Philadelphia Veterans Stadium was located at the northeast corner of Broad Street and Pattison Avenue in Philadelphia. It housed the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League from 1971 through 2002 and Major League Baseball's Philadelphia Phillies from 1971 through 2003. The listed capacity for baseball in 1971 was 56,371 and for football was listed with a 62,000 seat capacity.
Named by Philadelphia's City Council, for the veterans of all wars in 1968, and originally scheduled to open in 1970 but completed one year late due to a combination of bad weather and cost overruns, Veterans Stadium was a complicated structure, its seating layered in seven separate levels: The lowest, or "100" level, extended only part way around the structure, between roughly the 25-yard lines for football games and near the two dugouts for baseball; the "200" level comprised field-level boxes, and the "300" level housed what were labelled "Terrace Boxes;" these three levels collectively made up the "Lower Stands." The "400" level was reserved for the press and dignitaries; the upper level began with "500" level (or "Loge Boxes"), the "600" level (Upper reserved, or individual seats), and finally, the "700" level (General Admission for baseball), where some of the most passionate sports fans on the East Coast could be found. Originally, the seats were in shades of brown, terra cotta, orange and yellow, to look like an autumn day, but in 1995 and 1996, blue seats replaced the fall-hued ones.
The Vet had been known for providing both the Eagles and the Phillies with great home-field advantage. In particular, the acoustics greatly enhanced the crowd noise on the field, making it difficult for opponents to focus on the task at hand. The field's surface, originally composed of AstroTurf (usually rated to be the "hardest" of all synthetic playing surfaces), was switched to the somewhat softer NexTurf in 2001.
The most notable event in the Vet's history was Game 6 of the 1980 World Series. In that game, the Phillies clinched their lone world championship with a victory over the Kansas City Royals in front of 65,838 fans. The most notable football game ever played there took place less than three months later, and was the Eagles' 20-7 victory over the hated Dallas Cowboys in the 1980 NFC Championship Game, actually played on January 11, 1981 in front of 71,250 fans. This game has sometimes been referred to as the "Blue Jersey Bowl" because the Eagles chose to wear their white jerseys in the game, so as to force the Cowboys to don their blue jerseys, which they always seek to evade wearing. (In the NFL the home team has the choice of which jerseys to wear, usually wearing their more colorful jerseys--unless they are playing in hot weather such as in pre-season games or in September, in which case the white jerseys are cooler, reflecting heat--and making the road team wear their colored jerseys, but the Cowboys have always worn their white jerseys at home as well as usually on the road.} The last football game played at the Vet was the Eagles' loss to Tampa Bay in the NFC Championship game in 2003, as the team moved into Lincoln Financial Field that autumn. The Vet also hosted the annual Army-Navy football game 17 times, first in 1980 and last in 2001. It was during the 1998 Army-Navy game that a rail collasped and eight people were injured. That led to the call for new stadiums for football and baseball for the main stadium tennants.
The stadium became famous for the rowdiness of Eagles fans (although the infamous incident in which fans booed Santa Claus during a halftime show occurred in 1968 at Franklin Field) and none more so than the 1989 follow-up game to what many called "The Bounty Bowl". On Thanksgiving Day (November 23) that year, the Eagles beat the Cowboys at Texas Stadium in which former Eagles placekicker Luis Zendajas left the game with a concussion following a hard tackle by linebacker Jesse Shaw after a kickoff. After the game, Cowboys rookie head coach Jimmy Johnson commented that Buddy Ryan, the Eagles head coach, instituted a bounty on Zendajas and Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman. Two weeks later, on December 10, they played a rematch at The Vet, which was covered with snow in the stands. The volitile mix of beer, drunken fans, the "bounty" and the intense hatred for "America's Team" (who were 1-15 that season) led to fans throwing snowballs at Dallas players and coaches. Even the future mayor of Philadelphia and later Governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, was accused of paying a nearby fan to throw snowballs. Beer sales were banned after that incident for two games. A simular incident a few years later at Giants Stadium during a nationally telecast San Diego Chargers-New York Giants game led the National Football League to rule that seating areas must be cleared of snow within a certain time period before kickoff. A decade later, Cowboy reciever Michael Irvin suffered a serious injury when he fell head-first onto the notorious AstroTurf, and would never play football again. A number of fans initially roared their approval for the hit, and again cheered when Irvin was carted off the field on a stretcher. This was due in part to Cowboy teammate Deon Sanders (who, with Irvin, were the two players most hated by Philly fans) inciting the crowd with bizarre laying-on-of-hands movements. Regardless, the incedent helped greatly contribute to the negative perception of Eagles Fans.
The Eagles fans' hooliganism during a Monday Night Football loss to the San Francisco 49ers in 1997 and a Dallas Cowboys game a year later was such that the City of Philadelphia was forced to assign a Municipal Court Judge, Seamus McCaffrey, to The Vet for game days to deal with miscreants removed from the stands. This court ran for the rest of 1998 season, then was moved to a location away from the stadium until the Eagles and the city discontinued it after the opening of Lincoln Financial Field in 2003, where thanks to modern technology and better behaved fans, there would be no need for what was termed "Eagles' court" by the Philadelphia sports media, noted as one of the tougher critics of their hometown teams.
The final game ever played at the stadium was on September 28, 2003. Alas, the Phillies lost to the Atlanta Braves that afternoon, but a ceremony that followed pulled at the heartstrings of the sellout crowd. Both former general manager Paul "The Pope" Owens and Tug McGraw made their final public appearences at the park that day. During the winter, they passed away. The last words ever uttered in the park were by veteran announcer Harry Kalas, who helped open the facility on April 10, 1971, paraphrasing his trademark home run call: "And now, Veterans Stadium is like a 3-1 pitch to Jim Thome or Mike Schmidt. It's on looooooong drive...IT'S OUTTA HERE!!!" The team moved into Citizens Bank Park in 2004.
The ultimate end came when the 33-year old stadium was imploded on March 21, 2004 as shown in the time-lapse photo on the left. A parking lot for the still standing sporting facilities was constructed in 2004 and 2005 at the site. On June 6, 2005, the anniversary of D-Day, a plaque and monument to commemerate the spot where the stadium stood and a memorial for all veterans was dedicated by the Phillies before their game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. On September 28 of that same year, the second anniversary of the final game, a historical marker commemerating where the ballpark once stood was dedicated. Granite spaces where home plate, the pitching mound and the three bases for baseball at their locations as well as the football goalpost placements were added onto the parking lot in autumn of that year.
Stadium diagram (Clem's Baseball)
- See also: List of stadiums