As far as I’m concerned, Pat Burrell retired the day he rode those Clydesdales down Broad Street. It’s how I’ll always remember him. So, really, today’s news that the long-time Phillie and WFC has decided to call it a career is totally fine by me.
Not that I begrudge Pat his final seasons and additional World Series ring with the Giants, but watching he and Elvis lead the parade to the Citizens Bank Park will always be my lasting memory of the end for Burrell.
I remember sitting at the corner of Broad and Federal waiting for the parade. I remember that after Geoff Jenkins poured champagne onto the crowd as his float went by, a few friends and I came up with the idea of following Burrell all the way to the stadium.
We ran through the streets to catch up with him and — from Federal to Packer — did our best to start as many “Thank you, Pat,” “Bring Back, Pat,” and “Re-sign, Pat” chants as we could. The practicality or intelligence of re-signing Burrell aside (hint: for baseball reasons, it was probably better that the club parted ways with its long-time left fielder), Burrell was not only the longest tenured Phillie, but he had helped to bring this city its first championship in 25 years. Hell, I would have given every member of the team an extension that day, including the aforementioned Jenkins.
Still, given that 99% of his career as a Phillie came prior to his winning a title, “The Bat” leaves somewhat of an amusing legacy here in Philadelphia for any number of reasons. Of course, before his send-off following the 2008 championship, Burrell had taken his fair share of flack from the fans who felt as though he had never lived up to his early hype or the money he was paid.
That said, when you think about it, Pat Burrell really has become the quintessential Philadelphia athlete, even if this designation is usually thought of differently. There’s almost nothing about his persona that isn’t somehow memorable. From the infamous striking-out-on-one-knee pose to the legitimate successes as a member of the Phillies to the legendary stories of his off the field “antics,” Burrell honestly runs the gamut of everything you could ever expect in following a player from his days as a rookie to his final farewell.
In short, Pat Burrell was a ballplayer, one in every sense of the word. And he was a ballplayer who understood us, just as we ultimately came to understand him.
Who will ever forget the full page ad he took out in the Daily News
to thank the fans for his time here in town? Who will ever forget his double off the wall in Game 5? Who will ever forget some of the insane stories you heard about his late-night hijinks?
As the Broad Street Bullies continue to hang around the complex in South Philadelphia and glad hand with the fans, I wish the same for this crop of Phillies, especially Burrell. There’s obviously a difference between the athletes who played in the 1970s and those of today, but it’s hard to believe Burrell didn’t see the lasting impact of those who had come before him and understand it fully. As he once famously told Jayson Werth, “If we can win it here, it’ll be better than anywhere.”
One final personal story, on the night (of the second half) of Game 5, I packed in front of a television in North Philadelphia with some of my closest friends — as I’m sure many did with friends, family and loved ones around the Delaware Valley. Shortly before the lot of us made our run from Broad and Cecil B. Moore to City Hall and eventually the memorial base pads left in the CBP parking lot where Veterans Stadium once stood, someone had the presence of mind to start playing Burrell’s walk-up music, also known as Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry.” Five hours later, when we finally returned to the apartment, it was still playing as loud as ever. It had been left on all night.
It should be played at least once more today: