In 1962, a train crash forever altered the lives of baseball fans headed to Philadelphia for a Phillies-Pirates tilt. Fifty-seven years later, the tragic day is often overlooked. But for those who survived, it was a life-altering experience they’ll never forget. The same can likely be said for those impacted by the deadly South Philadelphia explosion that rocked a neighborhood in December. Officials are still investigating to unearth more details, but they have revealed what caused the blast.
It was a Saturday night — July 28, 1962. The Phillies defeated Pittsburgh 9-2, but what stuck out to many were the 14 adjoining rows of empty seats at Connie Mack Stadium amid the filled sections around them. The fans who were supposed to fill those seats never made it to the game.
That’s because a train carrying Central Pennsylvanians to the cross-state battle derailed a few miles east of Harrisburg, leaving 105 people injured and 19 dead. When first responders arrived on the scene, they found red baseball caps drifting in the Susquehanna River’s shallow current.
The ride has come to be known as the “Phillies Special" and goes virtually forgotten as anniversaries pass by. The Inquirer’s Frank Fitzpatrick takes a look back at the tragic day and speaks to survivors about the life-altering ride.
Witnesses described a strong odor of gas following the explosion. But until Thursday, city officials had mostly declined to comment on the investigation into the cause.
The explosion rocked the neighborhood in the late morning and was heard from blocks away. Three homes collapsed and a three-alarm blaze followed. Some neighbors wondered if previous work on the block contributed to the explosion, but Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said it “will take some time” to determine the root cause.
Philly blocks are always good for a pop of color 👀. Nice pic, @aimeebsiegel.
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“I’m skeptical any version of focused deterrence can succeed in a city with so much infighting between departments. ... The program can’t work without cooperation. That means cops have to stop blaming [District Attorney Larry] Krasner for everything, and Krasner has to commit to a program whose past enforcement protocols seem to clash with his office’s progressive bent.” — Columnist Mike Newall on Philly’s plan to curb shootings.