Back in 2012, I sent an email to a contact I had within the Phillies organization that included an odd request. Could he get me more information, and possibly the location, of the old Veterans Stadium Liberty Bell?
Six years later, after countless emails, dead ends, contradicting accounts, and one extraordinarily helpful South Philadelphia food distributing company president, I’ve learned the Veterans Stadium Liberty Bell has found a permanent home back with the Philadelphia Phillies.
“I wanted to let you know that we are no longer in possession of the Liberty Bell. A while back we were contacted by the Phillies organization about reacquiring the bell. After discussing it internally, we decided that the plans we had to display the bell were too ambitious for now, and returning the bell to the Phillies provided the best chance for it to be ‘resurrected’ and given a chance to be displayed and appreciated by Phillies fans again,” Sean Scollon, chief business intelligence officer at C.W. Dunnet and Co., told me.
James Trout, director of marketing services and events for the Phillies, confirmed the organization has the bell. The Phillies plan to refurbish the approximately 20-foot high, 15-foot wide relic and put it on display for fans at Citizens Bank Park as early as the 2019 season.
He also noted that any additional plans or location for the bell at the stadium is unknown at this point.
The replica model of the historic bell was originally on the facade of the 400 level at Veterans Stadium until it was moved to a permanent location on top of the upper bowl in center field. The bell, which was lined with light bulbs, loomed over the stadium and delighted young fans as it lit up after each Phillies home run.
The bell disappeared after the Vet was demolished in March of 2004, but C.W. Dunnet and Co., a food distributor at 3200 S. Lawrence Street, saved the bell from the junkyard.
The Phillies sent a team to C.W. Dunnet and Co. in late fall of 2017 for the bell.
One of the members of the team that transported the bell had a family connection to the replica, as his father was part of the original team that painted the Veterans Stadium Liberty Bell during its construction.
“It turned out that the one guy on the refurbishing team had a connection to the bell already, his father was actually the person who originally painted the bell when it was built for The Vet. His father is in his 90s and still remembers some of the details,” Scollon said.
Scollon said C.W. Dunnet and Co. President Ralph Marta had several opportunities to sell the bell to prospective buyers, but ultimately decided to give the bell back to the Phillies organization when they expressed interest.
“Ralph is a nostalgic guy,” Scollon said. “We could have sold it, but he wanted Phillies fans to be able to see it and enjoy it one day.”
The company acquired the bell from the Phillies “sometime in the late 2000s” after it had sat for years in a team warehouse, Marta said in a 2012 interview.
“We’ve always been Phillies fans and all of the sports teams in Philadelphia throughout our history,” Marta said then. “We even had a Clearwater label for butter and only sold it in Pennsylvania. We had it because we enjoyed following them down to Clearwater each year for spring training.”
According to Marta, the company was planning to refurbish the bell, which would then have been placed on top of the company’s roof. The bell would have been rigged to toll and blink its lights whenever one of the Phillies hit a home run during home games.
The plans proved to be too grand for the food distributor and the bell sat unused for years until the Phillies came calling.
It’s the perfect rebirth for a great piece of Phillies history that will forever link the franchise to Veterans Stadium.
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