After the Phillies won the World Series, Pat Burrell's improbable transformation from reviled to revered was complete. No one was bigger than Burrell at the end of his time here. He was Paul Bunyan with a baseball cap - a dog named Elvis at his side instead of a blue ox named Babe.

When the parade was over and the last of the tickertape had been swept up, Burrell and his pooch decamped for Tampa Bay. It was sad, and a lot of us mourned the departure of a man we once mocked.

It didn't make us any happier that the Phils brought in some ancient, arthritic 36-year-old stiff from Seattle to succeed Burrell. A lot of people were convinced this Raul Ibanez fellow would be just as bad, if not worse, in left field than our beloved Burrell. And almost all of us were absolutely certain that the lefthanded-hitting Ibanez would foul up the batting order and unbalance the lineup. He was destined to be an anchor that would weigh the Phils down and maybe prevent them from cruising to another championship.

That was the prevailing wisdom a few months ago. And now? Now you don't hear people talk about Burrell as much. If there's anyone still crying over him, the sobbing has been drowned out by a different sound. You've likely heard it. Goes like this:


It's hard to become hero in this town. It's even harder to replace one. It's still early in the season, of course. But at the risk of getting carried away, Ibanez is rapidly becoming a fan favorite.

Since joining the Phils, he's hit walk-off home runs and game-winning grand slams. He's been better than anticipated at the plate - the Fightin's most consistent, clutch hitter so far. The man has real abilities with a bat, and he seems to enjoy (or at least manage) the pressure.

But he's doing something even more remarkable right now, something even more unexpected and difficult: He's helping people move on after the painful, still-fresh breakup with Burrell.

The other night, after he secured another win for the Phils by hitting that grand slam against the Nationals, (Raaaauuuuuuuuuul) Ibanez went back out to the field. When he got there, the fans in left bowed in unison. One member of the crowd did the "we're-not-worthy" thing longer than most. What made that particular fan stand out was that he was wearing a Burrell jersey.

Did you ever imagine that would be possible? Did you ever think, so soon after Burrell left town, that we'd not only accept his replacement but adore him?

"It's definitely a good feeling," Ibanez told Sarge Matthews about how the fans have treated him. "I'm humbled by it."

OK, so Ibanez will have to abandon the boring sound bites and polish his interview skills before he can fully supplant Burrell and become a true Philly favorite. And it feels like there's something else missing.

I wonder if Ibanez has a dog.

When the Eagles drafted LeSean McCoy and Victor Harris, I was excited - mainly because we get to call them by their respective nicknames, "Shady" and "Macho."

It got me thinking about all the other great nicknames that some Philadelphia athletes have had in the past. Here, then, is Sports Wit's top 10 (plus one) list:

10. The Executioner: Bernard Hopkins is a bad man. I don't know much, but I do know this: If you're about to fight someone who enters the ring wearing a gimp mask and making throat-slash motions, you're probably in a lot of trouble.

9. The Answer: Say what you will about Allen Iverson, but he's never boring.

8. Sir Charles/Round Mound of Rebound: So nice, they named Charles Barkley twice.

7. The Bull: Mess with Greg Luzinski and you get the horns. Or a pulled pork sandwich. Depends.

6. Wild Thing: There's never been a nickname better suited for the user than the one bestowed upon Mitch Williams. It was perfect for him and for that team. But in honor of Harry Kalas, feel free to substitute "Mitchie Poo" for "Wild Thing."

5. Dirty Waters: Let's see: There was the Body Bag game and the House of Pain game and pretty much every game against the Cowboys. I loved watching Andre Waters play football. The way he hit people made him the best ambassador Philly could have had.

4. Toast: Poor Izel Jenkins. He just couldn't win. Ever. Last I checked, he was working in real estate down in North Carolina. I wonder how many times he's been burned by the housing market.

3. Mutt Tiger: I ran into Matt Geiger in Vegas about seven or eight years ago. He was coming out of the Rio as my friends and I were going in. One of my buddies pointed and said much-too-loudly, "Hey, look, it's 'Mutt Tiger.' " Take a guess about who didn't find that hilarious.

2. FredEx: I'd like to thank Freddie Mitchell's mouth for being so big.

1A. Dr. J: The beard. The fro. The way he glided through the air back in the day. The way he handles himself even now. Julius Erving is about as smooth as they come, and so is his nickname.

1. Harry The K: Harry Kalas was a classic. It's only right that the broadcaster had a nickname as cool and original as the man himself.