Phillies: Celebrating 50th anniversary of Veterans Stadium

Exterior of Veterans Stadium (Doug Pensinger /Allsport)
Exterior of Veterans Stadium (Doug Pensinger /Allsport) /

It is hard to believe, but the Philadelphia Phillies are already in their 18th season of Citizens Bank Park. Before that, however, they called Veterans Stadium home for more than three decades.

To date, the Phillies have won one World Series championship in each venue — 1980 and 2008.

The first Phillies game at Veterans Stadium was played exactly 50 years ago.

Saturday represents the milestone half-century mark since the Phillies played their first game at The Vet. Led by second-year manager Frank Lucchesi, the Phillies defeated the now-defunct Montreal Expos, 4-1 — with future Hall of Famer Jim Bunning earning the win after allowing only one run through 7 1/3 innings. It would turn out to be the fifth-to-last win in the right-hander’s 17-year, 224-win career.

More than 55,000 fans in attendance saw the following firsts in the stadium’s history that Saturday afternoon:

  • Batter: Boots Day (ground out)
  • Hit: Larry Bowa (single)
  • Run: Ron Hunt
  • RBI: Bob Bailey
  • Single: Larry Bowa
  • Double: Ron Hunt
  • Triple: Larry Bowa
  • Home Run: Don Money
  • Stolen Base: Ron Hunt
  • Sacrifice Hit: Jim Bunning
  • Sacrifice Fly: Tim McCarver
  • Win: Jim Bunning
  • Loss: Bill Stoneman
  • Save: Joe Hoerner

Another first — the “first ball” — was also a memorable moment from the 1971 Phillies home opener, as it was dropped from a helicopter to back-up catcher Mike Ryan. “Irish Mike” passed away last summer at the age of 78. After his Phillies playing days, he went on to become the only person in franchise history to coach in three World Series.

Also, the 1971 opener marked the debut for beloved Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas in Philadelphia. Kalas was the master of ceremonies, hired from the Houston Astros to succeed Bill Campbell.

Kalas’ voice helped bring the sights and sounds from inside Veterans Stadium to millions of homes throughout the Delaware Valley for so many years. During the venue’s final year in 2003, he often helped update the countdown in the outfield for days remaining.

The Phils opened and played their first game at Citizens Bank Park in 2004. While fans love “CBP,” The Vet holds just as much real estate in hearts of many.

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