Fan Follow Friday puts the spotlight weekly on one of my readers, as they share their favorite ballparks and baseball memories. Hope you enjoy hearing their stories!! This week we check in with Tom Harkins, a Philadelphia Phillies fan:
Name: Tom Harkins
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Favorite team: Philadelphia Phillies
Blog/Website: Fantasy Sports Trophies
How did you get into baseball?
My Grandfather took me to my first game at Veteran’s Stadium (which was nearly new at the time) in 1974. The Phillies were about to launch into the greatest decade of baseball played in Philadelphia since the 1930’s (by the A’s) and the greatest decade in Phillies history. My Grandfather loved Steve Carlton so we saw every home game he pitched in 1974, 75 and 76. We had a secret code. He would wait for me to get out of school. If he had Phillies tickets in the sun visor of his car, I was to go directly home and get all my homework done so that he could sweep in after dinner and mute all my Mother’s objections quickly so we could get to the ballpark in time for warm-ups. I lived about 5 minutes from the Vet. I have to say that Citizen’s Bank Park is the best current place to catch a game. I hear the new parks in Pittsburgh, San Diego and Seattle are terrific but until I have a chance to see them in-person CBP is the best current stadium.
Ugh! I’d have to say the Vet. Yes. It was a terrible venue for baseball, particularly in the upper bowl. But it was the ballpark of my youth, I saw hall-of-famers like Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, Willie Stargle, Steve Carlton and many, many more play there. I’ve been lucky enough to see baseball all over the country: Wrigley, Fenway, Old Yankee Stadium, Comisky Park, Camden Yards, Royals Stadium, Dolphins Stadium (Marlins v. Phillies), Tropicana Field, Turner Field and Dodger Stadium (Dodgers v. Phillies). They were all very nice and all better baseball stadiums then the Vet. But the Vet was full of magic that only a ten-year-old can feel while watching baseball with his grandfather.
Least Favorite Ballpark:
Well. I guess I’d have to say the Vet. By the time I hit my twenties, the Vet and the Phillies hit the skids at the same time. The team that embarked on it’s greatest decade in franchise history had returned to form in the mid-1980’s and stayed there until the early 2000s. The big names were gone and the Phillies announced that they were a small-market team. The Vet seemed to age quickly. Once a wonder of modern construction, it was now a “dump” with a court and jail in the basement (though they were only used during football season).
When the play on the field collapsed, you started to look around and notice what a bad place the Vet was to see a baseball game. With 15 years plus to look around, I really started to hate the place.
Top Ballpark Memory:
Dodger Stadium, 2001-ish. I’m in LA for work and check the Dodger’s schedule and see the Phillies were going to be in town. I had to go. The Phils were at the tail-end of a decade-plus losing funk that would last a couple more seasons and be expunged with the 2008 WS Championship. The Phils also managed to exorcise the ghosts of 1964 by chasing the Mets down in historic fashion to take the NL East that season.
Anyway. Mark Portugal is on the mound and the Phillies offense is showing a little life being lead by a young guy named Bobby Abreu who the Phillies plucked via the Rule 5 draft from Houston (I think). The Dodgers were good and should have run away with the game. Their fans were expecting a rout. Three innings in, it occurs to me that Portugal is perfect. He runs the streak to six-and-a-half, finally giving up a few hits and a couple of runs. It was very exciting while inning after inning passes with Portugal remaining perfect. After the Phillies won, I ran into Ed Wade (Phillies General Manager at the time) while walking out of the stadium. He couldn’t miss me in my bright red Phillies windbreaker against a backdrop of Dodger blue. We talked about the game and Portugal’s bid to be perfect. It looked like the Phils were turning it around. Unfortunately for Wade’s job security, it was another false horizon in Phillies history. But he was busy drafting guys names Rollins, Utley, Howard, Ruiz and Hamels who would usher in the second greatest (greatest?) decade of Phillies baseball in just a few more years.
Advice for fans visiting your home ballpark?
Philly has a tough reputation that’s well deserved. I remember epic battles at the Vet whenever the Pirates or Mets were in town. But, that’s pretty much history now in Citizen’s Bank Park. In fact, that stuff died off at Phillies games in the late 1980’s. While I wouldn’t recommend doing the same thing at Eagles’ games, Phillies games are relatively low-key affairs. The fans are 110% behind the home team but opposing team’s fans can walk around CBP without fear.
Try the food at CBP! All of it! Philadelphia is called a city of neighborhoods with each section having a delicacy all its own. The Phils named the concession stands after each neighborhood and they feature a special food from the corresponding neighborhood like cheesesteaks, soft pretzels, roasted pork sandwiches and “the schmidter”. Philadelphia also has “Brewerytown” so CBP’s beer concession stands are called Brewerytowns and feature a selection of locally brewed, craft beers like no other stadium I’ve seen.
****Would you like to be my next Fan Follow Friday?? Just email your responses to the bold questions and a couple of pictures to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a baseball blogger, just a baseball fan!!!
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