He got “us” – that’s what I remember most about Pat Burrell, more than the tales of his nightlife exploits, his home runs or even his double that led to the winning run in game 5 of the 2008 World Series.
Burrell got booed his share in Philadelphia, it’s true, especially when his production fell off sharply in 2003 after three excellent years to start his big league career. It’s worth noting that Burrell was the guy after JD Drew, too. When Drew refused to sign with the Phillies coming out of the 1997 draft, Burrell was the team’s first-round pick the next year, one that had to pan out. He did, to the tune of 251 home runs in a Phillies uniform, a world championship, and a consistent class act as a former-Phillie.
By and large, Burrell was loved by the fans, and not just the female ones. He didn’t overreact to the occasional booing (which is not to say he liked it, but he apparently was secure enough to take it in stride.)
I think you can sort most Phillies players of modern times – say since the Vet opened in 1971 – as falling into one of three categories – they got the Philadelphia fans (Burrell, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Roy Halladay), they did a decent job of pretending to (I’d say Curt Schilling fell into that category) and they flat-out did not get us and did not want to (Mike Timlin, Travis Lee, Todd Jones, Jonathan Papelbon – hey, what is it about relief pitchers and this fanbase?)
Burrell had a sense for the moment too – I recall after the Phillies drafted him from U. of Miami making a point to watch one of his College World Series games. First pitch – home run. Then, I got out to see him play in double-A ball for Reading. First at-bat – home run.
There was the ownage of the Mets, particularly Armando Benitez. There was bringing his bulldog “Elvis” to the championship parade on Oct. 31, 2008. And now on July 31, Burrell will join Mike Schmidt, Robin Roberts, Dallas Green, Steve Carlton, Garry Maddox and other notables in the Phillies “Wall of Fame.”
Well deserved, Pat. Now, last but not least, I hope Pat Burrell, who last I heard was a scout for the Giants, will come home and work in the Phillies organization again. Even with Charlie Manuel back in the fold full-time, they could use help with hitting instruction, couldn’t they?