 825 Walnut Street, Center City.
Philadelphia's answer to the Museum of Natural History is the University of Pennsylvania Museum, at 33rd & South Streets, across from Franklin Field. (Same trolley stop.) Their answer to the Hayden Planetarium -- and a better one -- is the Franklin Institute, which is also the national memorial to Big Ben, the man who, more than any man made any city in the Western Hemisphere, made Philadelphia. 20th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Number 76 bus. 76, get it? The bus is nicknamed "The Ben FrankLine."
At the other end of the Parkway, at 25th and Spring Garden Streets, is Philly's answer to the Metropolitan, the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Rocky Balboa statue is here, and it doesn't cost anything except sweat to run up the steps.
The chocolate city of Hershey, Pennsylvania is 95 miles west of Center City, and only 15 miles east of the State Capitol in Harrisburg. The smell of chocolate wafts over the city, and is the source of the nickname "The Sweetest Place On Earth." Amtrak goes from 30th Street station to Harrisburg and nearby Middletown (the home of the infamous Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, which is still in operation and hasn't had an incident since the one in 1979), but if you want to go to any prominent place in Hersey, you'll have to rely on local bus service.
There are 4 prominent places in Hershey. There's the Hershey's chocolate factory. There's Hersheypark amusement park. There's Hersheypark Stadium is a 15,641-seat high school football stadium, opened in 1939. On May 9, 1990, the U.S. soccer team beat Poland there. Most notably, Hersheypark Arena, formerly Hershey Sports Arena, which now seats 7,286 people. The Warriors and 76ers played a few home games here, including the March 2, 1962 contest between the Warriors and the Knicks, when Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points.
The minor-league Hershey Bears used it from its opening in 1936 until 2002, when the 10,500-seat Giant Center opened next-door. It still hosts college hockey and concerts. Appropriately, the address of the Arena is 100 W. Hershey Park Drive.
No college football rivalry has been played more than Lafayette College and Lehigh University, separated by 17 miles of U.S. Route 22 in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Lafayette is in Easton, 69 miles north of Center City; Lehigh is in Bethlehem, 56 miles north. On occasion, they've played each other twice and, during World War II, even 3 times a season. Now, they limit themselves to 1. In 2014, on the occasion of their 150th meeting, they played each other at the new Yankee Stadium, with Lafayette winning. Lehigh won last year, but Lafayette leads the series, 78-68-5.
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 to the Toronto Blue Jays 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 surprisingly for a city of its size, Philadelphia has had a few TV shows set there, but not many actually filmed there. Boy Meets World was filmed entirely at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. (Its sequel series, Girl Meets World, featuring Cory & Topanga Matthews and their kids, is set in New York.) Neither does It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia film in Philly -- and it is not always sunny there. Nor did Thirtysomething film there. Nor did Body of Proof. And, being a cartoon, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids didn't have to "film" anywhere.
The 1960s flashback series American Dreams did some filming under the Market Street Elevated Line, but most of it was filmed in L.A. The films Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Story and The Philadelphia Experiment had a few Philly locations put in, but all filming was done in Southern California. For chronological reasons, the film version of the musical 1776 couldn't be filmed on the streets of Philadelphia, or even inside Independence Hall -- although National Treasure used the Hall, and the Franklin Institute, and the Reading Terminal Market.
Probably the best-known film set in the city is Trading Places -- except a lot of it was filmed in and around New York! The New York Chamber of Commerce Building (65 Liberty Street) and the Seventh Regiment Armory (643 Park Avenue) stood in for the Heritage Club. Mill Neck Manor for the Deaf on Long Island stood in for the Duke Brothers' estate. And, of course, the climactic scene was set at the New York Mercantile Exchange, at 4 World Trade Center, which was at destroyed in the 9/11 attacks. Locations in the film that were absolutely in Philly were: 30th Street Station; Duke & Duke, at Fidelity Bank at 135 S. Broad Street, 2 blocks south of City Hall; and Lewis Winthorpe's residence, with exterior shots at 2014 Delancey Place at 20th Street, near Rittenhouse Square, which is where Eddie Murphy pretended to be a blind, legless Vietnam veteran. (This is a private residence: Walk down there if you like, but leave the residents alone.)
So, to sum up, I would definitely recommend to any 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.)