Pat the Wall of Famer
By Matt Veasey
During his playing career, Pat Burrell had the nickname ‘Pat the Bat’ hung on him. Now the man who played 9 seasons in the City of Brotherly Love and became one of the most popular ball players in club history despite often being perceived as a disappointment has another title: Phillies Wall of Famer.
On July 31st, Burrell will be formally feted when he becomes the 38th individual honored with a plaque out in Ashburn Alley and a permanent place of remembrance in team history.
Burrell also becomes the first player, the 2nd individual following manager Charlie Manuel a year ago, from the 2008 World Series champs to be so honored.
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According to CBS3 in Philly, Burrell released this statement on being informed of the honor: “It’s a tremendous honor and privilege to be added to the Wall next to Philly’s all-time greats. My family and I couldn’t be more grateful for the support from fans. Their votes are the reason that I will now be enshrined in Phillies history.”
For the longest time, the former 1st overall 1998 draft pick by the Phillies appeared to be a classic overly self-indulgent, under-achieving professional athlete. On the field, the 25-30 homer and 85-90 RBI seasons that he was putting up most years simply seemed short of his potential.
Meanwhile, the team itself was falling short of expectations as it became a regular contender over his first half-dozen seasons in the early to mid-2000’s. That all finally began to change with the September 2007 rally to an NL East crown, and then was put to rest with the 2008 World Series championship.
Burrell finished 3rd in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2000, following a season in which he had 18 homers and 79 RBI. He upped that to 27-89 the following year, and then in 2002, Burrell appeared to really break out. He hit .282 with 37 homers, 116 RBI, scored 96 runs and received votes in the NL MVP balloting.
“It’s a tremendous honor and privilege to be added to the Wall next to Philly’s all-time greats.” ~ Pat Burrell
That great 2002 season gave way to a just as disastrous 2003 in which he batted just .209 and hit just 21 homers. However, Burrell battled back with an improved 2004 in the team’s first season at Citizens Bank Park, and then became a force again over the next three seasons as the team became a big winner.
In that run to the 2008 World Series crown, Pat Burrell was a key piece of a multi-talented Phillies attack. He banged a pair of homers in the clincher as the Phils dispatched the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLDS. He homered again in the important opening game of the NLCS, a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Then came the World Series vs the Tampa Bay Rays. Burrell had a giant 0-14 horse collar hanging around his neck when torrential rains led to a suspension of Game 5 with the scored tied at 2-2 headed to the bottom of the 5th.
When the game resumed two days later, it was again tied at 3-3 when Burrell stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 7th. In dramatic fashion, he drove a ball to the deepest part of the park in fair territory in dead center field. It clanked off the very top of the wall, missing a go-ahead homer by just a couple of feet.
Burrell rolled into 2nd base with a double, the biggest hit in his Phillies career. As the crowd roared it’s appreciation, not just for the hit, but for his career, he was removed for pinch-runner Eric Bruntlett.
Everyone in the ballpark was very much aware that if the Phillies did indeed win this game, with Burrell due to become a free agent in the off-season, this could very well be his final time on the field for the team.
Two batters later, Pedro Feliz smashed a single back through the box, scoring Bruntlett with the go-ahead run. It would turn out to be the World Series-winning run, and Burrell had been the one to get the rally started.
That did indeed turn out to be Pat Burrell’s last hurrah in a Phillies uniform, though he would have one more as a member of the team, riding atop a Clydesdale-drawn coach with his bulldog Elvis at the front of the Phillies championship parade.
Pat the Bat (arm raised) was always popular with fans, especially the ladies.
Burrell was extremely popular off the field, in and around both Philly and the team’s spring home in Clearwater, Florida. He was always willing to hang out with fans, and is known to have frequently brought rounds of drinks at local pubs for the entire house.
And his exploits with the ladies are, well, let’s just say that the handsome, single, wealthy man was extremely popular with, and accessible to, the fairer sex. He always exuded charisma, with both male and female fans, and what that often undefinable quality is, it no doubt helped his popularity over the years.
Burrell would go on to play in parts of two seasons each with the Rays and the Giants after the Phillies portion of his career ended, and he would even win another World Series as a member of the 2010 San Francisco club.
But this summer, thanks first to voting by the fans themselves, and finally to the selection of a reviewing panel, Pat Burrell will take his place among the immortals of one of professional sports oldest franchises. He is sure to be joined by a number of his fellow 2008 World Series champs in the coming years. Congratulations, Pat the Bat, on a well-earned and deserved honor.