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Hello, Veterans Stadium
Attendance doubled in 1971 to 1,511,223, no thanks to the ballclub which was seven games worse than the 1970 losers, and finished last in the East, 4 ½ games back of the expansion Expos, and a gasping 30 games behind the emerging Pittsburgh Pirates, under manager Danny Murtaugh, and their thunderous bats. The Phillies scored 230 fewer runs than the Pirates. The new excitement was because of the shiny new Veterans Stadium in South Philly with its easy access to south Jersey, just across the Walt Whitman Bridge.
The season opened with two losses at Pittsburgh before the long anticipated first game at Veterans Stadium, already called, The Vet. It was held on Saturday, April 10, 1971 before 55,352 muted Phillies’ fans; they were loud, to be sure, but not full-voiced Philadelphia loud, not for a last-place team. The Vet was a vast, round, double-decked stadium that could hold 65,000, so the first game was not a sellout. For reasons known only to the groundskeepers and the gods of baseball, the field was covered with artificial turf, which became a point of geat contention in later years after complaints that the hard surface was taking a toll on players’ legs.
Cue the list of Veterans Stadium firsts: (1) first pitch – Jim Bunning, (2) first hit – Larry Bowa, leading off the Phillies’ first inning – a single to right, (3) first run – Montreal’s Ron Hunt in the sixth inning, (4) first home run – Don Money, in the Phillies’ sixth, to tie the score, (5) first win – Phillies, 4-1, (6) first winning pitcher – Bunning.
The new stadium was nice, even fun at times, but it could not mask a bad team. By any measure, the highlight of the season came on June 25 at Cincinnati. On that night, with the Phillies, at 27-40, long out of the pennant race, Phillies’ righthander Rick Wise, a seven-year veteran at the age of 26, threw a no hit- no run game at a Cincinnati Reds team featuring hit-machines like Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, George Foster, and Tony Perez. Not content with his pitching, Wise batted in three of the tesm’s four runs with a pair of home runs. On the season, Wise was 17-14, ERA 2.88, with four shutouts; he hit six home runs.By max blue