ALL STAR GAMES: 1976, 1996 WORLD SERIES: 1980, 1983, 1993 (1 W, 2 L) ARTIFICIAL TURF: 1971-2003 (always)
Although widely disparaged as one of the worst of the cloned cookie-cutter "doughnut" stadiums of the 1960s-1970s era, Veterans Stadium actually had few interesting features. It was not circular, and it was not oval, but rather an "octorad," the second such stadium built. (The first was San Diego / Jack Murphy Stadium.) Even though Veterans Stadium only had two main decks, plus a small mezzanine level, the upper deck was enormous. It shared with its predecessor (Shibe Park) the unusual characteristic of having two entry levels in the upper deck. (See the profile in the diagram). For most of its lifetime, only two other baseball stadiums had a greater seating capacity than "the Vet": Cleveland Stadium and Jack Murphy Stadium.
Construction was not yet finished when the first game was played here in April 1971, and a plastic tarp hung over the right field wall. Originally there were 56,000 seats for baseball games, and the capacity rose to over 66,000 in the early 1980s, as permanent seats were added along the foul lines and new lower-deck seating sections were built in the outfield. The two scoreboards that originally hung from the upper deck in each power alley were then removed, and new electronic scoreboards were installed in the top rows of the upper deck on either side of center field. (This is indicated in the "combined" diagram version above.) Another subsequent modification was the addition of a skybox level at the very back of the upper deck, used mostly by football fans. Five rows of seats were added in the space behind the outfield fence between the bullpens. Finally, extra seats were squeezed into the aisles during the 1990s, but even so, the official baseball capacity declined in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The field dimensions remained unchanged throughout the Vet's lifetime, and the only modification was that the outfield fence was raised from 8 to 12 feet in 1972. The original Astroturf was very hard and was replaced in 1977 with a slightly softer variety. In 2001 a more "natural" looking artificial surface called "NeXturf" was installed, like the fake turf in Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field.
CINEMA: Veterans Stadium was featured in Stealing Home (1988) starring Mark Harmon and Jodie Foster, and Invincible (2006), starring Mark Wahlberg.
Helped by the acquisition of Pete Rose, in 1980 the Phillies won their first World Series title. They won the National League pennant in 1983 and 1993, and in the following years struggled to challenge the Braves' dominance of the NL East. Curt Schilling's arm and Bobby Abreu's bat just weren't enough to carry the team, and those two stars eventually departed. Not until three years after they moved into Citizens Bank Park did the Phillies return to postseason competition.
The Vet was also home of the Philadelphia Eagles, who had played in the University of Pennsylvania's Franklin Field from 1958 to 1970. (That ancient brick double-decker is still standing.) Overall, the sightlines were marginally better for football games than for baseball games, but in some of the lower-level seats on either side of the end zones, fans would have to look sideways to see a touchdown being made! That was the main downside of the "octorad" design, and was also a problem at Jack Murphy Stadium. The reconfiguration for football games at Veterans Stadium was accomplished by moving some sections from behind third base to left field, just as in San Diego. It was a clever scheme, but the result was just not a very good compromise between the two sports. About 3,000 retractable seats were added for football games, yielding a total capacity of just over 65,000. The Eagles played their last game in the Vet on January 19, 2003, when they were upset by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who went on to win the Super Bowl.
The physical condition of the Vet deteriorated steadily over the years, and in December 1998 several fans were injured after a metal railing broke during the Army-Navy college football game. (Coincidentally, the same kind of accident happened the very next day across the state at a Steelers game at Three Rivers Stadium.) Six months after the Phillies played their last game there, Veterans Stadium was demolished early in the morning of March 21, 2004. There were a few fond remembrances by those in attendance, but nearly all agree that the Phillies' new home, Citizens Bank Park, is far superior.
SOURCES: Lowry (1992, 2006), Pastier (2007), Rosen (2001), USA Today / Fodor's (1996)
FAN TIP: James Craven