The 2020 season will be my 50th following the Philadelphia Phillies of Major League Baseball. As a nine-year-old back in 1971 with the opening of Veteran’s Stadium down in my native South Philadelphia, I began a lifelong love affair with the team and the game.

I knew what baseball was and who the Phillies were prior to that point. Growing up on American Street in the 2nd Street neighborhood (“Two Street” to non-residents) there were about a half-dozen ‘old men’ (they were probably the age that I am now) including my own maternal grandfather who would sit out on their porches during the evening hours, listening to games from Connie Mack Stadium.

As I walked or ran up and down that tiny block of row homes as a little boy, I would hear coming from their transistor radios the voices of By Saam, Bill Campbell, and Richie Ashburn and the background crowd noise from an old ballpark that I would never get to enter in person. It was from those sounds that I first felt the comforting presence of daily baseball in the summer, long before I knew anything else about the game.

My friends and I rode our bikes around the still uncompleted I-95 out to Broad Street and around to the stadium in the weeks prior to it’s opening. We would charge up and down the long, sloping ramps and the broad outer walkway, never realizing all of the excitement we would have inside the place over the coming decades.

My father, who amazingly when I think about such a thing was just 31-years-old at the time, took my brother and I to an “Opening Day” ceremony at what would become known as ‘The Vet’ just days before the first Phillies game was played at the glistening new sports cathedral. It’s that first exposure to the stadium that I have never forgotten. At some point that same year, Dad took us to a now forgotten first-ever Phillies game.

I would enjoy hundreds of days and nights at The Vet over the next 33 years, growing from a boy into a man. There would be many changes in my life, and then changes from those changes. Schools, careers, relationships, and so much more. But the Phillies were always there. Well, except for a few empty months during the baseball strike of 1994.

At least where the game is concerned, what is happening right now with the sport shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic feels a lot like that lost summer of ’94. I hope to God that it doesn’t come to that, a completely lost summer.

I’ve been planning all along to celebrate what would be my 50th season of Phillies baseball in a number of ways here at The Bell. So, today I will be beginning a regular series of pieces that will each begin with “Phillies 50” as a headline precursor.

From the toolbar under the History section of the philliesbell.com website you can find a “Phillies 50: 1971-2020” page dedicated to the series. You will also be able to enjoy all of the items by clicking on that ‘tag’ which can be found among those at the bottom of each piece.

The “Phillies 50” celebration begins with this introduction as well as the first of a daily random player micro-biography. These will publish each morning during 2020 and will feature the most random Phillies player or pitcher from each season.

Whichever player or pitcher appeared in the fewest games, or made the fewest appearances during each season from 1971-2019, and then also went on to have a completely nondescript career. The mostly forgotten players – we’re going to remember them, at least briefly.

If you also experienced any of the “Phillies 50” memories first-hand as the year moves along, I hope that you will share in comments. Those can be made at the end of each piece right at The Bell website and also on our various @philliesbell social media feeds.

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