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Phillies tenure makes it special
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09/28/2003  8:41 PM ET 
Phillies tenure makes it special
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Mike Schmidt (20) leads a parade of former Phillies during postgame ceremonies Sunday. (Miles Kennedy/AP)
PHILADELPHIA -- Sunday afternoon was for the children of the late 1960s who grew up surrounded by the concrete structure at the corner of Broad and Pattison, and have since attended games with their spouses and families.

It was for the fans in the last row of the 700 level, next to the PhanaVision scoreboard, whose emotions likely rotated between happiness and sadness. Really, though, it was for the 66.7 million passionate fans who have passed through the Veterans Stadium turnstiles during the past 33 years and are on a first-name basis with Harry the K.

The citizens of Phillies Nation have formed a personal bond with each member of the Phillies kingdom. While they recount their childhood memories played out on the artificial turf below, these fans came to say goodbye.

The hour-long postgame procession officially ended the Phillies' tenure at Veterans Stadium, which lost the Eagles in January. The ceremony featured 68 former players and most members of the 2003 squad. The crowd of 58,554 roared throughout the presentation, warmly welcoming each alum with vigor.

"It seems as if it was just yesterday that we ushered in this new stadium," intoned Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas, who earlier in the afternoon changed the Veterans Stadium countdown number to 0. "Yes, Veterans Stadium is more than concrete and steel."

List of lasts from Veterans Stadium

Note: All lasts are from Sunday's game unless another date is listed.

Last hit: Pat Burrell, single, ninth inning (off Jason Marquis).

Last double: Jason Michaels, eighth inning.

Last triple: Jesse Garcia, Saturday, Sept. 27, 2003.

Last home run: Jim Thome, off Will Cunnane, eighth inning, Saturday, Sept. 27, 2003.

Last RBI: Robert Fick, Atlanta, fifth inning.

Last Phillies RBI: Bobby Abreu, third inning.

Last run: Chipper Jones, Atlanta, fifth inning.

Last Phillies run: Marlon Byrd, third inning.

Last stolen base: Marlon Byrd, first inning.

Last walk: Chase Utley, eighth inning.

Last strikeout: Ryan Langerhans, Atlanta, by Dan Plesac, ninth inning.

Last win: Greg Maddux, Atlanta.

Last Phillies win: Rheal Cormier, Saturday, Sept. 27, 2003.

Last save: Jason Marquis, Atlanta.

Last Phillies save: Turk Wendell, Saturday, Sept. 6, 2003.

Last loss: Kevin Millwood.

Last batter: Chase Utley.

Last play: Jason Marquis to Chase Utley, who grounds into double play.

Pregame -- Jim Bunning throws out first pitch to Tony Taylor.

3:55 p.m. -- Game ends.
The Vet has played host to 2,617 regular season and 25 postseason games in its history. Nearly 550 players have worn uniforms and gotten dirty over the course of 24,000 innings.

Following a dance by the Phillie Phanatic and a folk song by Philadelphia resident Skip Denenberg, the Phillies showed a video montage of highlights, with cheers punctuating the highest moments and most recognizable faces.

Roars acknowledged Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton, as well as Larry Bowa and Tug McGraw. Paul Owens, a former manager and general manager, and the architect of the Phillies teams of the 1970s and '80s, was also widely received.

"Perhaps you saw the last game at Connie Mack Stadium and/or the first game at the Vet," continued Kalas. "Now, you are taking part in another historic moment in Phillies history. Veterans Stadium was once the crown jewel, the pride of the city, the teams and the fans ..."

The emotional parade of players began with stadium personnel carrying a flag designating each year, and leading players from each of those years. As can be expected with former athletes, some players hammed it up a bit.

The first was Jim Lonborg, who grabbed some dirt from the pitcher's mound, as he represented the '74 team. Dallas Green pumped both fists toward the sky when the '80 players came out. Del Unser dug in momentarily in the left batter's box. Von Hayes did the same, then picked up some dirt and put it in his back pocket.

Reliever Steve Bedrosian, who won the Cy Young Award in '87, won the most points for originality, when he made "dirt angels" on the pitchers mound. Tommy Greene was recognized for his no-hitter of '91, and Danny Jackson ignited the crowd by striking a familiar pose from the '93 season.

The already jubilant crowed got more revved up when it came time to announce the "starting lineups" from each era. Any player from the franchise's only World Series Championship team or from the 1993 team got the loudest ovation, specifically Schmidt, Carlton, Bowa, Luzinski, Darren Daulton, Lenny Dykstra and John Kruk.

With the players all in position across the outfield and infield, everyone joined in a rendition of Auld Lang Syne, and each player again got to touch home plate for one final time.

"It was sad to say goodbye to the old ballyard," said Kalas. "I've had 33 great years here."

Shortly after the players filtered into the dugouts, the music swelled as Carlton trotted to the pitcher's mound and picked up a glove that had been placed there. He delivered a phantom windup -- naturally a called third strike.

Schmidt then grabbed a bat, took a few practice swings and took a legendary hack, sending an imaginary baseball out to deep left field. Entering into his home run trot, he took a few quick steps, reminiscent of when he hit his 500th home run in Pittsburgh. The crowd cheered louder as he reached each base.

If that wasn't inspiring enough, a black limousine slowly rolled down the right-field line. It stopped and out popped Tug McGraw, arguably the most popular Phillie. The energetic lefty, who is battling cancer, dashed to the mound and recreated the final pitch of the '80 World Series -- his Peggy Lee fastball to Willie Wilson -- complete with the exuberant raised arms jump half way to home plate.

"There were 70 guys on the field and they all were all waiting," McGraw said. "Until I headed to the mound, I didn't know exactly what I was going to do. Once I got there, I realized that all I had to do was strike [Willie Wilson] out one more time. It was an exhilarating feeling. That's the last time Willie Wilson will strike out at the Vet.

He then sighed.

So how loud was it?

"Louder than that anything I've ever heard before."

From there, the celebration began a slow descent to completion. The players took a victory lap and the team set of fireworks from the infield.

Kalas slowly took the microphone.

"Like a 3-1 fastball to Jim Thome or Mike Schmidt, it's a long drive and Veterans Stadium is Outta Here!"

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.





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