Phillies: Reacting to amazing Veterans Stadium dweller story

Exterior general view of Veterans Stadium (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Exterior general view of Veterans Stadium (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

Philadelphia Phillies fans took a short break from hearing about Bryce Harper and Aaron Nola’s spring training updates earlier this week to honor the 17th anniversary of the implosion of Veterans Stadium — the team’s home park from 1971-2003 and the former home of the Philadelphia Eagles.

“The Vet” has an irremovable place in Philadelphia sports history and fandom. Countless stories from the venue still circulate about things that could simply never happen today at Citizens Bank Park or Lincoln Financial Field.

The craziest story of them all took years to be revealed to the general public.

Veterans Stadium, the former Phillies’ home, once had a permanent resident.

Tom Garvey, a former Veterans Stadium parking lot cashier supervisor and Vietnam War veteran, recently published The Secret Apartment: Vet Stadium, a surreal memoir. Garvey claims to have lived covertly in an empty concession stand in the left-field corridors of the former South Philly landmark from 1978-1981, a span that coincidentally included Tug McGraw leaping off the mound in celebration of the Phillies franchise’s first World Series Championship in 1980.

The Philadelphia Inquirer and New York Times are among major publications that have featured the book in recent weeks. I’d like to take a look solely at the five most incredible and ingenious elements of Garvey’s story that align perfectly with everything Veterans Stadium is remembered for.

Tug McGraw #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Tug McGraw #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

Credible sources confirm Garvey’s story.

Well-respected former Eagles Vince Papale, Jerry Sisemore, and Bill Bradley all spoke to confirm Garvey’s story and avoid the “big fish” label. Remember, tens of thousands of sports fans in the same area claimed to have seen Wilt Chamberlain score 100 points in Hershey back in 1962 when the game attendance was estimated at around 4,000.

‘A Delco boy at heart (because really, who else would do this)’

The above quote from Stephanie Farr’s story in the Philadelphia Inquirer is a microcosm of how well the story captures the Philadelphia area’s local narratives.

Having grown up in Delaware County, I laughed after finding out Garvey grew up in Ridley Park. His story aligns with the questionable behavior from natives of “Philly’s ugly cousin” at the sports complex.

The best place to hide is in plain sight.

Garvey is quoted by the New York Times stating, “The disbelief is how I got away with it.”

His book even shares an anecdote about waking up in the middle of the night during the late innings of a Phillies doubleheader and walking through the concourse in a bathrobe, drinking a cup of coffee.

The infamous stories from the Vet include rumors of very suspect security measures, and Garvey’s ingenuity was likely the root of his ability to go undetected.

Garvey didn’t let the secret apartment ‘mushroom’

His reported intentions of nixing Eagles halftime parties and forbidding his apartment guests from taking pictures legitimize the story.

Local musician Skip Denenberg also points out in the New York Times that the secret apartment “wasn’t as big a deal as it is made to be now.”

A secret apartment for Phillies fans at Citizens Bank Park would be unraveled within minutes in the era of social media.

A feel-good story

This seemingly perfect microcosm of Philadelphia fans and their “Vet” nostalgia should not overshadow the story of a Vietnam veteran finding personal solace. Garvey opens up about darkness in his head throughout the book and the need to distract his mind. The Philadelphia Inquirer points out that Garvey spoke of memories of roller-skating through the concourse being “like mediation after awhile.”

The deeper meaning of Garvey’s journey is also detailed in his first book, Many Beaucoup Magics.

I highly recommend The Secret Apartment: Vet Stadium, a surreal memoir, as well as the full stories from the Philadelphia Inquirer and New York Times.

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