George Burns Essentials
Bats: Right Throws: Right
73 Weight: 180
Born: 1 31, 1893 in Niles, OH USA
Died: 1 7 1978 in Kirkland, WA USA
Last Game: 9/29/1929
Full Name: George Henry Burns
hughie Jennings once said of George J. Burns: “He is as good a player as ever drew on a spiked shoe. There’s nothing he doesn’t or cannot do well on a ball field.” The star left fielder’s skipper, John McGraw, offered even higher praise. “Next to Christy Mathewson,” declared McGraw, “Burns is the greatest player I ever managed. . . . He is a marvel in every department of play: a superb fielder, a wonderful thrower, a grand batsman, and with few peers in baseball history as a run-scorer.” Hall of Famer Eddie Collins concurred with Mugsy’s assessment, calling Burns the “most dangerous and best all-around star on the Giants.” Though widely acclaimed by contemporaries, Burns – aka “Silent George” – is now largely forgotten. Perhaps this quote from a 1917 Associated Press article explains it best: “He [Burns] is one of the most unassuming ball players in the game and he doesn’t give a tinker’s rap for publicity.”
A well-knit 5-foot-7-inch, 160-pounder, Burns was one of the strongest men in the majors: he swung a 52-ounce bat and took on all-comers, including Jim Thorpe, in impromptu wrestling matches. One of the top leadoff men of his day, Burns paced the NL in walks and runs scored five times each; he stole home 28 times, the third-best total in MLB history. For his career (1911-25), Burns hit .287 while averaging 30 doubles, nine triples, 32 steals, 73 walks and 99 runs scored per 154 games played. Cited by SABR’s R. J. Lesch as ‘the most consistent hitter in major-league history,” Burns never batted below .272 in a full season. One of the stalwart trouper’s best performances came in 1914: he posted a career-high .303 batting average while pacing the NL in runs (100), steals (62), and WAR (6.5).
Voted the “best sundog in the big leagues” in a 1917 poll of National League managers conducted by The Associated Press, Burns – aided by sunglasses and a cap fitted with an extra-long bill – was, in the same article, described as “the greatest sun fielder since the days of Wee Willie Keeler.” (Left field at the Polo Grounds was brutally tough on sunny days.) Cumulatively, Burns ranks among the top-40 left fielders of all-time in double plays (8th), assists (12th), range factor-per-game (24th), and putouts (31st). In 1920, The Sporting News selected Burns as the fourth-best outfielder in MLB history, behind only Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, and Jimmy Sheckard.