Remembering The Vet: One Fan's Special Games

It's been around for 33 years, not even close to the longevity of such hallowed ballparks such as Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, and Yankee Stadium. It's brethren, Three Rivers Stadium, Riverfront Stadium, and Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium are long gone, having seen the wrecking ball up close. The Eagles have packed up and moved across the street. And we have just 9 more games left at the 7-level "octorad" before she meets her demise.

I was lucky enough to take a "behind the scenes" tour of the Vet 10 days ago, and believe me, it's time for the place to close. The batting cages under the stands share space with rat traps, the dugouts are tiny, the legendary press elevator malfunctioned (again), and the press box itself was cramped and tattered. But the memories I have of Veterans Stadium will last me a lifetime, and I will attempt to give you my personal favorites.

1977 Bowa's Grand Slam vs. Cincinnati
This game happened on my 12th birthday; the games with the Phils & Reds in the late 1970's regularly drew crowds approaching 50,000, and I was lucky enough to have been part of this one. The Phillies made an amazing comeback against the Reds, culminated by weak-hitting Larry Bowa's only career grand slam, off former Phillie hurler Joe Hoerner. The roar of the crowd after Bowa hit that one rivaled any other that I had ever heard at the Vet.

1977 The Burt Hooton game
Speaking of roaring crowds, the fans literally drove Burt Hooton from the game in the NLCS in 1977. This game could also have been called the "Manny Mota/Vic Davalillo" game, after the Dodgers comeback in the 9th inning with pinch-hits by these two aging veterans. Danny Ozark's refusal to put Jerry Martin in left as a defensive replacement for Greg Luzinski was questioned, as "the Bull" fumbled a drive to the wall, keeping the Dodgers alive.

1990 Terry Mulholland no-hitter
The first Phillies no-hitter at the Vet came from a most unlikely source, the journeyman Mulholland. Charlie Hayes remarkable stab of a line drive with two outs in the ninth saved the no-no for Mulholland.

1993 Doubleheader vs. San Diego
Game two of this twin-bill ended well after four in the morning, with a Mitch Williams single finally winning the game for the Phillies. It was Fireworks Night at the Vet, and the few thousand fans who remained at the end of this game were not disappointed. The citizens of South Philly who lived near the Vet must have thought they were being invaded as they were awakened that early morning.

1981 Pete Rose ties Stan Musial
In a game vs. Houston and fireballer Nolan Ryan in May of 1981, Pete Rose tied Stan Musial for the all-time National League hit record with a line drive single to left. It would be almost three months before Rose got his next hit to pass Musial, as the players strike shut the game down until August.

1993 NL Championship
Probably the most loved team that played at the Vet had to be the 1993 Phillies. Dykstra, Kruk, Schilling, Incaviglia, Mitch Williams, and the boys held the hearts of many fans that year, culminating in a stirring six game National League Championship series against Atlanta. The celebration on the field after Williams got the Braves out in the ninth inning of Game Six was one to be remembered.

1980 World Series Championship
There's only been one Phillies team to win the World Series, and they did it on the carpet on October 21, 1980. Tug McGraw struck out Willie Wilson, and Dallas Green's squad, which had battled all year and survived a five game war against Houston to win the pennant, finally brought home the gold. We're still waiting for number two.

I'm sure there are many more memories from the Vet, but these few stood out in my mind. The old lady sitting at the corner of Broad & Pattison has had her share of abuse heaped upon her over the years; bad turf, hostile fans, feral cats, etc. But for a native Philadelphian, who came of age after Connie Mack Stadium had worn out its welcome, the Vet will have a page in my life story as a place where I spent many summer nights watching my favorite team.

Goodbye, Vet Stadium; I will miss you.


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