Phillies donate resounding piece of Vet's history
Author: Jeff Appelblatt
PHILLIES FANS KNEW there would be one last game in Veterans Stadium on the final Sunday of the 2003 season. But when Jim Thome hit a home run in the eighth inning the day before, they had no idea that it would be the last one ever hit in the stadium.
The Phillies auctioned off many remnants of the ballpark before it was demolished on March 21, 2004. But they had also put aside plenty of artifacts, ranging from the bullpen benches to pieces of the outfield wall.
Still, there is one tremendous piece that has remained hidden since it was last officially in action after Thome hit that homer - the Liberty Bell, high atop the stadium in dead centerfield.
You remember, the one that lit up and rocked back and forth every time a Phillie hit a home run. The 6,000-pound, 18-foot iron bell has been in storage near Citizens Bank Park, laying facedown in a garden, with plants around it. Now the Phillies want fans to be able to see it once again.
They have turned to a local organization dedicated to preserving the city's sports history. The giant bell is expected to become the centerpiece of the eventual Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.
"We held on to it for a long time, and we could have kept holding on," said Michael Harris, the Phillies' director of marketing. "But we salvaged the bell for Philadelphia sports history, so we decided the best place to send it was to the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.
"We've got a long relationship with. We met with them several times, and it's obvious they're passionate about it."
The Hall is in the process of finding a permanent home. Officials have agreed to a year-to-year lease for a temporary location in Northern Liberties.
"[The bell] may end up being displayed at the temporary location," Hall board member Bob Cassidy said. "We've spoken to the owners about putting it on the roof there. We just don't know if that will work. Our goal is to find a place to display it as soon as we can."
Before deciding on the Hall, the Phillies had considered several other options, including putting it in Citizens Bank Park. A version of the former bell exists in right-centerfield at the new ballpark.
"When we were designing the new park, we tried to figure where the Bell may go, but we decided it's directly connected to Veterans Stadium," Harris said. "So probably is not the best place to put it."
So, why not put it somewhere near the ballpark?
"We don't really care if it's in South Philly, but it has to be in the Philadelphia area," Harris said. "As long as it's in Philly, we will be happy. The most important criterion is the public having everlasting access to it."
That led the Phillies to the Hall of Fame. And yes, the Hall members are ready to have the bell taken to their temporary home, even though that would mean moving it twice.
"We're pulling together partners," Cassidy said. "We need to move it from where it is, we need to refurbish it, and we need to put it where it can be seen.
"We have possession of other things, like seats and ticket windows. We have bullpen structures, outfield walls, turnstiles . . . but the Liberty Bell is the logo of the Hall. We need to have it as the centerpiece no matter where we are."
That's exactly what the Phils wanted to hear.