According to the music group Kansas, nothing lasts forever as explained in “Dust in the Wind.” Veterans Stadium, a venue on Broad and Pattison in Philadelphia, PA, opened in 1971 and would no longer accommodate events after 2003 as the Philadelphia Phillies planned on moving to Citizens Bank Park effective 2004 (what used to be the parking lot for the Vet).
The Phillies had their share of abominable seasons and success during their years calling the Vet their home. Losing took place more than winning as the Phillies finished below .500 20 times. Winning, however, resulted in six outright National League East titles (1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1983, 1993), one split-season division title (first-half winners in 1981), three NL pennants (1980, 1983, 1993), and one World Series title (1980).
In 2003, the Phillies needed to close the Vet with positive feats and not solely remove numbers off the outfield wall for “Games until the Vet closes.” First baseman Jim Thome brought the power bat he used in previous seasons with the Cleveland Indians to the Phillies as a free agent. Starting pitcher Kevin Milwood came in a trade from Atlanta for catcher Johnny Estrada. Third baseman David Bell signed as a free agent but the glimmer of hope from Bell ended when he landed on the disabled list July 10 and stayed there for the rest of the season.
Sure, Larry Bowa wanted to make his third season as Phillies season memorable but not only for the sakes of the Vet. The Phillies started 16-12 and won 18 of 26 contests entering the All-Star break but they couldn’t maintain a lead in the Wild Card chase in Sept. Philadelphia ended 2003 86-76, good for third place in the NL East (15 games out of first). By the way, the Phillies scored 10-plus runs 18 times but were shutout 10 tunes and scored at most three runs on 61 occasions.
Okay, the Phillies once plated 13 runs in an inning (the top of the fourth at Cincinnati on April 14). The Phillies even won an interleague contest at Baltimore’s Camden Yards on June 27, 4-2, in 17 innings.
Milwood provided Phillies fans a lasting memory at the Vet on April 27 against San Francisco. The Phillies won, 1-0, on a first-inning solo home run by Ricky Ledee. Well, Milwood tossed the ninth no-hitter in franchise history before 40.016 spectators. During the no-hitter, Milwood went the distant with three walks and 10 strikeouts. Anyway, Milwood was 14-12 in 35 starts (222 innings) with three shutouts, five complete games, 210 hits, 68 walks, 169 strikeouts, and a 4.01 ERA.
Rookie second baseman Chase Utley wrote himself into the history books at the Vet. Utley, who would become the Phillies’ all-time leader in career games at second base, deposited a grand slam for his first big-league hit. In 43 games, Utley batted .239 (32-for-134) with 13 runs, 10 doubles, one triple, two long-balls, and 21 RBIs.
Thome proved to be worth every penny he cost at the plate. The first baseman batted .266 (154-for-578) in 159 games with 111 runs, 30 doubles, three triples, a league-leading 47 home runs, 111 walks, and 131 runs batted in. Oh yeah, Thome went deep 10 times in Aug. and cracked another 10 homers in Sept.
Right-fielder Bobby Abreu hit .300 for the fifth time in six seasons with the Phillies. Abreu collected 173 hits in 577 at-bats (.300 average) with 99 runs, 35 doubles, a triple, 20 jacks, 101 RBIs, 109 walks, and 22 steals.
Marlon Byrd showed people why he served as the starting center-fielder as a rookie. Byrd hit .303 (150-for-495) in 135 games with 86 runs, 28 doubles, four triples, seven round-trippers, 45 RBIs, and 11 base thefts. At that point of his career, Byrd hadn’t developed into a power hitter (after 2010, he recorded a few 25-plus homer seasons).
Gee, first-string catcher Mike Lieberthal found himself hitting .313 (159-for-508) in 131 contests with 68 runs, 30 doubles, one triple, 13 sayonaras, and 81 RBIs. Backup catcher Todd Pratt posted 15 of his 34 hits (.272 average) for extra bases in 43 games.
Starting second baseman Placido Polanco went 142-for-492 (.289 average) in 122 games with 87 runs, 30 doubles, three triples, 14 gopher balls, 63 RBIs, and 14 steals.
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins didn’t reach base as often as he would’ve liked with a .263 mark, but he still managed to score 85 runs, swatted 42 doubles, stretched six hits for triples, touch them all eight times, knocked-in 62 runs, and swiped 20 bases. Left-fielder Pat Burrell hit 73 points lower than the previous season by batting .209 (109-for-522) with 57 runs, 31 doubles, four triples, 21 fence-clearers, and 64 RBIs. Until the injury, Bell displayed a .195 clip in 85 games with 32 runs, 14 doubles, four homers, and 37 RBIs.
Utility infielder Tomas Perez tallied 79 hits .265 average) in 125 games with 33 RBIs, 39 runs, 18 doubles, a triple, and five four-baggers. Jason Michaels demonstrated a .330 mark (36-for-109) in 76 games as he safely crossed home 20 times, swatted 11 doubles, cleared the fence on five swings, and knocked-in 17 runs. Ledee hit 13 homers in 255 at-bats (121 games).
Rollins (April 5 against Pittsburgh) and Lieberthal (July 8 at Montreal) swatted three doubles in one game. Pratt posted a pitch-hit extra-inning homer.
Offensive production brought 1,448 hits in 5,543 at-bats (.261 team average) with 791 runs, 325 doubles, 27 triples, 166 home runs, 757 RBIs, and 72 stolen bases.
Eighteen men toted the rubber, posting a 4.04 ERA in 1,444 innings with seven shutouts, 34 saves, nine complete games, 1,386 hits, 536 bases on balls, and 1,060 strikeouts.
Randy Wolf (16-10, 33 starts, 200 innings, 4.23 ERA) led the staff in walks (78) and strikeouts (177) while shutting out two opponents and completed two games. Brett Myers posted a 14-9 mark in 32 starts (193 innings) with a shutout, one complete game, 205 hits, 76 free passes, 4.43 ERA, and 143 strikeouts. Vicente Padilla (14-12, 32 games, 3.62 ERA) shutout one opponent, completed one game, allowed 196 hits, issued 62 walks, and struckout 133 in 209 innings.
Brandon Duckworth (4-7) started 18 of 24 games with 98 hits, a 4.94 ERA, 44 free passes, and 68 strikeouts. Amaury Telemaco started eight games, going 1-4 in 45 innings with a 3.97 ERA, 41 hits, 11 walks, and 29 strikeouts.
Closer Jose Mesa earned 24 saves for 112 saves in three seasons with the Phillies (2001-2003 and his 113th save in Philadelphia in 2011). Mesa made 61 appearances with a 5-7 record, 71 hits, 31 passes, a 6.52 ERA, and 45 strikeouts.
Terry Adams (1-4) posted a 2.65 ERA in 66 games (68 innings) with 68 hits, 23 walks, and 51 strikeouts. Rheal Cormier went 8-0 in 65 relief appearances (85 innings) with one save, 54 hits, 25 four-ball counts, 67 strikeouts, and a 1.70 ERA). Future MLB Network analyst Dan Plesac (2-1) notched two saves in 58 games (33 innings) with 11 walks, a 2.70 ERA, and 37 strikeouts.
Carlos Silva (3-1, 4.43 ERA) started a game, came out of the bullpen 61 times, fanned 48, walked 37, and allowed 92 hits in 87 innings. Turk Wendell (3-3, 3.38 ERA) worked 64 innings in 56 games with a save, 27 strikeouts, and 28 walks. Mike Williams went 0-4 in 27 games (24 innings) with three saves, 24 hits, 18 walks, 17 punch-outs, and a 4.23 ERA.
The Phillies showcased the NL’s fifth-ranked defense (.984 fielding percentage) with 97 errors and 146 double plays.
If you’re wondering about Veterans Stadium lasts, the Phillies lost to Atlanta, 5-2, in the Vet’s final game on Sept. 28. Hall of Famer Greg Maddux earned the win, Milwood suffered the defeat, Utley had been the final batter, Burrell posted the last hit, Atlanta’s Chipper Jones scored the final run, and Jerry Crawford served as home plate umpire. In 33 seasons as home of the Phillies, the Vet saw the team win 1,415, lose 1,198, and tie three times.
Lieberthal was the Phillies’ lone representative in the 2003 All-Star Game. Fans appeared sympathetic for the Vet as Veterams Stadium attracted 2,376,760 spectators.
The Paul Owens Award winners (top minor leaguers in Philadelphia’s farm system) played pivotal roles in leading the Phillies to five straight NL East titles (2007-2011), two NL pennants (2008 and 2009), and a World Series title (2008). Ryan Howard received the honor as a first baseman. Starting pitcher Cole Hamels earned the award three years before making his major league debut. Hamels would go on to take part in the Phillies’ 12th and 13th no-hitters (the 12th was a combined no-no on Sept. 1, 2014 in Atlanta and the 13th was all Hamels on July 25, 2015 at the Chicago Cubs).
Flagship radio station WPEN and flagship television stations Comcast SportsNet and WPSG-UPN broadcasted Phillies games. Among the broadcasters were Harry Kalas, Chris Wheeler, Larry Andersen, Scott Graham, and John Kruk. Kalas called play-by-play during every season the Phillies played home games at the Vet.
*Information about the 2003 Phillies can be found in “The Phillies Encyclopedia (Third Edition)” by Rich Westcott and Frank Bilovsky. “The Phillies Encyclopedia (Third Edition)” analyzes Phillies seasons from 1883 (season one) until 2003 (season 121).