In honor of the 75th anniversary of the South Philly Review’s first issue, we take a look back at some of the greatest sporting events to take place in South Philly over the last 75 years.
Once the 1970s came around, there were plenty of sporting options to choose from as JFK Stadium, Veterans Stadium and the Spectrum were all in full use in South Philly’s stadium district and that’s where most of the magic on this list happened. Some of the buildings have come and gone but the memories live on forever.
Army-Navy game, Nov. 29, 1947: The tradition started long before the South Philly Review, but the game was played at Philadelphia Municipal Stadium (later renamed JFK Stadium) in 1947 just a few weeks after its first publication as Army defeated Navy 17-3. In total, the annual Army-Navy game was played 41 times at JFK before the teams battled 17 times at Veterans Stadium, and then 13 more times at Lincoln Financial Field. (It was also played at Franklin Field in University City 18 times). It was last played in Philadelphia in 2019.
Flyers win their first Stanley Cup, May 19, 1974: The Philadelphia Flyers became the first expansion team beyond the Original Six to win the National Hockey League’s most coveted prize. The Flyers defeated the Bruins in six games, which included a 30-save, 1-0 shutout by Bernie Parent in Game 6 at the Spectrum. Rick MacLeish’s first-period power play goal was the difference. The Flyers would go on to win back-to-back championships, clinching their second title the next year in Buffalo.
Flyers defeat the Soviet Red Army, Jan. 11, 1976: The Central Sports Club of the Army Moscow, known now as one of the greatest teams in all of sports, was making a North American tour to face NHL teams. The Red Army had defeated the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins and tied the Montreal Canadiens before venturing into the Spectrum to face the Flyers. The Broad Street Bullies played up to their moniker and pounded the Soviets into literal submission as the team refused to play the rest of the game after one of several thunderous hits by the Flyers. The Russians eventually returned to the ice and the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs captured a 4-1 victory.
Undefeated Indiana wins NCAA title, March 29, 1976: It was the last team to win an NCAA championship with an undefeated record and it happened at the Spectrum. The Bobby Knight-led Hoosiers defeated Michigan 86-68 in a battle of Big Ten teams to win their third national title. Indiana finished its perfect year with a 32-0 record, which included five wins in the 32-team NCAA Tournament.
Phillies are finally world champions, Oct. 21, 1980: Veterans Stadium was the venue as the long-suffering Philadelphia Phillies, founded in 1883, finally won their first championship by defeating the Kansas City Royals in six games. It took until almost midnight when Tug McGraw struck out Willie Wilson to win Game 6 by a 4-1 score at the Vet in front of 65,838 fans. That year was bittersweet for local fans as all four major Philadelphia sports teams played for a championship that year but only the Phillies won one.
Eagles beat Cowboys in NFC championship game, Jan. 11, 1981: Wilbert Montgomery sent the frozen fans home happy after rushing for 194 yards as the thermometer dipped to 17 degrees at Veterans Stadium. The Eagles defeated the hated Dallas Cowboys, 20-7, to punch their first ticket to the Super Bowl in a meeting with the Oakland Raiders.
Sixers pave the way to an NBA title, May 22 and 26, 1983: The 76ers were just too good to win it all at home. With the recently added Moses Malone, the Sixers and Julius Erving won the first two games of the 1983 NBA finals at the Spectrum and finished it out in Los Angeles with a sweep of the Lakers. It was sweet revenge for the Sixers, who had lost in the finals to the Lakers in both 1980 and 1982. Philly went a perfect 7-0 in the playoffs at the Spectrum and 12-1 overall in the postseason that year.
Christian Laettner’s buzzer beater, March 28, 1992: With Duke University, you either love ‘em or hate ‘em. But there was no denying the greatness of Christian Laettner’s overtime buzzer beater in the 1992 East Regional final at the Spectrum. With 2.1 seconds left in what is considered one of the greatest college basketball games ever, Laettner received a long inbound pass, faked and spun and hit a jumper as time expired to give the Blue Devils a wild 104-103 victory over the University of Kentucky and a spot in the Final Four. Duke would go on to win the NCAA championship the next week.
Phillies end the drought, Oct. 27-29, 2008: It was a quarter of a century without a championship among the four major sports franchises in Philadelphia. And it ended in peculiar fashion as the Phillies had a chance to close out the 2008 World Series on Oct. 27 in Game 5 at Citizens Bank Park. But heavy rains forced the game to be halted in the sixth inning with the score tied 2-2. Two days later, the game resumed and the Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays exchanged runs before Pedro Feliz drove in the game-winner in the bottom of the seventh inning. Brad Lidge picked up the save to go 48-for-48 in save opportunities that year.
Eagles whip the Vikings in NFC championship, Jan. 21, 2018: The bigger victory actually took place in Minnesota a few weeks later, but in order to earn their spot in Super Bowl LII, the Eagles had to get past the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field in the NFC championship game. The Eagles fell behind, 7-0, but blew out the Vikings, 38-7, behind 456 total yards of offense, including a 26-of-33, 352-yard passing performance by Nick Foles. The victory paved the way for a 41-33 victory over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots as the Eagles captured their first Super Bowl title.