Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Citizen's Bank Park
South Philadelphia, PA
Ritchie Ashburn Statue
As a devout Philadelphia sports fan, there is nothing like watching a game live in the stands with the loyal supportive masses.  I remember the Phillies games my father used to take us to at old Veteran's Stadium back in the day.  You could never quite prepare yourself for the feeling you would get as you entered into the seating area and absorbed the massive size of the place.  You couldn't help but feel small in the enormous bowl-like complex.  My dad, brother and I often joined my grandfather on local community sponsored bus trips to see the Phillies play home games.  It was also a treat when the middle school, where I was a student, had school bus trips to see games on Saturday afternoons.  I can still picture the sign up sheet posted in the Boy's Locker room bulletin board.  It didn't get much better than going to see a game with thirty of your friends.  We all cheered when our group was mentioned as a special guest by the announcer and our name was posted up on the jumbo-tron!  It was awesome!

 The Philly Faithful
Veteran's Stadium was replaced by Citizen's Bank Park for baseball games and Lincoln Financial Field for football games in 2004.  It was the end of an era.  In 62 seconds, we watched Veteran's Stadium implode in an organized domino-like fashion on live television in March of 2004.  Fond memories of great moments and great players came to mind.  It was the house that Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, Tugger McGraw, Larry Bowa, Garry Maddox, Lonnie Smith and manager Dallas Greene during the 1980 World Series win built.  The 33 year history of Veteran's stadium was filled with highs and lows and is now the stuff of legend.  The new baseball park is magnificent!  In August, during the summer of 2010, my wife and I were treated to an unforgettable night at Citizen's Bank Park in South Philly.

Chickie's and Pete's 
We were invited by friends who are regulars to the area and know how to navigate South Philly with ease.  My friend Deb is a native Italian of the area and her family once owned a successful bread bakery that supplied some of the famous cheese steak rolls that made the neighborhood famous.  Our night started at Chickie's and Pete's, a local Philadelphia sports hot spot on Pattison Avenue.  A few days earlier I visited the famous restaurant for the first time with Deb during a day trip visit to some historical sites.  The food was great and the place was really cool but it was very quiet and mostly empty.  That was not the case on game night!  The parking lot was full and a crowd massed outside the front door waiting for their tables to become ready.  We used the valet parking option and were soon through the front doors and part of the scene.

South Philly Cheese Steak
Deb's nephew arrived earlier and signed up for a table.  We walked all the way through the packed restaurant to the small back dining room.  The place was decorated from floor to ceiling with Philadelphia sports collectibles and pictures of the owner with different celebrities.  Soon we were called to the front desk to be escorted to our corner table.  The menu was a small collection of crowd favorites and we ordered a variety of the famous fare.  The waitress delivered cheese steaks, mussels in red marinara sauce, white lobster pizza, hot wings, and several orders of the popular crab fries.  The food was delicious and I was able to try white lobster pizza for the first time. It was good!  

 Taxi Crab Transport
It was getting close to game time and it was time to leave the fun of the crab house to go see the Phillies play the Mets.  We were able to get the full Chickie's and Pete's game night experience as we were transported to the ball park in the Taxi Crab mini-bus.  We jammed into the Taxi Crab with our fellow Philly faithful and made our way to Citizen's Bank Park a few blocks away.  The short ride was a fun way to get to the park and it dropped us off right outside the front gate.  We made our way past Greg Luzenski's Bull's BBQ, the Chickie's and Pete's crabfries stand and began to explore the rest of bustling Ashburn Alley on the way to our seats.

 First Base Line
Following the unveiling of Baltimore's new stadium of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1992, a new standard was set for all future ballpark design.  The large circular coliseums built in the 60's and 70's like the Vet were now a thing of the past.  Baseball was going back to the sport's roots, attempting to recapture the flavor of a bygone era in the design of new stadiums.  Many franchises hoped to duplicate the success of Camden Yards by bringing back to life the design of the classic baseball stadiums of the past.  No two stadiums would be alike and each would specialize in the solo sport of baseball.  As the Philadelphia media will tell you, the Phillies front office hit it out of the park with Citizen Bank Park.

 Cole Hamels Delivery
The place was packed and full of energy as we continued to follow Deb to our seats.  Ashburn Alley was full of all kinds of concessions and I had to laugh when we passed the Pennsylvania Dutch funnel cake stand.  Our seats turned out to be fantastic, five rows up from the visitor's dugout right in line with third base.  I had never been so close to the field before, usually the players are 1:32 scale in size from the upper, upper, upper deck.  Cole Hamels was pitching tonight and the Philles were in the chase for the division lead and the race for wild card contest.  Play ball!

 View from Center Field
The game was great to watch with the energy of 43,000 other baseball fans.  After a few innings I decided to take a lap around the stadium and see the sights.  The line at Chickie's and Pete's for crabfries was ridiculous; they should have cut their losses and grabbed a funnel cake; no waiting!  I checked out a lot of the shops looking for a hat pin to add to my collection of all the places I have visited.  I wanted to find one with Citizens Bank Park but had no luck even after five plus shops.  I finally settled on a classic Phillies "P" in the dark red from the uniform design from the 1980's. 

 Ashburn Alley
The real action is in Ashburn Alley where a combination of restaurants, shopping and Phillies history can be enjoyed by visiting fans.  The alley is named for beloved Phillies Hall of Fame center fielder and broadcaster Ritchie Ashburn who passed away in 1997.  A large statue of Ashburn resides in the middle of the alley.  A line of granite stars run the length of the area, marking every Phillies player who was ever named to the All Star Team.  Memory Lane gives fans a visual history of the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Athletics, and Negro League teams of the city's yesteryear of baseball. 

 The Wall of Fame
Memory Lane concludes with the ultimate honor to former players in the Wall of Fame patio.  The bronze plaques were first started in Memory Lane at Veteran's Stadium in 1978 and were transferred over the the new ballpark.  Catcher Darren Daulton became the 32nd player to be enshrined on the Wall of Fame on August 2010.  In addition to players, several front office executives, managers and sports broadcasters have been memorialized on the wall.  The area is fenced off during the game.  So far three home-runs have landed in the Wall of Fame patio during games, which is located in the deepest part of center field.  Two balls were hit by Ryan Howard and one by Chase Utley; a sign of future residency?

Seventh Inning Stretch
The Phillies were behind but had the chance at a rally in the eighth inning but it fell apart.  The Phils lost the game but it was a beautiful night for baseball and my wife and I really had a great time.  We exited the park and soon found the Taxi Crab along South Broad Street, which gave us a quick ride back to our parked car at Chickie's and Pete's.  Before we knew it we were on the Blue Route on our way back home, missing all the traffic.  It was a great night of food, baseball, and friends and was the highlight of my summer.  I think it would just be as much fun to watch a game sometime at Chickie's and Pete's.  Maybe an Eagles game?  Who's driving?

 The Phillie Phanatic 

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