01/08/2004 4:23 PM ET
Veterans Stadium bids goodbye
Thirty-three years ago my gates opened for the first time. Fans poured through the gates that first year and loved me, a feeling I didn't experience that much in recent years.
Through it all, millions of feet stepped on me, thousands of gallons of soda and beer were spilled on me and that yellow mustard seemed to be everywhere. I don't care if I ever see another hot dog!
Over the years, I've had several new green carpets and an order of new blue seats.
I've seen some bad baseball, good baseball and a World Championship. When Tugger struck out that Wilson fellow, I thought I would explode. I was shaking like a leaf from all the excitement.
There must have been a hundred Hall of Famers who played on my yard. There probably was another hundred that weren't here long enough for me to get to know their names.
I've seen a parade of Phillies players from Abbott to Zuber. No, there was no Costello when Abbott was here.
I've seen Wallenda walk across a wire on my roof. Boy, was I nervous that day.
I laughed when an Easter Bunny tried to take a hot air balloon ride out of here. Some guy named Giles thought it would be a great promotion.
Every summer, I was thrilled with great aerial fireworks shows. Made me feel proud to be an American.
I've seen two All-Star Games, Presidents Nixon and Ford and a lot of post-season games.
Those Birds from down Baltimore way once celebrated a World Series victory in my place but that was the only time that happened.
I cried like a baby when the Phillies lost that gut-wrencher to the Dodgers in the 1977 playoffs. That one really hurt.
I've seen a game end at 4:40 in the morning on a single by Mitchie Poo, of all people. I was afraid fans were going to have breakfast at my home for the first time.
I remember crying again in 1997 when fans mourned Richie Ashburn's death. I used to listen to all of the road games on the radio and he really made the broadcasts entertaining.
Seeing Juan Samuel or Lenny Dykstra run the bases for a triple really tickled me. I remember Boonie getting a triple one time. I almost fell asleep waiting for him to reach third base.
Willie Stargell made me wince when he hit that long home run to my right field in 1972. I felt sorry for Jim Bunning that day. He didn't look after he threw the pitch. I did.
No one put on a show to my upper deck in left field better than the Bull. No one came close to Stargell in right until that Thome guy came here last year.
I don't know how many times I've heard that Kalas fellow bellow "There's a long drive....it's outta here!" I used to get tired of hearing fans boo but I never got tired of Harry's home run calls.
I've seen Phil and Phillis and then the green monster, Phillie Phanatic. He made me laugh even though I saw him so often. The only thing, having a four-wheeler ride all over you sometimes got to me. But, the fans liked it and who am I to complain.
I saw the greatest retirement party ever on that last Sunday in September. To think, all those Phillies....the Bull, Schmitty, Tug, Lefty, Dutch, the Dude, Krukker, Bake, the secretary of defense, Sammy, Mickey, Eisey, LC, Dallas, the Pope and many more came back to see me one more time. Seeing them with all the guys from the '03 team was so very special.
I cried when Lefty took the mound one more time. I wept again when Schmitty circled the bases and gave Thome a high five at home plate. Then, I lost it when Tug came out of the bullpen for the last pitch.
It was a touching tribute, something I will never forget.
Now, it is time to move on. There's a new neighbor who'll house memories for millions. I saw last place in my first year. It'll be different for my new ballpark buddy in '04, I'm sure.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
By I. M. Vet / Philadelphia Phillies