Philadelphia Should Host The Sports World Again For America’s 250th

Written by Rick Haggerty

Gerald Ford clutched a baseball in each hand. Moments earlier, the 38th President of the United States had received a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd at Veterans Stadium and had taken his front-row seat next to soon-to-be-retired home run king Hank Aaron at the 1976 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

After Phillies pitching great Robin Roberts and former Cleveland Indians star Bob Lemon–both of whom were elected to the Hall of Fame that year and were serving as the honorary all-star captains–handed over the ceremonial first baseballs, Ford stood with a grin on his face.

The starting all-star catchers, Johnny Bench of the Cincinnati Reds and Thurman Munson of the New York Yankees, lined up.  Ford fired a right-handed strike to Bench and followed with a left-handed one to Munson. But the ambidextrous president–one month away from fending off Ronald Reagan at the Republican National Convention and four months shy of ceding the White House to Jimmy Carter–was not the only one with his hands full.

The 1976 Bicentennial sports calendar in Philadelphia was packed to honor the nation’s 200th anniversary.

In addition to baseball, America’s birthplace also hosted the NBA and NHL all-star games.  And in the year in which Congress posthumously promoted George Washington to the highest rank in United States military history, another man known as “The General” – 35-year-old Robert Montgomery Knight – guided Indiana to an 86-68 victory over Michigan in the NCAA men’s basketball championship game at the Spectrum, capping what still stands as the last undefeated season by the men’s Division I champion. The all-star games and the Final Four may have been the highlights, but there was a different event nearly every week of the nation’s 200th birthday year. The first page of the NBA all-star program welcomed fans to

“Philadelphia:  Hub of the Sports World in 1976” – a bold claim considering that Innsbruck and Montreal hosted the Winter and Summer Olympic Games, respectively, that year.  Unlike the quadrennial games, though, there was something unique about what Philadelphia did.

 

“This is the Bicentennial Year and never in the 200 year history of our country has there been a sports happening as there will be this year in Philadelphia,” the NBA program continued.

 

“There are more national sporting events scheduled for the city and its environs than any locale in history.”

While that proclamation is impossible to verify, the events that the program went on to list were extensive.  Beyond the major sports, the city played host to events as varied as the World Karate Games, the United States Badminton Championships, and the American Bicentennial Rodeo.  And, of course, it goes without saying that there could have been no better home for the 1976 World Darts Championship.  If only the City Tavern had sported a dartboard in 1776, surely Ben Franklin would have applied his natural organizing skills to start a league.

Eleven years from now, when our nation turns 250 years old, Philadelphia can again become the “Hub of the Sports World.”  

USA250 has started the planning.  At the Toast250 kickoff event on April 30, Phillies chairman David Montgomery announced that the Phillies are on board. They have already submitted their request to host the 2026 All-Star Game to the Major League Baseball commissioner’s office.

1976ABAAllStarsIntro2

Citizens Bank Park is in its 12th year of operation and has never hosted the Midsummer Classic.  Montgomery confirmed that is on purpose.  While most baseball stadiums that have been constructed since 2000 have already hosted or are in line to host in the next few years, Montgomery said the Phillies “are being a little stubborn” and holding out for the 2026 game.

If the rest of the local sports scene follows the Phillies’ lead, the 2026 Philadelphia sports calendar can be even more impressive than the 1976 version.  In 2014, the NFL proved that an outdoor cold-weather Super Bowl could be successful. There is no reason for Philadelphia not to have its opportunity to host.  On a worldwide scale, there is speculation that the United States is the favorite to land the 2026 World Cup.  While games would be held throughout the country, Philadelphia should be at the top of any list of potential host cities.  

With the necessary facilities already in place and with appropriate planning, all of this is possible without incurring the financial calamities that so frequently befall Olympic host cities that spend billions on new facilities that sit empty and useless after the closing ceremony – a fate that Boston has been trying to avoid ever since the U.S. Olympic Committee named it as the nation’s candidate to host the 2024 Summer Games.

The Founding Fathers knew that the nation’s birthday would always be a cause for celebration – even if they could not conceive what that nation would look like after 250 years.  Writing to his wife, Abigail, from the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, John Adams thought that the anniversary of independence “ought to be solemnized with pomp, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever.”

Philadelphia’s sports community met Adams’s expectation in 1976 and has the chance to do so again in 2026. Montgomery told the USA250 crowd that his wish is that every major sporting event in 2026 be held in Philadelphia.  The first steps have been taken.  Now we need to find out if the World Darts Championship has made any plans yet.

Rick Haggerty is an attorney at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP and a former sports writer.

Reporting back from Toast250

Toast250: April 30, 2015 at the Independence Visitor Center:
Read this write-up by Cassie Hepler for Explore Philly.

On behalf of USA250’s Board of Directors, Founders Circle, and our Toast250 sponsors, thank you for your support, your ideas, and your leadership. USA250 is now ready to build toward America’s 250th anniversary in 2026.Click here to view our slide presentation, outlining USA250’s current thinking and approach. In the near term, we are focused on three priorities:

1. Enlist a diverse set of leaders to join USA250’s planning initiative,

 

2. Research best practices and solicit ideas to inform our plans for the 250th, and

 

3. Begin work now to recruit major events and partnerships for 2026.

TOAST250 RECAP:

USA250 was proud to have the endorsement of Katie McGinty, Chief of Staff to Governor Wolf; and of Philadelphia City Council, as presented by Kellan Whitefrom the Office of Blondell Reynolds Brown. McGinty inspired us to think beyond tourism and events by working “to make Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness a reality for every American.”

David Montgomery announced that the Phillies have formally requested the Major League Baseball All-Star Game for 2026 during the nation’s 250th! Board Chair Andrew Hohns challenged participants to summon our “best self” as we build an initiative matching the greatness of our city and our country. And USA250’s young friends were introduced by Board Member Nicole White to the Gen250 initiative.

 

To get involved with Gen250 or another USA250 leadership committee, or to share your ideas for 2026, please email info@usa250inc.org.

Sincerely,

Jon Grabelle Herrmann
Executive Director, USA250

History250: The Queen’s Diamond Jubilees Then And Now

Okay. Millennial babies like me, and centennials who have magically learned how to work a computer: today we’re reviewing the U.K’s 1897 and 2012 Diamond Jubilee.  

The day had come for Queen Victoria’s accession, celebrated as the first real Diamond Jubilee of its kind. To understand a little bit about the history for such a momentous occasion, let’s dive into the happenings surrounding the Queen and her kingdom in 1897.1

The Boer War had left the country shaken, financially and patriotically. Even so, people still considered Great Britain and its colonies to be the strongest nation in the world. America was still in its ‘Great Experiment’ stages, but quickly rising through innovations in industry, with Germany right behind them.

Originally, the Diamond Jubilee was celebrated every 75 years and was more of a private, elitist affair. However, with the nation undergoing such tremendous economic and political change, Joseph Chamberlain advised that the Queen publicly celebrate her 60th year as a way to strengthen international relations and restore the people’s faith in the monarchy.

Queen Victoria had all but withdrawn from the public since King Albert’s death in 1861. Refusing to wear anything but black, she had to be coaxed into the idea, especially since the whole event was a real departure from British customs. The event was so huge and widely successful that it was declared a national holiday.

Fast forward to a few years ago, Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee reboot was all the rage across London and its territories.

They tried their best to maintain some of the original traditions created in 1897, but reinvented a few with a modern edge. Instead of a gigantic horse-drawn parade, the Queen, family, and friends had an easy ride down the Thames River on the Royal Flotilla; and an international concert jammed out at Buckingham Palace while being broadcast live to millions of viewers, instead of a stuffy service on the steps. The Jubilee spirit was present all the same with thousands of block parties and fireworks in the streets sharing in community patriotism.

2The U.K’s monarchy had come a long way from snotty elitism and strove to remember the Queen’s legacy while reconnecting to the everyday citizen.

Welp, that’s it for now! But don’t forget to keep on reading because we’ve got so much more on the way.


 

History250 is a look back at major anniversary events in America and around the world. We’re looking to the past for ideas in order to inspire others in 2026.

Ariama Long: I’m a recent graduate of Chestnut Hill College and contributor to Ideas250. If you’d like to contact me, leave a comment, or find out more about USA250, check out our website or email me at ariama@usa250inc.org.

History250: The Princess of Wales’ Jubilee Feast For The Outcast Poor

In our quest to bring the epic Centennial celebration back to Philadelphia by 2026, we’ve been digging into the world’s history a little bit!

Centennials, world expos, and world fairs are by no means a new phenomenon, and should be celebrated for playing a vital part in their country’s economic, social, architectural, and cultural development.

Today’s featured event is the 1897 Jubilee Feast For The Outcast Poor held by the Princess of Wales during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Princess Alexandra of Denmark, better known to most as the ‘Princess of Wales’, has more or less faded from history’s memory. She had the good luck, and some would say misfortune, to have reigned alongside the famous Queen Victoria in the 1800’s. She was a young ruler, and not as daring or political as her friend by nature. Nonetheless, in her own simplistic way she impacted the people.

On June 22nd, 1897, Queen Victoria’s magnanimous Diamond Jubilee and accession were well underway. People from all walks of life, caste, and background flooded the streets in an effort to honor the highly regarded Queen and the British empire. Although never thought of as overtly philanthropic, the Princess was always said to be a kind soul, and greatly enjoyed the idea of a huge feast for the outcast poor as part of the Jubilee spirit.

The Victorian period isn’t exceptionally known for its hospitality towards the poverty stricken and lower class families across Great Britain at a time when social standing was everything. So naturally her proposed idea was met with a lot of opposition at first. Event planners of the Jubilee, like Sir Faudel Phillips, went so far as to suggest that a large gathering of ‘beggars and criminals’ could only end horribly, not to mention the waste of money in funding such an event.

Queen_Alexandra,_the_Princess_of_WalesIn the end, on June 24th, regardless of naysayers, hundreds of charities and churches all over London, Manchester, and the rest of the country opened their doors to share in a nationwide feast for anyone who couldn’t afford to eat. In some cases dinner tables were lavishly spread out and waited on by staff; and in others, rations composed of bread, meat, fruit, vegetables,and cheeses were simply handed out to be taken home. After it was all said and done, a record 700 tons of food were served to the poorest men, women, and children in the kingdom.

Princess Alexandra’s feasts launched the Diamond Jubilee into altruistic territory, and, spawned a tradition that united the country through more than just patriotism.

The great thing was this was just one day and one aspect of the Queen’s Jubilee. There’s so much more to report from all over the globe, so keep reading for interesting history tidbits and cool ideas for America’s 250th!

 


History250 is a look back at major anniversary events in America and around the world. We’re looking to the past for ideas in order to inspire others in 2026.

Ariama Long: I’m a recent graduate of Chestnut Hill College and contributor to Ideas250. If you’d like to contact me, leave a comment, or find out more about USA250, check out our website or email me at ariama@usa250inc.org.