Not that long ago, the Philadelphia Phillies played at Veterans Stadium, a concrete oval (officially, they called its shape an "octorad," which sounds like a made-up word), which seated 62,382 fans for baseball in its final years. Granted, about a third of these seats, 20,000 or so, were in the outfield and well back of the action. But with a few exceptions, during the regular season you could show up at the Vet’s ticket window at 7:00 at night, Monday through Saturday, or at 1:00 on a Sunday, and buy pretty much as many seats as you could afford.
It's a different world at Citizens Bank Park, which opened in 2004. It's not a multipurpose facility, it’s a baseball-specific stadium. Every seat has sufficient width, legroom and alignment to view a game in comfort. Behind you will be concession stands that are plentiful and varied, restrooms that are clean and not beset by noxious fumes, and no 2-inning-long lines at either. In front of you are informative and attractive scoreboards and a nice, natural-grass field, instead of the hideous lime-green carpet at the Vet. Depending on where you sit, you might even get a good view of the skyline of Center City Philadelphia.
(That turf was often called the worst playing surface in the NFL. I don't know if it was the worst in baseball, though: Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium and Houston's Astrodome had artificial fields that looked even worse to me.)
For the 1st 10 years of its existence, because "The Bank" is a nice park, and also because the Phillies were contenders pretty much since it opened, its seats went pretty quickly. That is no longer the case, as the Phils had the worst record in baseball last year.
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 temperatures in Philly will be in the low 70s in daylight, and the low 50s at night when the games will be played, so you should bring a jacket.
Tickets. Citizens Bank Park seats 43,651 fans. The Phillies averaged 23,475 last year, about 54 percent of capacity, and, as the Mets often seem to do, they may have been fudging those figures. Still, it never hurts to buy your tickets ahead of time.
Infield 100 sections will be $70, Baseline 100s will be $53, Outfield 100s will be $38, Infield 200s and 300s will be $38, Outfield 200s will be $30, Outfield 300s will be $28, Infield 400s will be $30, and Outfield 400s will be $20. Get a "Power Ticket" for an additional $10, and you’ll receive a $10 credit toward food or merchandise.
Getting There. It's 99 miles from Times Square in Manhattan to City Hall in Center City Philadelphia, and 111 miles from Citi Field to Citizens Bank Park. (Yes, they both have names of banks slapped on them, and the names are very similar. Don’t be confused, especially since Citi's dominant logo color is blue and Citizens Bank's is green, although the parks' seats reverse those colors, green in Flushing and blue in South Philly.)
This is close enough that a typical Met fan could leave his house, drive to the Citi Field parking lot, meet up with friends, head down to CBP, watch a game, head back to Citi Field, pick up his car, and drive home, all within 10 hours. But it's also close enough that you could spend an entire day in Philadelphia, and, hopefully, you've already done this. Having done so many times myself, I can tell you that it’s well worth it.
If you are driving, you'll need to get on the New Jersey Turnpike. If you're not "doing the city," but just going to the game, take the Turnpike's Exit 3 to NJ Route 168, which forms part of the Black Horse Pike, to Interstate 295. (The Black Horse Pike later becomes NJ Route 42, US Route 322 and US Route 40, going into Atlantic City. Not to be confused with the White Horse Pike, US Route 30, which also terminates in A.C.)
Take I-295 to Exit 26, which will get you onto Interstate 76 and the Walt Whitman Bridge into Philly. Signs for the ballpark will soon follow, and the park is at 11th Street and Pattison Avenue.
From anywhere in New York City, allow 2½ hours for the actual drive, though from North Jersey you might need only 2, and from Central Jersey an hour and a half might suffice. But you’ll need at least another half-hour to negotiate the last mile or so, including the parking lot itself.
If you don't want to drive, there are other options, but the best one is the train. Philadelphia is too close to fly, just as flying from New York (from JFK, LaGuardia or Newark) to Boston, Baltimore and Washington, once you factor in fooling around with everything you gotta do at each airport, doesn’t really save you much time compared to driving, the bus or the train.
And I strongly recommend not taking the bus. If you do, once you see Philadelphia’s Greyhound terminal, at 10th & Filbert Streets in Center City, the nation's 2nd-busiest behind New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal, you'll say to yourself, "I never thought I'd say this, but thank God for Port Authority!"
The Philly terminal is a disgrace. I don't know how many people are in Atlantic City on an average summer day, when both the beaches and the casinos are full (I'm guessing about half a million, or one-third the size of Philly), but it has a permanent population of 40,000 people, compared to the 1.6 million of Philadelphia, and it has a bus station of roughly equal size and far greater cleanliness than Philly's.
If you can afford Amtrak, and that will be an even $100 round-trip, it takes about an hour and a half to get from Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan to the 30th Street Station at 30th & Market Streets, just across the Schuylkill River from Center City. Unlike the dull post-1963 Penn Station, this building is an Art Deco masterpiece from 1933, and is the former corporate headquarters of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Ironically, it never had the official name "Pennsylvania Station" or "Penn Station." (If you can't afford Amtrak, or if you can but you'd rather save money, I'll get to what to do in a minute.)
The east front of 30th Street Station,
with the Cira Center in the background
From 30th Street Station, you can take a cab that will go down I-76, the Schuylkill Expressway, to I-95, the Delaware Expressway, to South Broad Street to the Sports Complex. I would advise against this, though: When I did this for a Yankees-Phillies Interleague game at the Vet in 1999, it was $15. It's probably $25 now.
Instead, you'll need to take the subway, which, like Philly’s commuter-rail and bus systems, is run by SEPTA, the SouthEastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. You might recognize their "S" logo from the film Trading Places, and the bus that hits Tommy Morrison at the end of Rocky V. You'll have to exit 30th Street Station and cross 30th Street itself to get into the 30th St. station on the Market-Frankford Line.
Philadelphia and Toronto are the only 2 cities left on the North American continent, as far as I know, that still use tokens rather than farecards (or "MetroCards" as New York's MTA calls them) or tickets for their subways. But this past February, they began an experiment with "KeyCards," and will probably phase the tokens out.
One ride on a SEPTA subway train is $2.25, cheaper than New York's, but they don't sell single tokens at booths. They come in packs of 2, 5 and 10, and these packs are damn hard to open. Two cost $3.60; five are $9.00, and a ten-pack costs $18.00. They are also available for bulk purchase.
From 30th Street, take the Market-Frankford Line to 15th Street (that's just one stop), where you’ll transfer to the Broad Street Line at City Hall Station. Being a Met fan, you'll notice that the MFL's standard color is blue, while the BSL's is orange. Blue and orange. Don’t think that means they want to make Met fans feel at home, though.
From City Hall, if you're lucky, you’ll get an express train that will make just 2 stops, Walnut-Locust and AT&T (formerly "Pattison" -- yes, they sold naming rights to one of their most important subway stations). But you'll want to save your luck for the game itself, so don’t be too disappointed if you get a local, which will make 7 stops: Walnut-Locust, Lombard-South, Ellsworth-Federal, Tasker-Morris, Oregon, Snyder and AT&T. The local should take about 10 minutes, the express perhaps 7 minutes.
If you don't want to take Amtrak, your other rail option is local. At Penn Station, you can buy a combined New Jersey Transit/SEPTA ticket to get to Center City Philadelphia. Take NJT's Northeast Corridor Line out of Penn Station to the Trenton Transit Center. This station recently completed a renovation that has already turned it from an absolute hole (it was so bad, it made Philly's bus station look like Grand Central) into a modern multimodal transport facility.
At Trenton, transfer to the SEPTA commuter rail. Because there will be a lot more stops than there are on Amtrak (especially the SEPTA part), it will take 2 hours and 40 minutes, but you'll spend $51.50 round-trip, only a little more than what you'd spend on a same-day purchase on Greyhound, and less than half of what you'd be likely to spend on Amtrak.
Main waiting room of 30th Street Station.
You might recognize it from Trading Places.
And if you are riding NJT and SEPTA, you’ll still get to 30th Street Station, but you'll need to bypass it and keep going to the next stop, Suburban Station at 17th Street & John F. Kennedy Blvd. (which is what Filbert Street is called west of Broad Street). Getting off there, a pedestrian concourse will lead you to the City Hall station on the Broad Street Line, and then just take that to Pattison.
A recent renovation gave the interior a much-needed cleanup,
but the Art Deco front entrance is easily the best thing about this place.
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.
SEPTA is now becoming the last major transit authority in America to phase out tokens, although the transition to KeyCards is still in progress. If you have tokens left over from your last visit, you should bring and use them.
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.
The William Penn statue atop City Hall
The sales tax is 6 percent in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Massachusetts, Virginia and Kentucky are also "commowealths" in their official State names), 8 percent within the City of Philadelphia.
ZIP Codes in Philadelphia start with the digits 191. In the suburbs, it's 189, 190, 193 and 194. The Area Code for the city is 215, and the suburbs 610, with 267 overlaying both, and 445 being added in 2018.
Going In. 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.
The Philadelphia sports complex is 3 1/2 miles south of Center City. It 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.
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 parking prices in baseball. But traffic is going to be awful. The first time I went to a sporting event in Philadelphia, it was a 4th of July celebration at the Vet, and 58,000 people showed up to see the Phils face the Houston Astros, with Nolan Ryan pitching. The game and the fireworks combined did not last as long as it took to get out of the parking lot and onto the Walt Whitman Bridge: 2 hours and 40 minutes. Trust me: Take the freakin' subway.
Coming out of the AT&T subway station, you’ll walk down Pattison Avenue, with a parking lot on the former site of Veterans Stadium to your left, and the site of the Spectrum, the 1967-1996 76ers & Flyers arena, to your right.
Further to your right is the successor to the Spectrum, the Wells Fargo Center. This building is 18 years old and is now under its 5th name. It was built on the site of John F. Kennedy Stadium, formerly Municipal Stadium, a 105,000-seat structure that hosted all kinds of events, from the Army-Navy Game to heavyweight title fights (Gene Tunney taking the title away from Jack Dempsey in 1926 and Rocky Marciano doing the same to Jersey Joe Walcott in 1952), from the occasional Eagles game that was too big for Shibe Park in the 1940s and ’50s to the U.S. half of Live Aid in 1985. And it hosted the Phils’ victory celebration in 1980, with its huge capacity coming in handy.
By that point, it was crumbling, and it surprised no one when it was demolished to make way for the new arena. The 76ers and Flyers moved in for the 1996 season. The Republican Party had their Convention there in 2000, nominating George W. Bush; the Democratic Party will meet there in 2016.
Continuing on Pattison Avenue until 11th Street, Citizens Bank Park will be on your left, and the new home of the Eagles, Lincoln Financial Field (a.k.a. The Linc), will be on your right. The complex's traditional address is 3601 South Broad Street, but the ballpark's official address is 1 Citizens Bank Way. (Citizens Bank Way is the block of 11th Street on the stadium's west side.)
You'll most likely be entering the park from the gate behind home plate, or on the 1st base side. Inside the park, concourses are wide and well-lit, a big departure from the Vet (as Citi Field's are from Shea Stadium). Escalators are safe and nearly always work, as opposed to the Vet, which did not have escalators, only seemingly-endless ramps. Getting to your seat should be easy.
The park faces north, and buildings such as the Comcast Center (tallest building in Pennsylvania), One Liberty Place (tallest between New York and Chicago when it was completed in 1987), Two Liberty Place and City Hall (tallest in the world from 1901 to 1908) can be seen from seats behind home plate.
The field, thankfully, is natural grass. Outfield distances are as follows: Left-field pole, 329; left-center, 374; deepest part of the park, left of dead center, 409; center, 401; right-center, 369; right-field pole, 330.
In spite of epic blasts by Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski (including hitting the replica of the Liberty Bell on the upper deck in 1972, leading to that area of seating being nicknamed the Bull Ring), the longest home run at the Vet was hit by Pittsburgh's Willie Stargell, in 1971, well over 500 feet, into the 600 Level. Which is only fair, because, while "Pops" had the longest homer at several stadiums, Luzinski had the longest at his home park, Three Rivers, in 1979. Ryan Howard, with a 505-foot blast on June 27, 2007, currently has the longest home run at Citizens Bank Park.
Citizens Bank Park hosted the NHL Winter Classic on January 2, 2012 -- the day after New Year's Day, because January 1 was a Sunday, and the NFL was finishing its regular season. The whole point of the Winter Classic isn't to evoke memories of childhood hockey on outdoor ponds, but to give the NHL a single day every season where it is the focus of attention -- its "Super Bowl" in midseason. The rink was laid out over the infield, dugout to dugout. Unfortunately, the Flyers lost to the one team I would want them to beat, the Rangers.
Food. From Old Original Bookbinder's (125 Walnut Street at 2nd, now closed) and Le Bec Fin (1523 Walnut at 16th) to the Reading Terminal Market (Philly's "South Street Seaport" at 51 N. 12th St at Filbert) to the South Philly cheesesteak giants Pat’s, Geno’s and Tony Luke’s, Philly is a great food city and don’t you ever forget it. The variety of food available at Citizens Bank Park is unbelievable. Little of it is healthy (no surprise there), but all of it is good.
Some of the best is at the outfield concourse known as Ashburn Alley, named for Richie "Whitey" Ashburn, the 1950s center fielder and longtime broadcaster (and original 1962 Met center fielder), whose statue is in the Alley beyond straightaway center field. In left field is Harry the K’s, a bar named for Ashburn's former broadcast partner, the late Harry Kalas. A statue of Kalas, microphone in hand, is outside.
No, that's not Thor's hammer.
That's a microphone and a bat.
In right field is Bull’s BBQ, named for 1970s slugger Greg Luzinski, a takeoff on the Boog Powell concept at Baltimore’s Camden Yards, right down to the Bull himself often being there to pose for pictures with fans. And Luzinski’s stuff is better than Boog’s. Seriously: I've tried them both, and while Boog's is good, it's a little too spicy for my taste; as for Bull's, as my girl Rachael Ray would say, "Yum-O."
All Bull, no baloney.
Ashburn Alley also includes outlets of Tony Luke's cheesesteaks, and another South Philly legend, Chickie's & Pete's. This is a seafood restaurant – or, should I say, "Dis is a fish joint" – famous for its "crab fries." Turns out, it's just French fries with Old Bay seasoning mix, not fries with crabmeat. They're okay, nothing special; unlike Bull's BBQ (or Shake Shack), you shouldn't go out of your way to get some.
Chickie's & Pete's has a restaurant near the Sports Complex at 1526 Packer Avenue; one on the Black Horse Pike in Egg Harbor near Atlantic City; one on the Wildwood Boardwalk; and one at Arm & Hammer Park, home of the Trenton Thunder, a Yankee farm team.
Team History Displays. Citizens Bank Park has 6 statues. As I mentioned, statues of Ashburn and Kalas are inside. A statue of old-time Athletics owner-manager Connie Mack that was first placed outside the stadium named for him, and later moved to the Vet, now stands outside the 3rd base stands.
Mack's familiar pose, standing on the top step of the A's dugout,
waving his scorecard in order to position his fielders
"Well hit, deep to left field, it's got a chance, that ball is...
outta here! A home run for Michael Jack Schmidt!"
-- Harry Kalas
Back inside, next to Ashburn's statue is a display of every Phillie that has made the All-Star Team at each position -- as far as I know, this is a feature that no other MLB team has at its park. Behind the Alley are their championship pennants: The 1980 and 2008 World Championships (red with white numbers); the 1915, 1950, 1983, 1993 and 2009 National League Pennants (blue with white numbers); and the 1976, 1977, 1978, 2007, 2010 and 2011 NL Eastern Division titles (white with blue numbers).
On August 12, the Phils will make Jim Thome their 38th honoree on this Wall of Fame. The 38 honorees are as follows:
* From the 19th Century: Left fielder Ed Delahanty, right fielder Sam Thompson and center fielder Billy Hamilton.
* From the early 20th Century: Right fielder Sherry Magee.
* From the 1915 Pennant: Alexander and right fielder Clifford "Gavvy" Cravath.
* From the 1920s, '30s and '40s: Klein and center fielder Cy Williams.
* From the 1950 "Whiz Kids" Pennant: Roberts, Ashburn, left fielder Del Ennis, 2nd baseman Granville "Granny" Hamner, pitcher Curt Simmons, and 3rd baseman Willie "Puddin' Head" Jones.
* From the 1964 near-miss: Bunning, pitcher Chris Short, 3rd/1st baseman Dick Allen (don't call him "Richie"), right fielder Johnny Callison, 2nd baseman Tony Taylor, and broadcaster Ashburn.
* From the 1980 World Champions: Carlton, Schmidt, Luzinski, McGraw, manager Dallas Green (who was also a pitcher on the '64 team), general manager Paul Owens, shortstop Larry Bowa, center fielder Garry Maddox, catcher Bob Boone, infielder John Vuckovich (later a longtime coach), and broadcasters Ashburn and Harry Kalas. MLB's ban on Pete Rose has prevented the Phils from officially honoring him in this way. No players from the 1976, '77 and '78 NL East Champions who did not last until the 1980 World Championship, such as Dave Cash and Jim Lonborg, have been chosen.
* From the 1983 Pennant: Manager/GM Owens, Carlton, Schmidt, McGraw, Maddox, 2nd baseman Juan Samuel, and broadcasters Ashburn and Kalas.
* From the 1993 Pennant: Catcher Darren Daulton, 1st baseman John Kruk, pitcher Curt Schilling, and broadcasters Ashburn and Kalas.
* From the interregnum between the 1993 and 2008 Pennants: Catcher Mike Lieberthal, 1st baseman Jim Thome and broadcaster Kalas.
* From the 2008 World Champions: Kalas, manager Charlie Manuel, and left fielder Pat Burrell. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins, 2nd baseman Chase Utley and pitcher Cole Hamels are still active; and 1st baseman Ryan Howard and catcher Carlos Ruiz are still with the Phillies. However, pitchers Jamie Moyer and Brad Lidge have retired, and could be elected.
Although he, like Kalas, has received the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford Frick Award, Byrum "By" Saam has not been elected to the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame. Bill Campbell, who also broadcast for the Phils, has received the broadcaster's award for the Basketball Hall of Fame.
A Phillies' All-Time Team was chosen in 1969, in conjunction with the 100th Anniversary of Professional Baseball. Most of the players were from the 1950 Whiz Kids: 1st baseman Eddie Waitkus, shortstop Hamner, 3rd baseman Jones, left fielder Ennis, center fielder Ashburn, catcher Andy Seminick, and pitcher Roberts. Surprisingly, only pitcher Short and 2nd baseman Cookie Rojas were chosen from the recent near-miss of 1964, not Bunning, Allen or Callison. Klein was the only pre-Whiz Kids player chosen.
The Centennial Team chosen in 1983 was as follows: 1st base, Rose; 2nd base, Manny Trillo; shortstop, Bowa; 3rd base, Schmidt, who was also then selected as the franchise's greatest player ever; outfielders, Ennis, Ashburn and Maddox; catcher, Boone; pitchers, Roberts, Carlton, McGraw and 1950s reliever Jim Konstanty; and manager, Green.
On the other side of the plaza containing the Wall of Fame is a wall featuring the histories of the Phils' former home fields: Recreation Park, 1883 to 1886; National League Park, 1887 to 1894 when it burned down; Baker Bowl, built on the site of National League Park in 1895 and abandoned in 1938; Shibe Park, built for the A's in 1909, the Phils moved in during the 1938 season, renamed Connie Mack Stadium in 1952, the A's left after 1954 and the Phils did so after 1970; and Veterans Stadium, 1971 to 2003.
In 1933, Chuck Klein and Dick Bartell were the Phillies' selectees to the 1st All-Star Game. In 1999, Schmidt and (despite his ban) Rose were named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. That same year, The Sporting News named them, Alexander, Klein, Roberts and Carlton to their 100 Greatest Players. In 2006, Phillies fans selected Schmidt as their representative in the DHL Hometown Heroes poll.
Stuff. The Phillies love to sell team-themed merchandise, from DVDs (including team histories and a tribute to Ashburn) to books to caps to jerseys to autographed balls. They sell stuffed Phanatic dolls and children's books with the Phanatic as the protagonist, written by Phanatic portrayer Tom Burgoyne, who succeeded original Phanatic Dave Raymond (who wore the outfit from 1978 to 1993). There's even a takeoff on the "build-a-bear" theme, "Build Your Own Phanatic." I don't think I've ever seen so much team merchandise available per square foot at any stadium or arena I've ever visited.
There are some terrific books written about the Phillies. Some have been favorable, such as the newly-published The Fightin' Phillies: 100 Years of Philadelphia Baseball from the Whiz Kids to the Misfits, by official team historian You Can't Lose 'Em All: The Year the Phillies Finally Won the World Series (Frank Fitzpatrick's book about the 1980 team). Some have been not so favorable, such as The Fall of the 1977 Phillies: How a Baseball Team's Collapse Sank a City's Spirit (Mitchell Nathanson's Philly answer to The Bronx Is Burning).
There are DVD collections for the 1980 and 2008 World Championships, and an official video history of the team, Phillies Memories: The Greatest Moments In Philadelphia Phillies History. The Essential Games of the Philadelphia Phillies DVD features 4 entire broadcasts: Game 5 of the 1980 NL Championship Series, the Pennant-clincher over the Houston Astros; Game 6 of the 1993 NLCS, the Pennant-clincher over the Atlanta Braves; Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, the clincher over the Tampa Bay Rays; and Game 1 of the 2010 NL Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds, Roy Halladay becoming only the 2nd pitcher ever to throw a postseason no-hitter.
Some of these "Essential Games" collections include 6 games. They could easily have included Game 6 of the 1980 World Series, the clincher over the Kansas City Royals; and the 2007 regular-season finale that clinched the NL East title while the Mets... Uh, let's move on.
During the Game. A recent Thrillist article named the Phillies' fans Number 5 on a list of "the most intolerable in baseball." For perspective, they named the Yankees' fans 4th and the Mets' 8th. The article compared Phils fans with the characters on the sitcom It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Unfavorably.
Well, this is not Veterans Stadium, or the Spectrum. It's not an Eagles or Flyers game. You can wear your Met gear at CBP without fear of drunken bums physically hassling you. And you don’t have to worry about them making fun of your less-traditional Met gear (such as orange caps or black jerseys). If they do, just remind them that the Phillies' uniforms haven’t always been classy red-pinstripe jobs. (The 76ers have had some whacked-out togs as well, and don’t even get me started on the Flyers’ 1980s duds. Seriously, long pants for hockey? Cooperalls?)
The Mets and Phillies have hardly ever both been good at the same time. This is a good thing, considering the proximity of the two cities. Giants vs. Eagles has been very nasty at times. The one Eagles game I ever saw at the Vet was the 2001 season finale, when a furious Giant comeback fell just short and the Eagles won the NFC East. It was Christmas/New Year's week, it was about zero degrees, and the only hot things were the coffee, the hot chocolate, and the tempers.
The Flyers have had hard rivalries with all 3 New York Tri-State Area hockey teams: In the 1970s and '80s, Rangers-Flyers was always good for a punch-up, either on the ice or in the stands, Garden or Spectrum; the Islanders beat the Flyers to win their 1st Stanley Cup in 1980 (and you should never mention the name of referee Leon Stickle to a Philadelphian); and fans of the Devils and Flyers have been going at it hammer and tongs pretty much since the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals. (I don't think Ron Hextall has seen that 65-foot wobbler off the stick of Claude Lemieux yet.)
But the Mets and Phillies? I saw the matchup twice at the Vet, and on neither occasion did I see anybody get rough with anybody else. And on neither occasion did the Mets win -- in fact, in both games they blew a lead.
Of the 5 seasons with the most combined wins for the Mets and Phils, 3 were 2006, '07 and '08. The top 2 were 1986, when the Mets won 108 and the Phils 86; and 1976, when the Phils won 101 and the Mets 86. To this day, 2008 is the only season in which both teams won as many as 88, and only 8 times in their 54 years of joint existence have both teams even finished above .500 – 4 of those, half, from 2005 to 2008. And 1986 and 2006 are the only seasons in which the Mets and Phils have finished 1st and 2nd, in that order; and 2007 and 2008 are the only times it was the other way around. While the Yankees and the Philadelphia Athletics had a real rivalry in the first half of the 20th Century, especially from 1927 to 1932, Mets vs. Phillies simply hasn't been of the same caliber.
So, unlike the hatred that exists between Philly fans and the New York Giants (football edition), the Dallas Cowboys, the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the New York-area hockey teams (but not between the 76ers and the Knicks or the Nets), Mets-Phils is still a recent thing in terms of a rivalry. As a result, while I can't guarantee anything, you will probably be safe.
Except, maybe, from the Phillie Phanatic. He won't run you over with his ATV, but he might come into your section and razz you a bit. Since he's supposed to be silent, it'll be limited to gestures. Nothing obscene, of course, since he's supposed to be there to entertain kids.
This isn't one of the reasons why, as it's clearly photoshopped.
The Monday game is Asian Pacific Night. The Tuesday game is Autism Awareness Night. There will be functions related to both themes. There is no promotion for the Wednesday night game.
The Phillies hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular, like the neighboring Flyers do with Lauren Hart. There is no recognizable Phillies chant, not even, "Let's go, Phillies! (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)" However, as John Facenda narrated (most likely, from Steve Sabol's writing) on an old NFL Films piece about the Eagles, "A Philadelphia fan learns to boo before he learns to talk." And the idea of Philadelphia fans becoming "The Philly Boo-Birds" goes back at least as far as the Athletics teams of the early 20th Century. (And, yes, these are the people who booed and threw snowballs at a man in a Santa Claus suit at an Eagles game in 1968.)
But Philadelphia fans are just as liable to boo their own players and management as the opposition. As Angelo Cataldi, the morning host on 610 WTEL (formerly WIP) and 94 WIP-FM (formerly WYSP), put it, "Should we reward apathy?"
During the 7th inning stretch, after "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" is played, the Phanatic and 2 young lady ushers will jump up onto the roof of the Phils' dugout and dance to some song or other. In the 1980s and early '90s, it was usually "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry. Now they mix the songs up, and it could be anything from the 1950s up to the present day. The Phanatic usually stays on the dugout roof for the entire bottom of the 7th, and gets back on in the top of the 9th (if the Phils are winning) or the bottom (if they're losing or tied).
The Phanatic won't dress up in an Elvis jumpsuit, complete with hair, like Mr. Met does, but he might dress up in boxing gloves and a robe, and pretend to punch something out as the theme from Philly-based movie series Rocky plays.
If a Phillie hits a home run, the big white Liberty Bell replica over right-center field will light up, and sway from side to side as it "tolls," complete with sound effects, while fireworks (something Philly knows a bit about) shoot off from the roof. This will also happen at the end of the game if the Phillies win. This bell replaces the one that used to hang from the outfield roof of the Vet, and before that from the Vet’s mezzanine until Luzinski hit it with a home run. (I wonder if it cracked on impact?)
In 1976, as they were storming their way to the NL East title, Schmidt, Luzinski, Bowa, Maddox and 2nd baseman Dave Cash, then the team Captain who popularized their "Yes We Can" slogan, appeared on a disco record, "Phillies Fever." Lot a lot of disco acts, they turned out to be one-hit wonders, because the Phillies got swept in the Playoffs. And, like a lot of one-hit wonders, the song is forgettable.
If the Phillies win, they'll play a version of the Frank Sinatra song "High Hopes," sung by Kalas during a locker room victory celebration in the Pennant season of 1993. Though I still don't know why an ant would want a rubber tree plant.
After the Game. Philadelphia is a big city, with all the difficulties of big cities as well as many of the perks of them. Especially at night, the risk of Phils fans getting rough increases, as they've had time to drink, but not by much. If it were an Eagles or Flyers game, you might have to worry, but probably not after a Phillies game. After all, just because they like to call CBP "the National League's answer to Fenway Park" (it isn't: Wrigley Field is), doesn't mean that they'll act like the drunken boors of Kenmore Square.
What you should do at the end of the game depends on what time it is and how you got there. Except for non-ESPN Sundays, the occasional Thursday afternoon "Businessperson's Special," and rain-forced day/night doubleheaders, all Phillies home games are night games.
If you took the train(s) down, you shouldn't have too much trouble getting back onto the subway, and to Suburban Station, in time to catch the 10:45 PM SEPTA train back to Trenton, which will allow you to get the 11:51 PM NJ Transit train back to New York, arriving at Penn Station at 1:22 AM. If, for whatever reason (extra innings, you stopped somewhere along the way, something else), you end up missing this train, there will be another an hour later, but the NJT train it connects to at Trenton at will be the last train of the night.
If you drove down, and you want to stop off for a late dinner and/or drinks (except, of course, for the designated driver), the nearby Holiday Inn at 9th Street & Packer Avenue has a bar that is co-owned by former Eagles quarterback, now ESPN pundit, Ron Jaworski. As I mentioned earlier, the original outlet of Chickie's & Pete's is at 15th & Packer. Right next to it is a celebrated joint, named, appropriately enough, Celebre Pizzeria.
(The legend is true: Richie Ashburn and his broadcast partners, Harry Kalas, Chris Wheeler and Andy Musser mentioned their great-tasting pizza 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, sand the Fox & Hound, at 1501 Spruce Street and 15th Street, have both been alleged to be the headquarters of the local Giants fan club. Revolution House, at 200 Market Street and 2nd Street, is apparently the local Jets fan hangout.
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.
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 in 1941, 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, which is 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. (Rocky II was released in 1978, but the scripts make the dates definitive. 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 1st 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. Elvis Presley played it on November 8, 1971; 2 shows on June 23, 1974; June 28, 1976; and, on what turned out to be his final tour, May 28, 1977. The Grateful Dead and Aerosmith became known for their Spectrum shows. So did Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen, who are honored with banners for their shows at the Wells Fargo Center. (Billy and Elton John are so honored at Madison Square Garden.)
The Spectrum became, in the words of its promoters, "America's Showplace" and the most-used sports arena in the world. This was a blessing and a curse: They could make a lot of money off of it, but it was limited. So Spectacor, the company that owned the Spectrum and the Sixers, built Spectrum II -- which, in a series of naming-rights changes due to bigger banks swallowing old ones, became the CoreStates Center, the First Union Center (Flyer fans loved calling it "the F.U. Center"), the Wachovia Center and now the Wells Fargo Center.
From 1996 to 2009, the arenas stood side-by-side. The main Spectrum tenants said goodbye as follows: The Flyers with an exhibition game on September 27, 2008, with all their former Captains on hand, as the Fly Guys beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2; Villanova with the building's last college basketball game on January 28, 2009, a win over the University of Pittsburgh; and on March 13, 2009, the Sixers beat the Chicago Bulls 104-101 in a special regular-season game.
The Spectrum was demolished the next year, and replaced in part with a live concert venue called "Xfinity Live!" (Yes, the exclamation point is included in the official name.) This structure now hosts the statues that were outside the Spectrum: For Julius Erving, for Kate Smith, and a statue titled "Score!" depicting Gary Dornhoefer's overtime goal against the Minnesota North Stars in the 1973 Playoffs. The statue of Sylvester Stallone as Rocky was moved, appropriately enough, to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, not far from the steps he ran up in every movie. A hotel is planned for the rest of the Spectrum site.
* Veterans Stadium. When it opened on April 10, 1971, it was considered state of the art and wonderful. And, as the Phillies had a great team from 1976 to 1983, reaching 6 postseasons in 8 years, winning 2 Pennants and the 1980 World Series, it became beloved by Phils fans. The Eagles, too, had a resurgence in the late 1970s, and hosted and won the 1980 NFC Championship Game.
The yellow-orange-red seat scheme was replaced
with all-blue in 1995. The video screens were added in 1986.
Note the Liberty Bell replica atop center field.
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.) Temple played home games there from 1978 to 2002, and the USFL's Philadelphia Stars in 1983 and 1984. In the old North American Soccer League, the Philadelphia Atoms played there from 1973 to 1975, and the Philadelphia Fury from 1978 to 1980.
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 both sports. 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 downtown "retro park," and no one wanted one of the suburban (or sort-of-suburban, as in the Vet's case) "cookie-cutter stadiums" that dominated the 1960s and '70s.
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.
* Wells Fargo Center. Despite having 5 different names in its 1st 15 years, this arena, built on the site of JFK Stadium, is a big improvement over the Spectrum, which had a common flaw in arenas built in the 1960s, '70s and '80s: Two levels of seats but only one level of concourse. The Fargo has a lot more concourse space, and even a sellout doesn't feel cramped.
Since it opened, the Flyers have made their sport's Finals twice, in 1997 and 2010; the Sixers, once, in 2001; all 3 were lost. While the new arena is much more comfortable for the fans, it's not especially intimidating: The sound doesn't carry as well as it did in the Spectrum. No opposing hockey player is afraid of the noise that Flyer fans make anymore, the Sixers don't exactly have a good home-court advantage, and as for anyone being afraid of Villanova, well, even their newly-won National Championship won't make that happen: They're called "Vanilla-Nova" for a reason.
The arena includes a statue of Philly native, and former Warriors and Sixers star, Wilt Chamberlain, dedicated a few years after his death in 1999. (Dr. J got his statue shortly after he retired.)
The Wells Fargo Center hosted the NCAA's hockey version of the Final Four, the Frozen Four, in 2014. It hosted the Republican National Convention in 2000, nominating George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. So if you need a reason to dislike the place, there's a good one. The Democrats will meet there this Summer.
* 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, games of the 2003 Women's World Cup, 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.
* Site of Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium. 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.
Home plate entrance, 21st & Lehigh
The Eagles played and won the 1948 NFL Championship Game at Shibe Park, 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.
3rd base dugout during the infamous 1964 season.
Number 4 is Phillies manager Gene Mauch.
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.
The site sat vacant for many years, until Deliverance Evangelistic Church was built on the site in 1991. 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.
On August 8, 1903, a balcony collapsed at Baker Bowl, killing 12 people -- the closest North American sports has ever come to the kind of stadium disasters that have fallen soccer stadiums in Britain and continental Europe. The Phillies then played 16 home games at Columbia Park while Baker Bowl was being repaired.
On May 14, 1927, rotting timbers, weakened further by rainfall, caused a section of Baker Bowl's right field upper deck to collapse. Incredibly, no one was killed, but the resulting stampede injured 50 people, and 1 man died of a heart attack. Again, the Phils groundshared with the A's on a temporary basis, before moving in permanently during the 1938 season.
Because of the shape of the land, the right-field foul pole was just 280 feet from home plate, and so a high fence was erected. The fence was tall enough for a giant soap ad, reading, "The Phillies use LIFEBUOY." The joke was, "And they still stink!"
It was not kept up well, and the Reading Railroad tunnel gave center field a bit of a rise. Baker Bowl became known as The Dump By the Hump. The team was just as bad: In the site's 52 seasons of use, only once did the Phils win a Pennant, and only 1 World Series was played there. That was in 1915, and the Phils lost to the Boston Red Sox. But Game 2 was attended by President Woodrow Wilson, making Baker Bowl the 1st ballpark to host both a World Series and a President of the United States at the same time.
It was used for "midget auto" racing until it was finally demolished in 1950 -- ironically, the year the "Whiz Kids" Phils won the Pennant 7 blocks away at Shibe Park. Retail now occupies the site. Southwest corner of Broad Street and Lehigh Avenue. Same subway stop as Shibe/Connie Mack.
* Site of Columbia Park. The A's original home was in a section of North Philly called Brewerytown, on Columbia Avenue at 29th Street. It was a 13,600-seat wooden structure with a right field fence that, like Baker Bowl's, was only 280 feet from home plate. Here, the A's won the Pennant in 1902 and 1905.
Columbia Park, 1st home of the A's
When the A's built Shibe Park in 1908-09, the sod was transplanted from Columbia Park. After lying vacant for a few years, it was torn down, and the familiar Philly-style row houses were built on the site. Columbia Avenue, and its stop on the Broad Street Line, were renamed for Philadelphia civil rights leader and City Councilman Cecil B. Moore Avenue following his death in 1979. 2900 Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
* Recreation Park. Perhaps the 1st home of baseball in Philadelphia, the site was used at least as far back as 1860. It was the 1st home of the Phillies, from 1883 to 1886. By 1890, the 6,500-seat wooden grandstand was gone. Row houses and 2 churches now occupy the site. 2400 Ridge Avenue.
This artist's rendering was the only image I could find
of the Phillies' 1st home, Recreation Park.
* Jefferson Street Grounds. The 1st home of openly professional baseball in Philadelphia, the original Philadelphia Athletics played there in the National Association from 1871 to 1875, and in the National League in 1876, before being kicked out of the League. From 1883 (a Pennant year for them) until 1890 (when they folded), it was the home of the American Association's version of the Philadelphia Athletics. (Neither of these Athletics have any connection but name to the American League team now based in Oakland.)
The 1st game in NL history was played at this 5,000-seat wooden facility, on April 22, 1876, and the Athletics lost 6-5 to the Boston Red Stockings (forerunners of the Atlanta Braves.) It was demolished sometime after 1890, and a school named Camelot Academy, including, appropriately enough, athletic fields, is now on the site. 1435 N. 26th Street, also in Brewerytown. The sites of Columbia Park, Recreation Park, and the Jefferson Street Grounds all can be reached by Bus 3, 7 or 48 from Cecil B. Moore stop on the Broad Street Line.
Philadelphia was also home to a couple of notable minor-league teams. The Hilldale Club, also known as the Philadelphia Hilldales and the Darby Daisies, played from 1910 until 1932, when the Great Depression did them in. They won Pennants in 1923, '24 and '25, and the Negro World Series in 1925. Hall-of-Famers who played for them included Judy Johnson (who grew up in nearby Wilmington, Delaware), Louis Santop, Biz Mackey (who discovered North Philly native Roy Campanella), Oscar Charleston and Martin Dihigo.
They played at Hilldale Park, at Cedar & Chester Avenues in Yeadon. A shopping center is on the site now. Number 13 Subway-Surface Line to 9th & Cedar.
The Philadelphia Stars (not to be confused with the later USFL team of the same name) played from 1933 to 1952, mostly at Penmar Park, a.k.a. 44th and Parkside Ballpark, at the southeast corner of Parkside & Belmont Avenues, across from Fairmount Park.
The Stars, led by Hall-of-Famers Biz Mackey and Jud Wilson, won a Pennant there in 1934. A mural commemorating the ballpark is now at the site. Number 15 Subway-Surface Line to Girard & 42nd.
If you're going to any of these old ballpark sites, do it in daylight.
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 5 times: 1939, 1971, 1985, 2009 and 2016. 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 and 2016.
* 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 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.
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 first televised convention. It was built on the site of the Exposition Auditorium, where the Republicans renominated William McKinley in 1900.
(The Democrats met in Atlantic City at the Convention Hall, now named Boardwalk Hall, in 1964, nominating Lyndon Johnson. 2301 Boardwalk at Mississippi Avenue. New Jersey Transit Atlantic City Line from 30th Street Station. The Beatles played there a few days before.)
The Beatles played here on September 2, 1964. Pope John Paul II said Mass here. The Philadelphia Warriors played here from 1952 to 1962, when they moved to San Francisco (and now the "Golden State Warriors" play in Oakland), and the 76ers from 1963 until the Spectrum opened in 1967. Titles were won here by the 1956 Warriors and the 1967 76ers. The Philadelphia Blazers played the 1st World Hockey Association season here, 1972-73, but were terrible, and with the Flyers on the way up, nobody wanted to see the WHA team. They moved to Vancouver the next season.
So many Philly area greats played here, in high school, college and the pros, but you need know one name -- pardon the pun -- above all others: Wilt Chamberlain. I saw a concert here in 1989, and the acoustics were phenomenal, with a horseshoe of seats and a stage at one end, much like Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City and the building once known as the Baltimore Civic Center.
Built in 1931, it was demolished in 2005 to make way for the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. 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 Arena made its name hosting college hockey: Penn playing there was understandable, but, at the time, Princeton and even faraway Yale did not have their own rinks, and used the Arena as home ice.
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.
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 train to the Chester Transportation Center, then a shuttle bus leaving every 20 minutes will take you to the stadium. 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.
In addition to the Yellow Jackets, another ill-fated team played in Eastern Pennsylvania in the NFL's early days. The Pottsville Maroons played at the 5,000-seat Minersville Park, at the intersection of Sunbury Road and Prison Road, 106 miles northwest of Philly, from 1920 to 1928. They claimed the 1925 NFL Championship, but may have been "robbed" of the title.
* 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 wasn't 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 the occasional "home game" there in the 1959-60, 1960-61 and 1961-62 season. (They also played a few in Trenton.)
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/Centrum 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/Doylestown 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. (UPDATE: Ed Snider, the founding owner of the Flyers, who died the day before I posted this, was also buried there.)
* Gladwyne Methodist Church. Kalas' longtime broadcast partner, the Hall of Fame center fielder Richie 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.
The greatest baseball star to come from Eastern Pennsylvania is Christy Mathewson, the New York Giants pitching legend of the early 20th Century. A native of Factoryville, he was a multi-sport star at Lewisburg's Bucknell University, who named their stadium after him. He is buried nearby, at Lewisburg Cemetery, 201 S. 7th Street. It's 176 miles west of Midtown Manhattan, 154 miles northwest of Center City Philadelphia, and you'd need a car to get there.
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 West 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 baseball fan, even a Met fan, that they take in a Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park. I think it's the best of the 1992-present "retro ballparks" -- even if the home fans aren't always nice.
I’d tell you to have fun, but, since you're Met fans, facing Philly fans, I'll say, instead, "Try not to get yourself or anybody else killed."