09/28/2003 8:41 PM ET
Phillies tenure makes it special
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
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
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
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
"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
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
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.
Note: All lasts are from Sunday's game unless another date is
List of lasts from Veterans Stadium
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.