Tom Garvey’s story, captured in his autobiography that has made the headlines in the past couple days, should make for some wild, inconceivable reading. Because no one much wanted to even attend games at Philadelphia’s Veteran’s Stadium, and that was only a stay of a matter of hours. An afternoon or evening in a cold and desolate place filled with creatures Tolkein would have dismissed as too fantastical, all the while carrying a risk of getting hit by a battery would not result in odes and poetry. So why would anyone want to live there?
But that’s apparently what Garvey did. He got a job from his family to run the parking lots — which I assume was merely reffing the hundreds of fights that took place there on game days and keeping the rivers of vomit from blocking I-95. This gave him access to the unmapped bowels (and we mean “bowels”) of The Vet, from which he set up his squatter’s paradise in an unused concession stand.
Garvey has stories galore, although the claim of doing bumps in the Phillies dugout in the late 70s or early 80s would be less remarkable than a story about someone who didn’t do drugs entering the dugout back then. While it seems pure fantasy, Garvey’s story has been corroborated by a couple of different outlets through many sources. So, yes, this dude did live with the constant smell of stale beer, hot dogs, and the central vortex of Philly angst (a force of nature, on par with El Nino). Hey, his commute to work was next to nothing, and we’ve all dreamed of that at one point or another.
Perhaps the buried lede here is that Garvey was something of a good luck charm? He claims to have lived in the Vet between 1979 and 1981. In that time, the Eagles qualified for the playoffs three times and made their first Super Bowl appearance, and their only one until 24 years later. The Phillies won the World Series in 1980, made the playoffs in 1981, and then would only make two more playoff appearances in the next 24 years.
So was this lunatic, living out his own South Philly Lord Of The Flies, actually the live, lucky garden gnome the two residents needed at the time? The Vet was the scene of countless heartbreaks and misery, and yet the three years Garvey was Quasimodo-ing out in left field saw unmatched, shared success for the two inhabitants of the stadium. The Eagles and Phillies in fact wouldn’t make the playoffs in the same year again until the Vet had been blown up and they played in their own stadiums.
While living in an apartment that would require full turrets to fight off the sentient rats that inhabited the stadium doesn’t sound very appealing (yes, New Yorkers have been doing it for centuries, but the point remains), perhaps Garvey was the key all along. If that’s what it takes, carve me out a space at Soldier Field.