It was probably 1994, maybe 1995, when a friend at Veterans Stadium called Glen Spence to tell him the Phillies were tossing a beloved Philadelphia artifact in the Dumpster. But the friend could see it in front of him: some people were dragging the Phillies cap that rested atop the Billy Penn statue during the 1993 World Series to the trash.
Spence’s first reaction was disbelief. How could someone just throw it away? His second reaction was to save it. How could he get the cap, and quick? Spence called another buddy who had a van to see if he was anywhere near the stadium.
“This guy put it on the roof of his van,” Spence says, “and drove down Broad Street.”
Spence has owned the hat since. And all he had to pay for it was a delivery fee to his friend. Now, he’s selling a piece of Philadelphia history the Phillies apparently threw in the dumpster for an asking price of $10,000 on EBay.
This story that seems like could only happen in Philadelphia started in 1993. The Phillies advanced to the World Series against the Toronto Blue Jays, generating widespread excitement throughout Philadelphia. Then-mayor Ed Rendell caught the bug, too. He came up with the genius idea of constructing a massive Phillies cap and placing it atop the Billy Penn statue. The Phillies paid for it. Mummers designer extraordinaire Dave Moscinski built it, climbing atop the Billy Penn statue so he could measure his head. For two days, he toiled in his workshop to make the 7-foot-tall, 4-foot-wide hat. Moscinski used chicken wire, steel rods, flexible foam and red Veloop fabric in the construction.
Then the Phillies lost to the Blue Jays in six games. The plan for afterwards was to display the hat in a plexiglass case at Veterans Stadium. Apparently that didn’t happen, at least not for long (a Phillies spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment).
“My best guess is that somebody needed a room and this thing may very well have just been the only thing sitting in the room down there and somebody just said, ‘let’s get rid of this,’” Spence says. “Or somebody saying to a secretary like, ‘need us to get rid of that?’”
Spence, now in his 40s, can’t remember the year but figures it must have been within a year or two after the World Series run that he obtained the hat.
He owned Consolidated Sports, a baseball card shop on Oregon Avenue just a few blocks from The Vet. During what he remembers to be the summer of 1996, Spence displayed it atop the building’s roof for a few months. That was also the summer when the Phillies wondered what happened to their hat. In preparation for the All-Star game, hosted by Philadelphia, they wanted to adorn Billy Penn with a cap once more.
“The only person who showed up,” Spence says, “was a fellow who walked in and he said, ‘where’d you get the hat?’ I said, ‘who are you?’ If he was a detective I may have wanted to call my attorney. He said he made props for the Mummers, and the Phillies were looking for the hat that was on my roof and couldn’t find it and they had him make a new blue hat for the All-Star game.”
Spence now suspects the guy who paid him a visit was Moscinski. Other than a reporter from the Philadelphia Record who contacted him that summer, he says no one else has inquired about it during the 20 or so years he’s owned it.
“It’s shocking nobody ever cared much about it,” Spence says.
He put the hat up for sale weeks ago, but it started getting more attention after The 700 Level wrote a post about it last week. Spence says 38 people, as of Monday afternoon, were “watching” the item on EBay, and he’s received about nine offers, most of which have been comically low. He says he probably won’t get $10,000 for it.
The hat isn’t in the best of shape. Spence admits it is weather-beaten and “odd-looking” and probably in need of refurbishing if someone wants to prominently display it. On the inside, it still has the sturdy steel and chicken wire Moscinski used to construct it.
Plus, it’s still the hat Billy Penn wore during the 1993 World Series. That may not have been enough to prevent it from getting tossed into the Veterans Stadium dumpster 20 years ago, but the distinction means plenty to Spence.
“It’s an honest piece of history and it’s time for someone else to love it,” he says. “I’ve loved it long enough.”