The Philadelphia Phillies have decided to sign Pat Burrell to a one-day contract so he can retire as a Phillie. When I first heard this, I saw it as a pointless gesture that will not have much of an impact on the franchise, but after speaking with other Philadelphians, it may actually mean more than I expected. Surprisingly, to much of Philadelphia, Burrell is loved. He is seen as one of the few Phillies players (along with Jimmy Rollins) that was here for a good amount of the bad baseball, but stayed around long enough to finally win the World Series.
When you take a deeper look into the situation, Burrell was a player who “accepted” Philadelphia. Pat the Bat was selected first overall in the 1998 draft, which is the year after the Phillies selected J.D Drew in the draft. Drew refused to sign with the club, and because of this, was hated for his entire career by Phillies fans. Burrell, on the other hand, decided to stay. Even though the Phillies played on the worst field in the league (Veterans Stadium), and even though the franchise was known more for losing then winning, Pat did not put up a fight.
Burrell’s career was stellar but he never became the superstar that is expected from a number-one pick. However, he was loved. Despite the rumors of his partying lifestyle and his knack for striking out, Pat was rarely booed by Phillies fans. The fans relationship with him still confuses me. Philadelphia usually tends to like to a certain type of player. Players such as Pete Rose and John Kruk come to mind when thinking of true Philadelphia players. Burrell was the complete opposite. He often seemed more interested with the ladies in the stands then what was going on in the game. There was a certain smugness about him. Yet we still loved him. When he led the parade down Broad Street after the 2008 World Series, it felt like we finally did it. Burrell was there for the pain just like us, and he was able to bring us what we had craved since the 76ers won the NBA title in 1983, a championship.
As far as the one-day contract goes, I now feel that it is a nice gesture for a player who meant a lot to the city. Pat may never be added to the Phillies Wall of Fame like some other members of the 2008 team, so this may be the only way to thank him for the time he spent here. He is deserving of one last cheer from the Phillies fans. I am positive he will appreciate his reception as much as we have appreciated him.