By Charlie Sprang
The Liberty Bell replica installed this spring in front of Citizens Bank Park was the same one that had once stood on top of Veterans Stadium, but it is the connections between then and now that make for a really interesting story.
● The Liberty Bell was installed on March 21, 15 years to the day the Vet was imploded.
● It stands in front of Pass and Stow, the outdoor beer garden and restaurant that replaced McFadden’s this season. The venue is named after John Pass and John Stow, a couple of Philadelphia foundry workers, who recast the original Liberty Bell back in 1753.
● Three generations of the Schulz family are connected to this bell. Steve Schulz Co., a Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 contractor, worked on the installation at Citizens Bank Park. Steve Schulz Jr., the president of the company, his son, Steve Schulz III, were hands on with the project and it was the elder Schulz’ father, the late Steve Schulz Sr., who was involved in the original installation of the bell at the Vet. That’s three generations of Local 19 members who were involved in installing this historic replica spanning 36 years.
“They shipped it down to the site,” said Schulz Jr. who, in addition to his son, was joined on the project by Ed Silvers. “I don’t know where they had it in storage. An iron worker did the base and we set it down. Bob Klein (Klein Electric), who is with IBEW Local 98, did all the final connections. It was a big deal to work on the same thing as my father and to have my son there with me.”
Veterans Stadium was opened in 1971, but the Liberty Bell that sits outside Citizens Bank Park was the second and final bell to stand at the Vet. Originally it was on the 400-level façade but was moved to its final home high atop Veterans Stadium overlooking centerfield.
“Back in 1975, Steve Schulz Sr. was one of the original installers,” said Fred Braker, Sign Maker and Hangers Business Agent for Local 19. “They installed it for the bicentennial.”
That bell stood in place until it was taken down prior to the Vet being imploded 15 years ago. The bell sat in storage until it was later acquired by C.W. Dunnet, a food distributor located at 3200 S. Lawrence Street, a couple of blocks from Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies reacquired it in the fall of 2017.
The bell weighs more than 5000 pounds, measures approximately 20 feet by 15 feet and features 300 light bulbs. It was refurbished after the Phillies reacquired it two years ago in preparation for the placement outside Pass and Stow.
Schulz Jr. who had previously done work for the Phillies, admitted the opportunity to handle this installation carried special significance.
“Working on something my old man did a long time ago, especially with my son, was an honor for me and heart wrenching at the same time since he (Schulz Sr.) wasn’t there to share it with us,” said Schulz Jr. who mentioned that his uncle, Martin Schulz, also worked on the bell, but after his father had done the installation.
“My father passed in 2009,” he said. “My father was a union sign man and so were his two brothers, Martin and Les Schulz, and now me and my son are trying to carry on the tradition. Union we stand, divided we fall.”
There is a plaque positioned underneath the bell outside Citizens Bank Park. It attests to the Phillies recognition of the Liberty Bell’s historical significance and outlines some of this replica’s background. Next to it is a picture of three men working on it decades ago. Steve Schulz, Jr., believes one of them is his father.
“I am not 100 percent sure,” he said, “but I think my pop is the guy in the hat.”
From high atop the Vet to ground level at Citizens Bank Park, the Schulz family has proudly done its part in preserving this replica of our country’s independence.