Thursday, April 28, 2011

How to Be a Met Fan In Philadelphia - 2011 Edition

The Mets have now won 6 straight games. They’ll try to make it 7 tonight in Washington, with Chris Capuano starting against the aging, but apparently still effective, Livan Hernandez. Like I said when I did my “How to Be a Met Fan In Washington” piece, you might have a better chance of seeing a Met win in D.C. than in N.Y.

Going into tonight’s game, the Metropolitans are 11-13, not a bad place to be considering what they had going into this season. But they’re still 5 games behind the Phillies, who at 16-8 have the 2nd-best record in baseball, trailing only the Colorado Rockies.

The Mets will then head up I-95 to face the team that always should have been their arch-rivals, the 3-time defending National League Eastern Division Champion Philadelphia Phillies, at Citizens Bank Park:

* Friday night, 7:05 PM, Mike Pelfrey vs. Vance Worley. Sorry, Pelf, but I won’t be there. You’re gonna have to try to win this one without your good-luck charm. (I had to update this: Joe Blanton was supposed to start tomorrow night, but he's gone on the Disabled List, so the Phils are starting Worley instead.)

* Saturday afternoon, 1:10 PM, Jon Niese vs. Roy Halladay. A mismatch, but it’s a Fox Game of the Week, so who knows? Note that, aside from Fox broadcasts, the Phillies play all their Saturday games at night. In fact, their only day games are on Sundays (barring ESPN broadcasts) and the occasional “Businessperson’s Special” 12:35 start on a Thursday afternoon.

* Sunday night, 8:00 PM, Met Starter To Be Determined vs. the incredibly overrated Cliff Lee, who is now just 2-2 with a 4.18 ERA – and that’s in the NL, where pitchers bat. Yeah, I know, CBP is a hitters’ park, but, still, that’s not why David Montgomery, Bill Giles and Ruben Amaro Jr. are payin’ him the big bucks. Anyway, it’s an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball broadcast.

This is an update of a piece I did last August, a primer for Met fans going, or considering going, to any or all of this weekend's series in Philadelphia:

Not that long ago, the Philadelphia Phillies played at Veterans Stadium, a concrete oval (actually, they officially 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. (It was often called the worst 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.) Depending on where you sit, you might even get a good view of the skyline of Center City Philadelphia.

But because “The Bank” is a nice park, and also because the Phillies have been contenders pretty much since it opened, its 43,647 seats go pretty quickly. So I’m beginning this guide by saying...

Before You Go. You should get your ticket(s) in advance. I’m not kidding about this: Although scalpers are plentiful around the South Philly sports complex, for all 4 major sports, don’t even think of patronizing the scalpers while wearing opposing-team gear, especially if it’s the Mets. Or the Los Angeles Dodgers. Or the St. Louis Cardinals. (The Phils have unpleasant histories with those teams as well, although the one with the cross-State Pittsburgh Pirates seems to have fizzled out, as the Pirates have been crap since 1993.)

Most tickets for a Phils game – the tickets that will be available, anyway – will be $36 or less. Superb seats can be had in the 300 level and even the uppermost 400 level for $28. Get a “Power Ticket” for an additional $10, and you’ll receive a $10 credit toward food or merchandise.

Getting There. It’s 99 miles from Times Square in Manhattan to City Hall in Center City Philadelphia, and 111 miles from Citi Field to Citizens Bank Park. (Yes, they both have names of banks slapped on them, and the names are very similar. Don’t be confused, especially since Citi’s dominant logo color is blue and Citizens Bank’s is green, although the parks’ seats reverse those colors, green in Flushing and blue in South Philly.) This is close enough that a typical Met fan could leave his house, drive to the Citi Field parking lot, meet up with friends, head down to CBP, watch a game, head back to Citi Field, pick up his car, and drive home, all within 10 hours. But it’s also close enough that you could spend an entire day in Philadelphia, and, hopefully, you’ve already done this. Having done so many times myself, I can tell you that it’s well worth it.

If you are driving, you’ll need to get on the New Jersey Turnpike. If you’re not “doing the city,” but just going to the game, take the Turnpike’s Exit 3 to NJ Route 168, which forms part of the Black Horse Pike, to Interstate 295. (The Black Horse Pike later becomes NJ Route 42, US Route 322 and US Route 40, going into Atlantic City. Not to be confused with the White Horse Pike, US Route 30, which also terminates in A.C.)

Take I-295 to Exit 26, which will get you onto Interstate 76 and the Walt Whitman Bridge into Philly. Signs for the ballpark will soon follow, and the park is at 11th Street and Pattison Avenue (though the mailing address is "1 Citizens Bank Way"). From anywhere in New York City, allow 2½ hours for the actual drive, though from North Jersey you might need only 2, and from Central Jersey an hour and a half might suffice. But you’ll need at least another half-hour to negotiate the last mile or so, including the parking lot itself.

If you don’t want to drive, there are other options, but the best one is the train. Philadelphia is too close to fly, just as flying from New York (from JFK, LaGuardia or Newark) to Boston, Baltimore and Washington, once you factor in fooling around with everything you gotta do at each airport, don’t really save you much time compared to driving, the bus or the train.

And I strongly recommend not taking the bus. If you do, once you see Philadelphia’s Greyhound terminal, at 10th & Filbert Streets in Center City, the nation’s 2nd-busiest behind New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal, you’ll say to yourself, “I never thought I’d say this to myself, but thank God for Port Authority!” The Philly terminal is a disgrace. I don’t know how many people are in Atlantic City on an average summer day, when both the beaches and the casinos are full (I'm guessing about half a million or one-third the size of Philly), but it has a permanent population of 35,000 people, compared to the 1.6 million of Philadelphia, and it has a bus station of roughly equal size and far greater cleanliness than Philly’s. If you do want to take Greyhound, it’s about 2 hours and 20 minutes each way, and $40 round-trip, and buses leave Port Authority just about every hour on the hour.

If you can afford Amtrak, and that will be anywhere from $48 to $150 each way, most of them being $93, it takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes to get from Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan to the 30th Street Station at 30th & Market Streets, just across the Schuylkill River from Center City. Unlike the dull post-1963 Penn Station, this building is an Art Deco masterpiece from 1933, and is the former corporate headquarters of the Pennsylvania Railroad. (Ironically, it never had the official name “Pennsylvania Station” or “Penn Station.”) You might recognize its interior from the Eddie Murphy film Trading Places. (If you can’t afford Amtrak, or if you can but you’d rather save money, I’ll get to what to do in a minute.)

From 30th Street Station, you can take a cab that will go down I-76, the Schuylkill Expressway, to I-95, the Delaware Expressway, to South Broad Street to the Sports Complex. I would advise against this, though: When I did this for a Yankees-Phillies Interleague game at the Vet in 1999, it was $15. It’s probably $25 now.

Instead, you’ll need to take the subway, which, like Philly’s commuter-rail and bus systems, is run by SEPTA, the SouthEastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. You might recognize their “S” logo from Trading Places, and the bus that hits Tommy Morrison at the end of Rocky V. You’ll have to exit 30th Street Station and cross 30th Street itself to get into the 30th St. station on the Market-Frankford Line.

Philadelphia and Toronto are the only 2 cities left on the North American continent, as far as I know, that still use tokens rather than farecards (or "MetroCards" as New York's MTA calls them) or tickets for their subways. One ride on a SEPTA subway train is $2.00, a shade cheaper than New York's, but they don’t sell single tokens at booths. They come in packs of 2, 5 and 10 (so you'd pay $4, $10 or $20), and they’re damn hard to open.

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 Pattison. 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 Pattison. The local should take about 10 minutes, the express perhaps 7.

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 is currently in the latter stages of a renovation that has already turned it from an absolute hole (worse even than Philly’s bus station) into a modern multimodal transport facility. At Trenton, transfer to the SEPTA R7 train terminating at Chestnut Hill East. Because there will be a lot more stops than on Amtrak (especially the SEPTA part), it will take 2 hours and 20 minutes, but you’ll spend $49 round-trip, about one-quarter what you’d be likely to spend on Amtrak.

And if you are riding NJT and SEPTA, you’ll still get to 30th Street Station, but you’ll need to bypass it and keep going to the next stop, Suburban Station at 17th Street & John F. Kennedy Blvd. (which is what Filbert Street is called west of Broad Street). Getting off there, a pedestrian concourse will lead you to the City Hall station on the Broad Street Line, and then just take that to Pattison.

The subway’s cars are fairly recent, and don’t rattle much, although they can be unpleasant on the way back from the game, especially if it’s a football game and they’re rammed with about 100 Eagles fans who’ve spent the game sweating and boozing and are still loaded for bear for anyone from outside the Delaware Valley. It’s highly unlikely anyone will give you anything more than a little bit of verbal on the subway ride into the Sports Complex, while they might give a little more gusto to the verbal on the ride back. But despite Philly sports fans’ reputation, this will not be the equivalent of the London Underground on a Saturday afternoon in the 1980s: They might tell you that your team sucks (even if your team is ahead of theirs in the standings), but that’s about the worst you’ll get.

Going In. Coming out of the Pattison 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 building recently renamed the Wells Fargo Center. This building is 15 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.

Continuing on Pattison Avenue until 11th Street, Citizens Bank Park will be on your left, and the new home of the Eagles, Lincoln Financial Field (a.k.a. The Linc), will be on your right. CBP has 5 statues, 4 of them outside. A statue of old-time Athletics owner-manager Connie Mack that was first placed outside the stadium named for him, and later moved to the Vet, now stands outside the 3rd base stands. One of 1970s-80s Phillies slugger Mike Schmidt is outside the 3rd base gate. One of 1950s Phils ace Robin Roberts, who died a few weeks ago (the Phils are wearing a Number 36 patch on their right sleeves this season), is outside the 1st base gate. And one of 1970s-80s Phils ace Steve Carlton is at the left field gate. The one that’s inside, I’ll get to shortly.

Don’t be fooled by the map: Philadelphia International Airport is 4 miles from the Sports Complex, so you won’t get rattled by plane after plane after plane going overhead, like in Flushing Meadow.

Inside the park, concourses are wide and well-lit, a big departure from the Vet (as Citi Field’s are from Shea Stadium). Escalators are safe and nearly always work, as opposed to the Vet, which did not have escalators, only seemingly-endless ramps. Getting to your seat should be easy.

Food. From Bookbinder and Le Bec Fin to the Reading Terminal Market 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 (surprise), 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, 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. (There’s a movement to put a statue of Kalas in the park. Last I heard, the only remaining thing to decide was where in the park to put it.)

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: As my girl Rachel Ray would say, “Yum-O.”

Ashburn Alley also includes outlets of Tony Luke’s cheesesteaks, and another South Philly legend, Chickie’s & Pete’s. This is a seafood restaurant – or, should I say, “Dis is a fish joint” – famous for its “crab fries.” Turns out, it’s just French fries with Old Bay seasoning mix, not fries with crabmeat. They’re okay, nothing special. Chickie’s & Pete’s 4 restaurants in Philly, including one near the Sports Complex at 1526 Packer Avenue, one on the Black Horse Pike in Egg Harbor near Atlantic City, and one at Mercer County Waterfront Park, home of the Trenton Thunder, a Yankee farm team.

Team History Displays. Next to Ashburn’s statue is a display of every Phillie that has made the All-Star Team at each position. Behind the Alley is their championship pennants: The 1980 and 2008 World Championships; the 1915, 1950, 1983, 1993 and 2009 National League Pennants; and the 1976, 1977, 1978, 2007 and 2010 NL Eastern Division titles.

On the wall holding up these pennants are the Phils' retired numbers. In addition to the Number 42 retired for all of baseball for Jackie Robinson, they are: 1, Richie Ashburn; 14, 1960s pitcher Jim Bunning; 20, Mike Schmidt; 32, Steve Carlton; and 36, Robin Roberts. They also have "P" designations for pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander, who played before uniform numbers were worn, and for 1930s slugger Chuck Klein, who changed numbers so many times it wasn't worth retiring a single number for him.

Along the Alley is the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame. The Phillies used to honor one ex-Phillie and one ex-Athletic every season, with the exception of 1983, the Phils’ 100th Anniversary season, when they posted a plaque for the players voted by the fans to their Centennial Team. When they left the Vet, the A’s plaques were taken to a museum dedicated to the memory of the A’s, while each year still sees the induction of a new Phils hero.

Despite Ashburn having played his last season, 1962, with the expansion Mets, the honoree most Met fans will be interested in is Tug McGraw, Met reliever in the 1969 and 1973 World Series, and the man who closed out so many games for the Phils including the clinching Game 6 of the 1980 World Series. But “Ya gotta believe” that no Met fan will be interested in seeing Juan Samuel’s plaque on this wall.

As yet, Lenny Dykstra, whom the Mets foolishly traded for Samuel in 1989, has not been honored. In fact, Samuel was the most recently-appearing Phils player on the wall until last season, when 1993 catcher/captain Darren Daulton was added. Considering that the other Pennant-winning team that Dykstra played for, the 1986 Mets, also has a complicated legacy due to character issues (such as Dykstra’s drinking and recent financial irregularities, Daulton’s conspiracy buffery and John Kruk’s “I ain’t an athlete, lady, I’m a baseball player” approach to the game), it may be a while before the ’93 “Macho Row” Phils are properly honored. After all, look how long it took the Mets to induct Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden -- or even Davey Johnson and Frank Cashen -- into their Hall of Fame, and unlike the '93 Phils, the '86 Mets actually won the damn thing.

On the other side of this wall is a history of the Phils’ former home fields: Recreation Park, 1883 to 1886; National League Park, 1887 to 1894 when it burned down; Baker Bowl, built on the site of National League Park in 1895 and abandoned in 1938; Shibe Park, built for the A’s in 1909, the Phils moved in during the 1938 season, renamed Connie Mack Stadium in 1952, the A’s left after 1954 and the Phils did so after 1970; and Veterans Stadium, 1971 to 2003.

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 am convinced that I’ve never seen so much team merchandise available per square foot at any stadium or arena I’ve ever visited.

During the Game. This is not Veterans Stadium. You can wear your Met gear at CBP without fear of drunken bums physically hassling you. And you don’t have to worry about them making fun of your less-traditional Met gear (such as orange caps or black jerseys). If they do, just remind them that the Phillies' uniforms haven’t always been classy red-pinstripe jobs:

The 76ers have had some whacked-out togs as well, and don’t even get me started on the Flyers’ 1980s duds. Seriously, long pants for hockey?

The Mets and Phillies have hardly ever both been good at the same time. This is a good thing, considering the proximity of the two cities. Giants vs. Eagles has been very nasty at times. (The one Eagles game I ever saw at the Vet was the 2001 season finale, when a furious Giant comeback fell just short and the Eagles won the NFC East. It was Christmas/New Year’s week, it was about zero degrees, and the only hot things were the coffee, the hot chocolate, and the tempers.) The Flyers have had hard rivalries with all 3 New York Tri-State Area hockey teams: In the 1970s and ‘80s, Rangers-Flyers was always good for a punch-up, either on the ice or in the stands, Garden or Spectrum; the Islanders beat the Flyers to win their first Stanley Cup in 1980 (do not mention the name of referee Leon Stickle to a Philadelphian), and fans of the Devils and Flyers have been going at it hammer and tongs pretty much since the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals. (I don’t think Ron Hextall has seen that 65-foot wobbler off the stick of Claude Lemieux yet.)

But the Mets and Phillies? I saw the matchup twice at the Vet, and on neither occasion did I see anybody get rough with anybody else. (And on neither occasion did the Mets win, in fact in both games they blew a lead.) Of the 5 seasons with the most combined wins for the Mets and Phils, 3 were 2006, ’07 and ’08. The top 2 were 1986, when the Mets won 108 and the Phils 86; and 1976, when the Phils won 101 and the Mets 86. To this day, 2008 is the only season in which both teams won as many as 88, and only 8 times in their 49 years of joint existence have both teams even finished above .500 – 4 of those, half, from 2005 onward. And 1986 and 2006 are the only seasons in which the Mets and Phils have finished 1st and 2nd, 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 just wasn’t of the same caliber.

So, unlike the hatred that exists between Philly fans and the New York Giants (football edition), the Dallas Cowboys, the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the New York-area hockey teams (but not between the 76ers and Knicks or Nets), Mets-Phils is still a recent thing in terms of a rivalry. As a result, while I can’t guarantee anything, you will probably be safe.

Except, maybe, from the Phillie Phanatic. He might come into your section and razz you a bit, but, since he’s supposed to be silent, it’ll be limited to gestures. Nothing obscene, of course, since he’s supposed to be there to entertain kids. But he might blow the kazoo streamer that serves as his “tongue” out of his nose and hit you with it. Usually, though, there’s an usher nearby in case the Phanatic makes a mistake and does it too hard. (This wouldn’t be unprecedented, though: For this and other reasons, he is the most-sued mascot in sports history.)

During the 7th inning stretch, after “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is played, the Phanatic and two young lady ushers will jump up onto the roof of the Phils’ dugout and dance to some song or other. In the 1980s and early ‘90s, it was usually “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry. Now they mix the songs up, and it could be anything from the 1950s up to the present day. The Phanatic usually stays on the dugout roof for the entire bottom of the 7th, and gets back on in the top of the 9th (if the Phils are winning) or the bottom (if they're losing or tied).

If a Phillie hits a home run, the big white Liberty Bell replica over right-center field will light up, and sway from side to side as it “tolls,” complete with sound effects, while fireworks (something Philly knows a bit about) shoot off from the roof. This will also happen at the end of the game if the Phillies win. This bell replaces the one that used to hang from the outfield roof of the Vet, and before that from the Vet’s mezzanine until Luzinski hit it with a home run. (I wonder if it cracked on impact?)

An interesting feature is included in the out-of-town scoreboard: Minor-league games. A running score is kept of the Phils’ farm teams, some of which are not that far away: The Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs in Allentown, the Double-A Reading Phillies, and the Single-A Lakewood BlueClaws near the Jersey Shore. As far as I know, the Yankees and the Mets have never done this, despite each having, since 2001, a farm team actually in The City (the Staten Island Yankees and the Brooklyn Cyclones).

After the Game. The risk of Phils fans getting rough increases, as they’ve had time to drink, but not by much. If it were an Eagles or Flyers game, you might have to worry, but probably not after a Phillies game. After all, just because they like to call CBP “the National League’s answer to Fenway Park” (it isn’t, Wrigley Field is), doesn’t mean that they’ll act like the drunken boors of Kenmore Square.

What you should do at the end of the game depends on what time it is and how you got there. Except for non-ESPN Sundays, the occasional Thursday afternoon “Businessperson’s Special,” and rain-forced day/night doubleheaders, all Phillies home games are night games.

If you took the train(s) down, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting back onto the subway, and to Suburban Station, in time to catch the 10:45 PM SEPTA R7 back to Trenton, which will allow you to get the 12:10 AM NJ Transit train back to New York, arriving at Penn Station at 1:35 AM. If for whatever reason (extra innings, you stopped somewhere along the way, something else) you end up missing this train, there will be another an hour later, but this will be the last train of the night. If you miss this one too, or if you came by Amtrak, the last Amtrak train of the night will leave 30th Street Station at 12:13 AM, arriving at Penn Station at 1:50, and it will cost you $48, which, by Amtrak standards, is cheap.

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, “About 20 minutes, I hope!” Sure enough, 20 minutes later, the delivery was made.)

Sidelights. 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, check out these locations:

* Deliverance Evangelistic Church, 21st Street & Lehigh Avenue. 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 from 1944 to 1957. The Frankford Yellow Jackets sometimes used it in the 1920s, winning the 1926 NFL Championship. 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 A's played World Series there in 1910, '11, '12, '13, '14, '29, '30 and '31, and the Phils (against the Yanks) in '50. 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.) By subway, use the North Philadelphia station, and walk 7 blocks west on Lehigh.

* Site of Baker Bowl, southwest corner of Broad Street & Lehigh Avenue. 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. 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.

* The Palestra, 235 S. 33rd Street. 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, LaSalle, 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. Take the "Subway-Surface Line" trolley, either the Number 11, 13, 34 or 36, to the 33rd Street stop.

* Franklin Field, right next to the Palestra. The oldest continuously-used college football site, Penn has played here since 1895 (which is also when the Penn Relay Carnival, the nation's premier track-and-field event, began), and in the current stadium since 1922. That year, it supposedly hosted the first football game ever broadcast on radio (a claim the University of Pittsburgh disputes), and in 1939 it supposedly hosted the first football game ever televised (a claim New York’s Columbia University disputes). The amazing building in the west end zone is the University administration building. The stadium is in surprisingly good shape (must be all those Penn/Wharton Business School grads donating), although the playing field has been artificial turf since 1969. 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. Same trolley stop as the Palestra.

* Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, 34th Street & Civic Center Blvd. This was the site of the Philadelphia Civic Center, including the Convention Hall, where Franklin D. Roosevelt was nominated for President in 1936, and both Harry Truman and Thomas E. Dewey were nominated in 1948 – that year’s Republican Convention being the first televised convention. The Beatles played here on September 2, 1964. (They also played JFK Stadium on August 16, 1966, but did not play in Philly on their 1965 North American tour.) Pope John Paul II said Mass here, and 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 to 1967 when the Spectrum opened. So many Philly area greats played here, in high school, college and the pros, but you need know one name -- pardon the pun -- above all others, Wilt Chamberlain. I saw a concert here in 1989, and the acoustics were phenomenal, with a horseshoe of seats and a stage at one end, much like Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City and the building once known as the Baltimore Civic Center. Built in 1931, it was demolished in 2005 to make way for an addition to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. Same stop as the Palestra and Franklin Field, which are a block away.

* Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society, 6 N. York Road, Hatboro, PA. A museum dedicated mainly to the A's, but also to Philadelphia baseball in general. It's 16 miles due north of Philly's City Hall, so unless you want to take the SEPTA R2 line to Warminster (Hatboro is the next-to-last stop, and the museum is 3 blocks away), you'll have to drive.


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 nicest 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, I’ll say, instead, “Try not to get yourself or anybody else killed.”

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