If you lived in Philadelphia during the 60’s and 70’s you had to be a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and the Philadelphia Eagles. This isn’t a choice or an option, it’s a requirement. If you attended any of the games (and everyone did) then you would have found yourself at the Philadelphia Veterans Stadium, known as “The Vet” by the locals. The name was chosen to represent and honor all of the U.S. Veterans from all of the wars and was a proud moment when TheVet opened in 1971.
Designing a stadium is always a question. In the case of Veterans Stadium, they chose an almost circular design they called an ‘octorad’. This choice was to accommodate both baseball and football sports needs. The first game was played by The Phillies in 1971, with local celebrity Mike Douglas performing the Star Spangled Banner. There were many levels for the fans, with each level named in the one hundred numbering series relating to how high of the location. The ‘100 Level’ was the closest for fans. Other levels were made up of field-level boxes, terrace boxes, loge boxes and the final one, named the ‘700 level’ was for all the rest of the attendees. It may be noted that the ‘700 Level’ was renowned for having some of Philadelphia’s most excitable fans; many of which were involved in hostilities, fighting and overall odd behavior. Some of the antics were so incredibly awful that the sale of beer was finally banned.
The playing field was mostly Astroturf with a lot of uncovered areas. It became known as “The Field of Seams” and was voted as one of the NFL’s worst playing fields. The surface was so bad that there were more player injuries due to bad conditions and numerous lawsuits. Eventually, they replaced the AstroTurf with NexTurf.
Throughout all of the years, Philadelphia fans kept coming to the games. The Vet was host to an incredible array of records, including the longest home run in the history of the stadium, the World Series in 1980 with the Phillies crowning victory; the Eagles’ success of the NFC Championship Game in 1981; the 1983 record for the latest-finishing game (finally ending at 4:40 in the morning). When the Army-Navy Game of 1998 resulted in major support rail collapse injuring some of the West Point cadets, it was time to start looking for a different stadium.
The last game was played in 2003 between the Atlanta Braves and the Phillies. Every seat in the place was filled and the final ceremony had many in the crowd with tears in their eyes. Previous pitcher Tug McGraw and general manager Paul Owens said their farewells at this last and sad moment. A fitting tribute as both men passed away later that same year.
In 2004, the entire stadium took 62 seconds to implode. On the anniversary of D-Day, a monument and plaque was placed where the beloved stadium stood. Later commemorations included historical markers and spaces consisting of granite to make the various baseball home plate, the three baseball bases and the pitcher’s mound as well as the football goalposts.