Archive for December, 2011
The City of Philadelphia has a lot of symbols: the Ben Franklin Bridge, LOVE Park, City Hall, Cheesesteak Corner on the intersection of 9th and Passyunk, and the Rocky Steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. But no symbol embodies the city like the Liberty Bell. While the original Liberty Bell sits inside the Liberty Bell Center near Independence Hall, at Citizens Bank Park, the Liberty Bell Home Run Spectacular is the symbol of the Home of the Phillies.
Located near the bullpens, the Liberty Bell Home Run Spectacular sits 102 feet above the park and lights up after every Phillies home run and win. The dimensions for the Bell is 52′ x 35′. The Bell has 22 stars that light up along with the outline (5 in the yoke, 16 in the waist, and 1 in the clapper). The Bell lights up in 3 colors: red, white, and blue. The Bell’s waist and the clapper move independently when lit. Since 2010, every time the Phillies hit a home run, not only does the Bell light up, it’s followed by the playing of the signature home run call of the Voice of the Phillies, the late Harry Kalas: “…and this ball is OUTTA HERE!”
Originally, the sound of the bell when the waist and clapper meet was the same sound used in the intro for AC/DC’s “Hells Bells.” This past season, the sound of the bell changed to the one used in the intro for Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” At this year’s Winter Classic, the Liberty Bell Home Run Spectacular will light up every time the Flyers score.
Usually when the Chicago Blackhawks Ice Crew rock the pink jerseys, it’s usually for “Hockey Fights Cancer Night” in October. But in honor of one of the best-selling albums of the year, here’s a special “Pink Friday” retrospective.
The South Philadelphia Sports Complex has its beginnings back in 1926 when the Sesquicentennial/Municipal/John F. Kennedy Stadium was built. The horseshoe-shape stadium sat 102,000 and was best known as the site of the Army-Navy game from 1936-1979. Before moving to Memphis, the stadium was the site of the Liberty Bowl from 1959-1963. But the stadium was best known as a venue for some of the most memorable concerts in the history of music. The Beatles played there in 1966. The Rolling Stones played there in 1978 in front of a crowd of over 100,000. Journey headlined there in 1983. But the biggest concert held at the stadium was held on the day music changed the world. On July 13, 1985, the American portion of Live Aid was held here. The stadium was the site of two victory rallies: one to celebrate the 1980 World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies, and the other one celebrating the 1975 Stanley Cup Champion Philadelphia Flyers. After a Grateful Dead concert in 1989, the stadium was condemned and eventually demolished three years later to make way for the construction of the arena now known as Wells Fargo Center.
The next building that comprised the complex was The Spectrum. Everyone that has been a Philadelphia Sports fan for the last 40-plus years knows about The Spectrum. But here’s something you might not know: according to former Spectrum president Lou Scheinfeld, the name Spectrum was selected to evoke the broad range of events to be held there. “The ‘SP’ for ‘sports’ and ‘South Philadelphia,’ ‘E’ for ‘entertainment,’ ‘C’ for ‘circuses,’ ‘T’ for ‘theatricals,’ ‘R’ for ‘recreation,’ and ‘UM’ as ‘um, what a nice building!”
The third building that comprised the complex was Veterans Stadium. For 32 years, “The Vet” was the home of both the Phillies and the Philadelphia Eagles. It was your basic multi-purpose stadium similar to stadiums built in Pittsburgh (Three Rivers Stadium), Cincinnati (Riverfront Stadium), Atlanta (Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium), St. Louis (Busch Memorial Stadium), and San Diego (Qualcomm Stadium). It was also home to the most notorious fan section in Philadelphia sports: the 700 Level. On March 21, 2004, Veterans Stadium was imploded to make way for a parking lot for Citizens Bank Park. The only remnants of “The Vet” was where home plate was, where the pitching mound is, where a football goalpost once stood, the dedication plaque that once adorned the stadium wall, and the Veterans Memorial that was built after the stadium was demolished.
Even though these buildings no longer exist, they are indeed a part of Philadelphia sports lore.
Everyone who’s a Flyer fan knows that Lou Nolan has been the Public Address announcer for the Flyers for the last 40 years. Another voice that has been a Philadelphia staple is Dan Baker. Baker has been the Public Address announcer for the Philadelphia Phillies for the last 40 years, which is the longest active tenure for any P.A announcer in Major League Baseball. He is also the Public Address announcer for the Philadelphia Eagles for the last 27 years. He grew up in Southwest Philadelphia, and was raised in suburban Mount Ephraim, New Jersey. Prior to being the voice of the Phillies and the Eagles, he was a junior high school teacher. But the one thing these two voices have in common, is that they follow the style of John McAdams, the long-time Public Address announcer at the historic Cathedral of College Basketball: the Palestra. McAdams was known for his smooth, easy delivery, and both Nolan and Baker emphasize that tradition, being clear and concise with detail to both grammar and diction without the need to yell or scream. Between the time when football season ends and baseball season begins, Baker calls games for the Drexel Dragons men’s basketball team on the radio.
The City of Philadelphia is not just a big sports town, it’s also a big food town. Aramark, the official foodservice provider of Citizens Bank Park, provided a sampling of what they will serve to 46,000 fans on game day at “The Bank.”
- Petite Filet Cheese Sandwich and Tomato Bisque
- Maple-brined Turkey sandwich and Tuscan Chicken and White Bean Soup
- Lobster Roll
- Broad Street Breakfast Sandwich: Scrambled eggs, bacon and cheese on a hoagie roll.
- Tastykake Butterscotch Bread Pudding
- Apple Pie Turnovers
- S’more Turnovers
However, there’s more to that at Citizens Bank Park. Here are some of my picks:
- Bull’s BBQ. Located near the Right Field gate, this southern-style smoke shack is named after former Phillies Left Fielder Greg “The Bull” Luzinski. Ribs, Turkey Legs, Pulled Pork sandwiches, Mac & Cheese, even “Bull Dogs” (which is smoked kielbasa) can give you comfort in the cold.
- Tony Luke’s. Located in Ashburn Alley behind Section 147, this piece of South Philly serves the sandwich — the Philly Cheesesteak. Tony Luke’s also serves the other sandwich — the Roast Pork sandwich. Either way, you can’t lose!
- The Schmitter. Straight from McNally’s Tavern in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia’s BIG LEAGUE Sandwich is similar to a cheesesteak, but you add tomato, grilled salami and Schmitter Sauce and put it on a flash-broiled Kaiser roll, and you might need extra napkins when you head back to your seat.
- Harry the K’s Broadcast Bar and Grille. Named after “The Voice of the Phillies” the late Harry Kalas, this restaurant, located underneath the scoreboard in Sections 143-145, serves up bar food like Philly Steak Spring Rolls, Loaded Fries, and the Grand Slam Burger. But if it’s cold, order up some of their chili. You also get a pretty good view of the rink, too.
- McFadden’s Restaurant and Saloon at the Ballpark. You’ve heard of the name. The East Village pub known for throwing the “Wildest” parties in all of New York is now a national chain with locations in Washington, DC, Grand Rapids, Providence, Chicago, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Boston, Glendale, AZ, Portland, OR, Cincinnati, San Diego, and, of course, Philadelphia. However, McFadden’s opened up 2 other locations, both located inside baseball stadium. Off of them is at Citi Field in Flushing, home of the Phillies’ biggest rival, the New York Mets. The other one is located at Citizens Bank Park, near the Third Base gate. If you want to get away from the cold and share a couple of brewskis, this is the place to be. I suggest the Cheesesteak nachos and the Philly Fries (waffle fries tossed in Old Bay seasoning [a nod to Chickie’s and Pete’s famous crab fries] and served with a side of Cheez Whiz!)
The big game might be on January 2, but McFadden’s at the Ballpark’s hosting the biggest New Year’s bash in Philadelphia outside of the one hosted by the NHL. For $85, YOU get to party with VERSUS/NBC Sports NHL analyst and former Flyer Jeremy Roenick, a commemorative rally towel, a Midnight champagne toast, free food, an open bar, and a chance to win tickets to the Winter Classic! But you better come correct and wear Flyers orange and black. If you wear Rangers blue, you might get your ass thrown out on to Broad Street.
There are 4 statues located in and around Citizens Bank Park that are monuments to great players in Philadelphia Phillies history. Each of the 10-foot-high statues were made by Philadelphia sculptor Zenos Frudakis.
Located at the First Base Gate is the statue of Robin Roberts. Roberts spent 14 of his 19 seasons in the Big Leagues with the Phillies. In his third season, he became the ace of the Whiz Kids — the young 1950 Phillies squad that went on to become National League Champions. He went 234-199 during his time in Philly and was named an All-Star 7 times. His #36 was retired by the Phillies in 1962, and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976.
Located at the Third Base Gate is the statue of Mike Schmidt. Michael Jack Schmidt spent his entire 17-year career with the Phillies. He is one of he greatest third basemen to play the game. Here’s some numbers to ponder: 12 All-Star Game selections. 10 Gold Glove Awards. 6 Silver Slugger Awards. 3 times, the National League’s Most Valuable Player. 548 career home runs, and most importantly, a World Series Championship in 1980, and the World Series MVP to boot! His #20 was retired by the Phillies in 1990, and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995.
Located at the Left Field Gate is the statue of Steve Carlton. “Lefty” spent 14 of his 23 seasons in Philadelphia. After spending his first 6 seasons in St. Louis, Carlton was traded to Philadelphia in 1972. In Carlton’s first season with the Phillies, he led the National League in wins (27), complete games (30), strikeouts (310), and ERA (1.97). Those numbers earned him the first of 4 National League Cy Young Awards. He was the ace of the 1980 World Series Champion Phillies. During his 23-year career, he was a 10-time All-Star, notched 329 wins, which ranks 11th all-time. He also had 4,136 strikeouts, which is the second-most by a left-handed pitcher (only Randy Johnson has more), and he also holds the Major League record for career pickoffs with 144. His #32 was retired by the Phillies in 1989, and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994.
Located at the heart of Ashburn Alley is the statue of the Alley’s namesake, Richie “Whitey” Ashburn. Ashburn was great as a player and also as a broadcaster. As a player, He spent 12 of his 15 seasons playing Center Field for the Phillies. He was known for his 2,574 career hits. After his playing career, Ashburn moved to the broadcast booth and was a color commentator for Phillies baseball on both radio and television. His #1 was retired by the Phillies in 1979, and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995 alongside Mike Schmidt. He spent 47 years with the Phillies, which is the longest tenure for any person associated with the Phillies. The Phillies radio broadcast booth at Citizens Bank Park is named in his honor.
On my previous blog on the NHL.com fans site, I had a “Countdown to the NHL Winter Classic”, showcasing some tidbits hockey fans might not know about the host venue or the traditions of the host team, be it the host hockey team or the baseball/football team that normally call the host venue home. In 2009 and 2010, I profiled both Wrigley Field and Fenway Park for 30 days, because those are the two oldest ballparks in the Major Leagues, and each one had a long, storied history. Last year, I profiled both Heinz Field and McMahon Stadium for 7 days, because for both venues, I had minimal knowledge of the stadiums. Heinz Field had a short history spanning back only 10 years, while my knowledge of Calgary’s McMahon Stadium is limited to these three facts: A) It’s the home of Calgary Stampeders and Calgary Dinos football. B) It was the host site for 5 Grey Cup games. And C) It was the venue for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the 1988 Winter Olympics. For something about Citizens Bank Park, which has been home to the Phillies since 2004, I decided 7 days would be good enough to share some info to you, the fan.
And now, without further ado, here’s Part 1 of my countdown to the 2012 NHL Winter Classic.
Plans to build Citizens Bank Park started in 1999 when the Philadelphia Phillies and the Philadelphia Eagles wanted to replace the multi-purpose Veterans Stadium with two separate stadiums. Construction on both Lincoln Financial Field and Citizens Bank Park began in the summer of 2001. While “The Linc” would open in August 2003, “The Bank” would open in April 2004. The design for Citizens Bank Park’s field of play was influenced by Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium: the home of the Philadelphia Phillies from 1938-1970. With a seating capacity of 43,651 (46,575 with SRO seating included), Citizens Bank Park is the 12th largest ballpark in the Major Leagues, but don’t let the numbers fool you. Since Citizens Bank Park opened, the Phillies won the last 5 NL East Division Championships, 2 National League Championships (both against the Los Angeles Dodgers), and a World Series Championship in 2008. Last season, the Phillies led the Majors in attendance for the first time in franchise history, with over 3.6 million fans passing through the turnstiles for 84 games.
During baseball season, Citizens Bank Park is notorious for being a hitter’s ballpark, a “launching pad”; a place where home runs are frequently hit. In the first two seasons of the ballpark’s existence, a total of 319 home runs were hit “outta here! (in the words of the legendary Voice of the Phillies, the late, great, Harry Kalas)” To try to curb the home run count, the left field wall was moved back 5 feet in the 2005 offseason. Despite the modification, “The Bank” is still considered a launching pad. But on one October night in 2010, one man made history here. Roy “Doc” Halladay, one of the Phillies “Four Aces”, pitched a no-hitter in his first career postseason start. In Game 1 of the National League Division Series vs. the Cincinnati Reds, Halladay struck out 8 and allowed only one walk en route to only the second postseason no-hitter in the history of baseball.