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Published November 23. 2010 05:01PM

If you like nostalgia trips, then nothing can replace the feeling of sitting in an old ballpark in the heart of a city such as Boston's Fenway Park or Chicago's Wrigley Field.

The old sporting meccas of the early-to-mid 1900s stamped an identity on the residents in the ethnic neighborhoods where they were located. I recall Palmerton's Elmer Valo, the late Philadelphia Athletic star outfielder, relating the many intricacies of playing the outfield in old Shibe Park, later named Connie Mack Stadium. As a boy, I saw one major league game in old Connie Mack and although I don't recall the final score - I do remember Jerry Koosman pitched for the Mets - it was the sights and sounds of the old ballpark that will follow me to the grave.

Location and bottom line revenue issues have forced most teams to move out of the old neighborhood, Boston and Chicago being the exceptions. In many cases, teams have tried to recapture the neighborhood feel of the old ballparks, tailoring their look to the stadiums of old, which is a good thing.

Locally, and on a much smaller scale are the high school stadiums, I was happy when school officials in places like Panther Valley and Lehighton opted in recent years to refurbish and upgrade rather than resign their old stadiums to the wrecking ball. Those old stadiums still hold treasured memories for a ton of student athletes through the decades.

At noon today, the clock struck midnight for another Philadelphia legend - the Spectrum - returning it to the dust of the earth. For over 40 years, sports and entertainment fans were drawn to the strange-looking brown oval in south Philadelphia, the former home of the Flyers and 76ers.

We'll never forget Kate Smith singing God Bless America to inspire the Flyer teams of the 1970s. No stadium provided more of a home court advantage than the Spectrum did for the Flyers. Best evidence of that was the internationally-charged hockey game of in 1976 against the high-powered Russian hockey team, in which the visitors from the Soviet Union skated off the ice during the game rather than put up with the pounding from the Broad Street bullies.

A new restaurant and entertainment complex will rise up where the Spectrum once stood. After all the debris is hauled away, physical evidence of this great palace will be gone, the events of past great moments cherished and preserved forever in our memory vaults.

Jim Zbick

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