Burrell's Blazing Speed Places Him Among the Best
Author: Christopher A. Vito
Leroy Burrell had Aug. 14 circled on his calendar months ago. That's the day the Penn Wood graduate and Lansdowne native was announced as part of this year's induction class to the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. But that's not why Thursday was a day to remember for Burrell.
"It was the first day of school for my kids, so I was really focused on getting my two sons to school," Burrell said of 14-year-old Cameron and 12-year-old Joshua. "That's the first order of business - get them ready and get them in position to earn an honor like this."
Burrell will join the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame during an official ceremony Nov. 13 at the Hyatt Regency at Penn's Landing. The class features a few with DelawareCounty connections.
None has the resume of Burrell, who twice held the title of "World's FastestMan." He set the world record in 1991 by completing the 100-meter dash in 9.92 seconds. Three years later, and after his record had been broken, he established the benchmark again by finishing in 9.85 seconds.
Burrell won Olympic gold in the 4 x 100 relay at the 1992 Barcelona games and book-ended that medal with a pair of golds in the same event at the 1991 and 1993 World Championships.
"It's a tremendous honor to be recognized for your accomplishments and to go into the Hall of Fame in your hometown," said Burrell, by telephone from his office at the University of Houston, where he coaches the men's track and field team. "It makes it even better that it's in an Olympic year."
A while back, Burrell said he got word about another of his records being broken. At this year's Delco Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Ridley's Kevin Wilbank topped Burrell's time of 21.51 in the 200-meter dash, running a 21.44.
"Oh, I heard about that, yeah," Burrell said. "(Wilbank) is an outstanding talent. We wanted to get him here. ...I'm really happy that there are athletes in the area that are capable of those times."
The Daily Times' Athlete of the Millennium, Burrell officially retired in 1998, though he stopped competing following his withdraw from the 1996 Atlanta games with an Achilles' tendon injury.
"I haven't run a step competitively in more than 12 years and there are still people who want to recognize you for what you accomplished," Burrell said. "That means a lot to me."
He said he'd like to be in town in November to receive the honor, though he and his wife Michelle are expecting their third son in September. "That's the plan," he said. "It might be tough with a newborn but right now, I've got it on my schedule.
Aside from Burrell, there are four soon-to-be inductees with Delco ties. Marcus Hook native Mickey Vernon had a 20-year major-league career capped by his stint as a player-coach on the Pirates' 1960 World Series champions. Also among the inductees are Upper Darby's Dorothy Porter, who won the 1949 U.S. Women's Amateur championship at Merion Golf Club and Philadelphia University basketball coach Herb Magee, who played plenty of basketball with the Ridley Township Athletic Association.
Finally, there's George Earnshaw, whose 1929 Philadelphia Athletics team is being honored. A Swarthmore College graduate, Earnshaw led the American League with 24 wins in leading the A's to the World Series championship.
The rest of the incoming class includes: Former Eagles Al Wistert and Harold Carmichael; Phillies Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty; Fred Shero, who coached the Flyers to the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975; 76ers legend and current coach Maurice Cheeks; boxer Tommy Loughran; La Salle basketball star Lionel Simmons; and sportswriter Stan Hochman.