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Philadelphia Municipal Stadium

The Philadelphia Sports Complex has held countless sporting events since its birth in 1926, but it was one venue that drew crowds beyond the realm of athletics: Philadelphia Municipal Stadium.. Later known as John F. Kennedy Stadium, it held numerous events in its 73 years of existence. From boxing matches and concerts to countless football games, it had a way of bringing the entire City of Brotherly Love together and drawing the attention of America on any given night.

From the Muck:

Patrick Short got up one morning with a sense of duty in his eye. As the owner of one of Philadelphia's last pig farms, he had a lot of responsibilities to attend to that day, all the while knowing that he was under the watchful eye of City Hall. Still, he could never imagine that in just a few short hours he and his two grown sons would be staring down the barrels of police-issued shotguns, ready to stand their ground and defend their 185 pigs.

In those days, Philadelphia was in the middle of an unusual war. With pig farms dotting the landscape, City Hall sought to raise property value by getting rid of the swampy areas that typify pig farms. This was not an easy task as farmers can be quite possessive of their property. What's more, this area was dominated by Republicans and the fight quickly escalated to the kind of political drama that is all too familiar to us today by way of votes and elections. The tension filled Philadelphia's air just as much as the stench of the swine did.

Eventually, cooler heads prevailed and Patrick Short relinquished his beloved pig farm to City Hall. Nine years later the site was a vacant lot waiting to be filled with the wonders of the 1926 Sesquicentennial International Exposition. Doubling as both the World's Fair and America's 150th birthday, a massive structure was deemed necessary to construct.

Built just 3,696 feet south-west of where Paul Short's farm once stood, the newly constructed Sesquicentennial Stadium was a sight to behold. Capable of holding upwards of 120,000 spectators, the u-shaped concrete and brick stadium looked like it could stand much longer than the festival.

Indeed it did. After it had hosted numerous religious ceremonies, a patriotic pageant called "Freedom" and closed with Jack Dempsey's shocking loss to Gene Tunney before 125,000 frozen spectators, the stadium was renamed Philadelphia Municipal Stadium.

The Tenants

In its early days, Philadelphia Municipal Stadium hosted very few football games with just the Quakers of the original AFL playing their lone season in 1926 before the whole league folded. Ever since it hosted the Dempsey-Tunney bout, the stadium had become well known to boxing promoters, hosting numerous bouts that featured local talent such as Tommy Loughran and Jersey Joe Walcott. It hosted numerous championship bouts like Walcott v. Ezzard Charles in 1952 and Ike Williams vs Bob Montgomery in 1947. After Rocky Marciano defeated Walcott on September 23, 1952, no boxing match was ever again held at Philadelphia Municipal Stadium.

By then it had expanded its prospects to other sports, most notably football. It had hosted the Eagles from 1936 through 1939 and again in 1941 with other games and practices sprinkled in its calendar for decades to come. The Cleveland Browns stunned the Eagles and the rest of the league when they trounced the defending champs 35-10 in front of more than 70,000 stunned spectators. That game would kick off the NFL's introduction to the newly acquired Browns and all they could do was watch as the new kids on the block went to the next six NFL title games, winning three.

The college game was also quite popular in "the Muni". The famed Army-Navy Game was played their 41 times between 1936 through 1979 and the Liberty Bowl began there in 1959 before moving elsewhere four years later. By then, the stadium had been renamed after America's recently slain president, John F. Kennedy.

The venue was perfect for hosting concerts. Bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Peter Frampton and Michael Jackson. But the building was aging. After more than 60 years of holding vast gathered crowds, it was starting to show its age with numerous electrical problems, fire hazards and eroding structure.

Six days after the conclusion of a Grateful Dead concert in May of 1989, the city condemned the aging wonder. Talks of restoring the once grand beauty only revealed that the costs could outweigh the benefits. It was demolished in September 1992. Today, the Wells Fargo Center stands in its place, hosting numerous basketball and hockey games and concerts. In a way, the legacy of Philadelphia Municipal Stadium lives on.

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