Ten years ago today Veterans Stadium was destroyed in about 30 seconds, as a few hundred fans cheered “honorary imploders” Greg Luzinski and the Phillie Phanatic. The actual countdown was done by then-Mayor John Street, who said “3, 2, fire! Fire!” as if he were commanding a missile launch. It went perfectly.
This day 10 years ago, a friend (now-Inquirer features reporter Samantha Melamed) picked me up at 5 a.m. I think we ended up watching from somewhere near Marconi Plaza. Several hundred people, most in Phillies and Eagles gear, dotted Broad Street as she drove us down. Sure, people like to see things get blown up (the Sears building implosion was Northeast Philly’s social event of the year in 1994). But there was something endearing about the Vet. The place came to be known as a dump, and maybe it wasn’t the best for baseball. But for football it was appropriate to watch modern-day gladiators hurl themselves at each other in a symmetrical brutalist concrete masterpiece. Or a ’70s version of the Yale Bowl.
Of course, the Eagles never won a title while playing at the Vet, but there were times where we got to pretend they actually had a shot. And the Phillies actually did win one, their first in the team’s history. (Philadelphia sports aren’t so successful — just be happy they got one.) Live sports used to be cheaper: Those of us who grew up in Philadelphia ended up at the Vet a lot. Phillies games with my parents. My uncle paying an usher $5 to sneak us in. That playoff game with my dad when the Eagles scored 58 points. The night when all the safeties went for free. Playing tag in the concourses at six and again at 17. Hanging with friends and flirting with girls in the empty 700 Level as the Reds set a record for most home runs in a game. (This is my favorite memory.) That time Von Hayes hit a home run right in front of us. That time my girlfriend got tickets and the Eagles clinched the division. And so many more.
None of these are particularly important or exciting memories. But stuff happened there for a lot of people, and I know I was a little sad to see it go. Today, it’s fun to remember.
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