Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Phillies Memories: The Opening of Citizen's Bank Park in 2004

I've been a Phillies fan for some time now. My memories of the Phillies started taking shape in the 1970's, really when I has about 10 years old. I remember the Phillies and their old players with reverence. They were not the powerhouse teams they are today, but as a kid, there was nothing like the MLB experience of seeing pro baseball and the players who were your idols.

The memories for Phillies baseball for me goes back to Veteran's Stadium, it was a larger than life type of building that at the time was very much ahead of itself for the times. It was a cavernous place that really was a totally different feel than the current ballpark that the Phillies play in at Citizens Bank Park.

Veterans Stadium was allowed to decline into a damp, dank, place for players and fans to see a ballgame. You couldn't really see it from the seats, but to hear it from players from around the league that the Vet was a dump really set into motion the plans for a new baseball 'only' stadium.

A little inspiration for Citizen's Bank Park came from the ownership of the Phillies. There was a trip by Bill Giles to Camden Yards in Baltimore, and from that point on, Giles had it in mind that this is what Philadelphia needed for the Phillies. Camden Yards was a vibrant and thrilling place to be in the early 1990's with Cal Ripken and everything else that was going on with the Orioles. It's since calmed down a whole lot at Camden Yards, in fact, they have been on a steady decline in attendance for a number of years now.

The park was announced way back in November of 2000. After some debate where the new Phillies park would be built, then Mayor John Street announced it would be built in South Philly just across from the Vet's current location. Other areas were considered for the ballpark, among one of the final possible sites was Chinatown, a move that faced many obstacles and was eventually bagged.

Philly's answer to Camden Yards was known as the Phillies announced the plans of the ballpark in June 2001, it was a 1.15 million square foot, nearly $500 million dollar palace for baseball. The naming of the Park would be from a local bank that has it's roots in Scotland, Citizen's Bank Park. It slowly took shape over the next few years as Veteran's Stadium still towered in the fan's minds as 'the place' for Phillies baseball. You used to see it taking shape very slowly at first, just a big mud pit that slowly evolved into what we see today took shape in front of everyone who walked up to the turnstiles at the Vet over the 2002, and 2003 baseball seasons.

I used to stand out on the Vet's walkways and gaze over at the construction site, and wonder how the new park would look. It was a very misty eyed moment for a lot of the fans who followed the Phillies through the 70's, 80's, 90's, and early 00's when the realization that all of those memories that you had of Phillies games at the Vet were about to be reduced to broken concrete and dust, once they blew up the structure of the Vet and play moved over to Citizen's Bank Park. The Vet had certain characteristics that the new ballpark doesn't have. One of the things that I remember about it was when rough weather hit, you weren't afraid. The caverous halls of the Vet was a safe place to flee from storms and rain and unlike the CBP, where you can still be facing the elements of wind and rain in certain parts of the stadium, it was just a much different feel to the overall building that the Vet was.

Fresh grass would now take the place of the fluorescent green astro turf that all of the Phillies teams played on at the Vet. It would be more fan friendly, and smaller in size. The plans for the new stadium sounded really great. All of those things came true. Though it really seems like the seats are now smaller at CBP than they ever were at the Vet. Baseball here at Citizens Bank Park would be up close and personal though, unlike any experience at the Vet.

CBP opened on April 12, 2004. The first Phillies opponent were the Cincinnati Reds. Larry Bowa was the manager of the Phillies and he held an important record that he shared with then Phillies coach, John Vukovich. They were the only Phillies on the field in uniform to have played or worn the Phil's pinstripes in Connie Mack stadium, the Vet, and now at Citizens Bank Park.

One item that the new ballpark had that the Vet didn't was a huge 'Liberty Bell' that rings like crazy and lights up when the Phillies hit a home run. The bell is 50 feet high by 35 feet wide, and when it goes into motion, you better believe that the fans are going crazy as well.

Players on the Phillies for the home opener at CBP, April 12 2004, were:

Marlon Byrd CF 3 0 0 0 1 1 .200 .550 SB
Placido Polanco 2B 4 0 1 0 0 0 .286 .751
Bobby Abreu RF 3 1 1 1 1 0 .120 .481 HR
Jim Thome 1B 4 0 2 0 0 1 .296 .789 2B
Pat Burrell LF 4 0 0 0 0 0 .308 .725
Mike Lieberthal C 4 0 0 0 0 0 .083 .328
Jimmy Rollins SS 4 0 0 0 0 0 .160 .481
David Bell 3B 3 0 0 0 0 1 .286 .729
Randy Wolf P 1 0 1 0 0 0 .667 1.750
   Doug Glanville PH 1 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .500
   Ryan Madson P 0 0 0 0 0 0
   Ricky Ledee PH 1 0 1 0 0 0 .200 .533
   Rheal Cormier P 0 0 0 0 0 0
Team Totals 32 1 6 1 2 3 .188 .548
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/20/2010.

The Phillies lost the home opener by a score of 4-1, but the new era of Phillies baseball was born and it will be the home of the Phillies for many years to come.

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