Steve Alten grew up in Philadelphia. He went to schools—Penn State, Delaware, Temple—that Philly kids go to. And, though he lives in South Florida now, he’s still a huge Philadelphia sports fan.
So when it came time to write a scene for his novel in which a baseball player breaks the home run record, he wanted it to be a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. It was early 2003, though. The Phillies had just signed slugger Jim Thome, but he wasn’t really part of the team yet. And so the baseball player who breaks the all-time home run record in Meg: Primal Waters is Pat Burrell.
Earlier this week, Warner Bros. released the trailer for The Meg, a summer thriller starring Jason Statham. It’s based on Alten’s book Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, one of seven in the series. The book and movie are both about a megalodon, a prehistoric shark. In the novel, the shark had been living in the Mariana trench, it emerges to attack people, et cetera. From my limited skimming, it’s the kind of sci-fi book that’s full of elaborate descriptions of boats and sharks that seems like it’d make a decent movie. Yes, people have called it “jurassic shark.”
When the trailer came out, Cole Kuiper tweeted a story about Burrell breaking the home run record in the book. CBS Sports investigated further. They both got it a bit wrong: The story of Burrell breaking the home run record is actually in Meg: Primal Waters, which is set around 2019.
Now, with Philadelphia Phillies slugger Pat Burrell closing in on Bonds’s record, the San Franciscans are arriving in droves. Some to cheer, most to boo, all wanting to be a part of baseball history.
The boaters in McCovey Cove want something more.
It’s still a good story. And I was curious to find out how the author chose Pat Burrell, so I got in touch with Alten and asked him how he chose Burrell to break the record.
“I wanted to have this scene in San Francisco in the bay there behind the stadium,” Alten said. “I thought that would make a really cool attack scene for a megalodon. But I’m a Philly guy, so I’m not going to pick somebody who I don’t like… but when I was writing Primal Waters, the only slugger on the team was Pat Burrell.”
Alten says he tried to give Burrell a signed copy of the book, but Burrell was not interested. He said he tore out the signature page—he’d signed it to Pat—and instead gave the book to a much friendlier Jim Thome.
But there’s a twist ending to this story, which Alten informed me of: By the time the paperback came out, the Phillies had a new slugger. And so in the paperback copy of Primal Waters, the all-time home run record is broken by none other than Ryan Howard.
Of course, this is a sci-fi thriller. The record-breaking home run into McCovey Cove is immediately followed by a massive prehistoric shark attack that kills scores of people. So cheer up, Barry Bonds, it could be so much worse.