Farewell to Chase Utley, the nose-to-grindstone baseball hero that Philly needed most

     (Left) Philadelphia Phillies' Chase Utley acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he walks off the field Wednesday night. (Right) Utley addresses the crowd during the celebration of their World Series Championship, Friday, Oct. 31, 2008, at Citizens Bank. Utley used colorful language as he expressed his emotions on winning the championship.(AP Photos/Matt Slocum, Tom Mihalek)

    (Left) Philadelphia Phillies' Chase Utley acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he walks off the field Wednesday night. (Right) Utley addresses the crowd during the celebration of their World Series Championship, Friday, Oct. 31, 2008, at Citizens Bank. Utley used colorful language as he expressed his emotions on winning the championship.(AP Photos/Matt Slocum, Tom Mihalek)

    An old adage holds that pet pooches tend to look like their owners, a dynamic which some researchers attributed to people picking dogs that “bear some resemblance” to them.

    That is not to say people are dogs. They aren’t.

    And it’s also not to say that our sporting heroes are family pets. They aren’t, even if those heroes tend to feel like family members for diehard fans.

    But that adage is what came to mind when I heard that Chase Utley, the best second baseman in Phillies history, had been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers as the hometown side approached the merciful tail end of its worst season in recent memory.

    If you collected all the elements of the lunchpail ethos that Philadelphians see in themselves and mixed it with the fictional Rocky spirit in a laboratory to create an athlete, you’d name him Chase Utley.

    He’s the player that Philadelphia thinks it sees when it looks in the collective mirror.

    He’s an important part of a crew that vanquished a decades-long championship drought with substance over flair.

    And, he’s the one who captured the ecstatic moment with his three-word “World F—— Champions” declaration that even civic prudes couldn’t decry. It’s what we wanted to say, if we hadn’t already, and it proved that a guy from Long Beach, Cal., understood us.

    That’s why people mourn on this end-of-an-era morning featuring a Daily News cover picture of the Phils’ world champion middle-infield tandem taking another shot at glory some 2,727 miles away in Dodger Stadium.

    There, Utley will join shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who was traded in December. With the trade, the only remnants of that championship team are catcher Carlos Ruiz and first baseman Ryan Howard.

    Most will admit the time was right for change nearly seven years after Market and Broad streets became a scene of celebration that remains vibrant to us today and will linger a good long while.

    Granted, I’m not a hardcore baseball fan, but I am a fan of folks who connect with this city in a real way.

    Sure, the pair of dingers at Yankee Stadium in the 2009 World Series were awesome. So was his fielding pump fake in the two-part final game of the ’08 title series. (Heck, I just got a little teary eyed watching it again.)

    If the late Harry Kalas called you “The Man,” like he did about Utley in 2006, you most assuredly are.

    Being called “The Man” was certainly geared toward Utley’s on-field heroics. The noble off-field work against animal cruelty also falls under that complimentary umbrella. But for my money, the best Utley moment came courtesy of fiction.

    Specifically, it was the 2009 episode of “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” when the character Mac wrote a “fan” letter (complete with stickers!) to the second baseman of his dreams. Fast forward to 2013, and real-life Utley responded.

    With deadpan delivery in a minute-and-a-half “Phillies Mailbag,” Utley proved he could be in on the joke like a regular at any Philly neighborhood’s corner bar (video at the bottom of the post).

    He didn’t need to humanize himself; he’d long ago done so. But he did anyway in a fashion that spoke to everyone being part of the team, which is exactly how Philadelphians want to feel.

    Chase Utley’s Phillies made the city (with the exception of Robinson’s Luggage and this poor pole-climbing fellow) feel great about itself again.

    So as we rue this end-of-an-era Thursday, let’s hope he never forgets what he meant to Philadelphia and pull for him to get a chance to cuss at a parade on the Pacific Coast.

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