Fond Farewell Officially Begins With Home Opener

Like saying goodbye to an old friend who doesn't have much time left, the Phillies and their fans begin a farewell season for baseball at Veteran's Stadium. Like when we remember friends that we've lost, this season should be filled with remembering the good times and accepting the faults of what was home to our beloved Phillies since 1971. Today, the countdown truly begins for The Vet.

Apparently, the life span for "state-of-the-art" is about 30 years. Those stadiums that were supposed to be the God-send for both baseball and football are quickly becoming memories. It happened in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and now, we're watching the process play out in the City of Brotherly Love. Things like "multi-purpose" and "artificial turf" seemed like good ideas in their time.
Workers complete hanging a banner that is part of a tribute to the greats that played at Veterans Stadium over the years. (Photo: AP/George Widman)

If you've ever been behind the scenes at Veterans Stadium, then you have truly seen why a new stadium was desperately needed. Cracks and leaks have developed throughout the building. Technically, it's still safe to use, but it's easy to see how it might not be too long before that wouldn't be the case. Even the everyday fan can see how the stadium has begun to truly show its age. Escalators that don't work, railings that brake when excited fans lean too harshly on them and just a general feeling of a dying structure.

The turf has perhaps been the most visible part of Veterans Stadium's problems. Serious injuries – especially in football – have been caused by the uneven surface. Seems and tears pop up from out of nowhere to rip ligaments and fracture bones. It was necessary to have the turf because natural grass couldn't have accommodated the seating that rolls out from behind the outfield fence when the NFL is in session.

The old girl has seen a lot of changes over the years. The picnic areas are long gone, as are the centerfield fountains that splashed when the Phillies homered. Now, we have increased seating where picnics used to be and instant replays on Phanavision instead of the dancing waters. Those picnic areas made a star of Mary Sue Styles. She was the Phillies version of Farrah Fawcett. The dream girl of male Phillies fans near and far. She was the leftfield ball-girl who spent time between innings posing for pictures with fans and signing autographs. Even if the picnic area is gone, the Phillies should have stationed Mary Sue down the line this season, no matter what the cost. Surely, she could be there for at least a few games, right? The return of the fountains for one final season might have been a nice touch too.

We suffered through some bad times at The Vet. We had some great times too. Watching Phillies stars like Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa and Steve Carlton. Willie Stargell hitting a baseball further than anyone could imagine. Speaking of which, how poetic would it be if Jim Thome launched one further than ‘pops' before the season draws to a close? As much as I love Thome, the traditionalist in me wouldn't mind if Stargell's blast stands. Of course, the 1980 World Series will never be forgotten. The playoff series against Houston leading up to the Series was a classic. There was Mitch Williams four a.m. RBI single against the Padres and in what was maybe one of the best games ever played at The Vet, a comeback from a 10 run inning against the Pirates in 1989.

As we begin our long goodbye, look back on the times that we've all shared and loved at Veterans Stadium. And too, look back on the friends and families that we've shared them with. The first time we were old enough to actually take our dad to a Father's Day game or the first time we took our kids to a game. For as much as we've complained about the place that the Phillies have called home since 1971, we've made the best of those times and we've made memories to go with them. Memories that won't crash down with the implosion of what was once "state-of-the-art".

On Thursday, workers were busy with finishing touches for the final home opener in the history of Veterans Stadium. (Photo: AP/George Widman)

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