By Doug Gorman

I used to love Major League baseball.

As a young child it seemed as if the end of one season and the start of the next took an eternity.

Long before ESPN piped games into the house every night, radio was the way to fill your appetite for the Great American Pastime.

Reading about baseball in the local newspaper might have inspired me to go into journalism.

I used to identify as much with a team's play-by-play crew, as I did with the first baseman or the clean-up hitter.

When I tuned to the Cardinals' Jack Buck or the Phillies Harry Kalas, I could almost close my eyes and it would seem as if I was sitting right there in the left field bleachers. The only thing missing was the smell of the hot dogs and stale beer.

I often went to sleep with the golden tones of these two Hall of Fame announcers ringing in my ears.

I used to love those spring break treks to Florida, because my father and I always managed to sneak in a trip to see an exhibition game while my sister and mother stayed around the hotel and lounged on the beach.

On one trip I even got to meet the Cardinals' legendary announcer. That was a thrill.

I split my baseball loyalties as a young child. In the early 1970s I lived in St. Louis and thought the Cardinals walked on water. Many summers nights were spent at Busch Stadium where my father and I consumed hot dogs, drank colas, and formed a bond that to this day remains unbroken.

I can still remember one opening-day game we went to that was so cold I just knew it was going to snow.

It's exciting looking back on those days and realizing I got to see Bob Gibson pitch and Lou Brock and Joe Torre hit.

Torre has turned into the game's best manager, but he was also a heck of a player too.

When my father's company sent him to Philadelphia, my love of baseball helped me bounce back quickly. After one summer of hiding my love for the Cardinals from my new friends, I jumped on the Phillies' bandwagon and in no time at all, Veterans Stadium became my second home, and Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton became my baseball heroes.

Phillies fans are ruthless in their passion for the game. In fact Philadelphia fans are unlike any elsewhere in the country. They love their teams when they are winning, and hate their teams when they are losing.

The old expression that states Philadelphia sports fans would boo Santa is pretty much true.

Earlier this week, they tore down a piece of my childhood when the Vet was leveled to make room for a parking lot.

The Phillies are getting a brand new stadium next year, but I can't help feel a little bit of sadness. The Vet was one of those cookie cutter stadiums so popular in the 1970s, kind of like old Fulton County Stadium. The stadiums were great because they could be used for both major league baseball games and NFL contests. Each of those stadiums had character.

Sure, the Vet didn't age too well. It's turf was one of the worst in the league, even prompting an NFL exhibition game to be called off, but as one fan stated "it was a dump, but it was our dump."

As we approach the start of a new baseball season, I no longer have the same passion for the game as I once did. High-priced salaries, drug abuse, expensive tickets and concessions have tarnished the game for me.

Fortunately, I can remember my trips to Busch Stadium (which thankfully is still standing) and the Vet and remember when baseball was still magical.

(Doug Gorman is sports editor of the Daily. His column runs on Friday's. He can be e-mailed at dgorman@news-daily.com)