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Jesse Burkett

Baseball Hall of Fame member

Library of Congress photo of Jesse Burkett

Photo of Jesse Burkett from the Library of Congress (click to enlage)

Found below are a series of newspaper clippings about baseball player Jesse Burkett which have been complied in a vertical file in the OCPL's Wheeling Room.

from the Worcester (Mass.) Evening Gazette, Saturday, Feb. 13, 1926.


- by George V. Tuohey

After withstanding the assaults of the batting stars for 26 years, Jesse Burkett's record of batting over the .400 mark for three years has finally been equaled and brings to light once more the wondrous skill of the Worcester man when in his prime. The new occupant of the lofty pedestal along with Jesse is Rogers Hornsby, star of the St. Louis National League team, on which, by a coincidence, Burkett played when he made one of his .400 batting averages.

In reaching Burkett's mark Hornsby established himself as the greatest batsman of all time, for he not only eclipsed the mark made by Jesse back in the last century, but also surpassed two other long standing records, that of the life time grand average of Dan Brouthers and of Hans Wagner in leading the National League for consecutive seasons. Hornsby also leads Burkett in the grand averages for the three years in which both went over the .400 mark by a margin of .005.

Hornsby hit .401 in 1922, .424 in 1924, and .423 last season, a grand average of .416, as against the grand average of .411 for Jesse's three big years. Burkett hit .421 in 1895 instead of the .423 he is usually credited with, .410 in 1896, both years as a member of the famous Tebeau Cleveland team, .402 in 1899 as a member of the same team which that year was transferred from Cleveland to St. Louis.

Hornsby excelled Dan Brouthers' life time average of .353 by 15 points, while the Wagner record to go into history was made when the Dutchman led the league four years in succession in 1906, 1907, 1908 and 1909.

When one considers that during the period over which Burkett's record stood there were such sterling batsmen as Ed Delehanty, Billy Keeler, Hugh Jennings, the peerless Lajoie, Hans Wagner, Fred Clarke, Joe Kelly, Elmer Flick, and others of rare skill all shooting at the figures it gives one some idea of what a star with the bludgeon Burkett really was.

Naturally, the question arises: What would Burkett have done with the lively ball of today, instead of the slower one in use when he was in his prime? Was the pitching of Jesse's day as good as that of the current time?

The answer to the first query will always be open to controversy, but as to the pitching the writer believes Burkett batted his best in the golden era of pitching, against such stars as Rusie, Clarkson, Clark Griffith, Joe Corbett, Sadie McMahon, Jouett Meakin, Bill Dineen, Joe McGinnity, Jack Stivetts, Charley Nichols, Harry Staley, Esper, Tony Mullane, not to mention other outstanding boxmen.

The writer does not recall that Jess ever batted against Mathewson, for the latter came into his own after Burkett had left the National League to play with the Americans at St. Louis and Boston.

Still, the partial list named gives some idea of what pitching Burkett had to contend with. Then, too, pitchers were not under the restrictions of the present day. They had greater latitude in their work making for greater effectiveness.

Hornsby is a freer hitter than Burkett was, according to the averages and to him must go the credit of the super batman of all time in the National League.

Baseball Career

Jesse Burkett was born Dec. 4, 1868, at Wheeling, W. Va. He first played professionally in 1888 with the Scranton club of the Central league as a pitcher. His next engagement was with the Worcester club of the Atlantic association in 1899. He took part as a pitcher in 49 championship games. His good work both at the bat and in the pitching box helped the Worcester club to win the championship of the Atlantic association. His release was purchased by the Indianapolis club of the National league, and Burkett finished the season of 1889 with them.

A deal was completed during the winter of 1889-90 whereby the players of the Indianapolis club were released to the New York club. Burkett was one of the players thus transferred. In 1889, he joined as an outfielder, the Lincoln club of the Western association, and ranked fourth in its official batting averages. He remained with that club until Aug. 15, when he joined the Cleveland club of the National league, and finished the season with that team.

His excellent work both at the bat and in the outfield, led to his re-engagement with the Cleveland club for the season of 1892. That year he batted for .280, in 1893 for .372, in 1894 for .356, and in 1895 led the league with a batting average of .423, and was the only man who batted for .400 or over. In this year, Delehanty was second with .399 and Keeler third with .394. In 1896 Burkett again led the league with .410 and again was the only one who batted above .400. Jennings second with .397, Delehanty third with .394, and Keeler, fourth with .392. In 1897, he was still a top-notcher, hitting for .385, Keeler leading with .432, Fred Clarke, .404, Joe Kelley, .389, Jack Stivetts .388. In 1899 he was again a .400 man, being second to Delehanty, .402 to .408. In 1900 his percentage was .360 and he ranked fourth. Wanger led with .380, Flick .374, and Keeler .376. In 1901, he again led with .382 to .357, for Delehanty, and .358 for Keeler. In the American league in 1902, he batted for .306, in 1903 for .296, in 1904 for .273 and in 1905 with the Boston Americans he hit for .257.

Burkett purchased his own release from the Boston American team in 1906 in order to be eligible to play with Worcester.

(© - reprinted with permission of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette)

clipping from an unidentified newspaper, dated Sept. 13, 1890, provided to OCPL by National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Jesse Burkett's Brief Engagement as a Star Comedian.

The New York-Boston games of Sept. 10 was considerable of a comic entertainment, in which Jesse Burkett was the star comedian. Jesse didn't mean to be funny, but he was, just the same – funnier than Arlie Latham ever was at his best, and the audience was fairly convulsed with laughter. Burkett started the fun in the second inning by making a most ludicrous muff, but the climax came in the fourth inning and is thus described by the New York Herald:

"Hines was on first by reason of bases on balls when Hardy sent a safe grounder out along the right foul line. jesse made a great effort to head it off, but he and the ball and the foul flag came together all at once. Instead of grabbing the ball he got hold of the foul flag and pulled it up, while the ball jogged along to the fence.

"Burkett wheeled around several times with the flag in his hands, as if he were hunting for a place to plant it. Then he threw it down and began to dig up dirt in great handsful. A Scotch terrier in the quest of a chipmunk could not have made the dust fly more furiously. All at once it dawned upon the spectators that Jesse was digging for the ball and a roar of laughter went up all around, the players on both sides joining in. Jesse, however, dug the harder and only ceased after Whistler had recovered the ball and Hines and Hardie had both got home.

"The crowd had a great deal of sport with Burkett after this little incident. Hext time he started to the field some one yelled: – 'Here's a shovel, Jesse.' When he went to bat he was advised to knock it into the hold where he had dug out the other. Still another was unkind enough to yell 'Rats!' and 'Sic 'em Towser.'

"Probably the spectators didn't realize that Jesse was the victim of a practical joke. Brodie was standing near when the ball came out that way. As soon as he saw Burkett wheeling around with the foul flag in his hand and realized that he had lost the ball, he called to the dazed fielder and said: –"In the hole, Jesse; in the hole!" What Brodie meant is not clear, but Jesse saw no hole except the hone from which he pulled the foul flag. He looked into that, and, not seeing the ball, began to dig for it with a fury fed by the shouts of all the other team.

"Last night he was in the hands of a Bloomingdale specialist, and he will probably be on hand to-day wiht his good, trusty bat."

A PRETTIER example of what kind of a hitter Burkett is was never had than on Tuesday. The first time up he smashed a pretty hit in between the second baseman and first baseman. When he went to bat in the second inning the fielders moved over to the right to play for him. Burkett grinned and planted one directly over the second base bag, where neither the second baseman nor the shortstop could reach it. Then the Louisville fielders were miserable and moved back towards left. In the fourth inning Burkett varied things by making as pretty a bunt as ever was seen and easily reached first. This time the Louisville fielders thought they had him and played close in on him for another bunt. But instead of bunting the great hitter waited until he got a ball to his liking and then he sent it just over the heads of the infielders. He certainly is a great one.

clipping from unidentified newspaper, dated 6/27/1896 provided to the OCPL by National Baseball Hall of Fame.

BURKETT struck out the last time he was up and it looked as if he did it on purpose. He is hardly to be blamed if he did. There were two strikes on him, when he refused to get out of the way of one of Cunningham's slow ones and was hit by the ball. Rightly enough Lynch refused to allow him to take his base. There was no kick coming on that decision. But one of the loyal (?) Cleveland rooters in the grand stand saw that he had a chance to find fault. So he begged Cunningham to "strike him out." Burkett went after the next ball, which was a yard wide of the plate and was out on strikes. Probably the fellow in the grand stand who wanted Burkett to strike out saw some dirty ball playing in Burkett's effort to reach first. There was quite a number of people in this town who are afflicted in the same way. – Cleveland World.

clipping from The Wheeling Register, August 5, 1897.

Louisville, Ky., August 4. – Two games were to have been played today, but in the second inning of the first game, with the score 3 to 2 in the home team's favor, Burkett called Umpire Wolf a vile name and was ordered out of the game. Captain Tebeau refused to put a man in to bat for Burkett, and after waiting five minues Wolf game the game to Louisville 9 to 0. The Indians played as if they did not care whether school kept or not in the second game, and the Colonels won easily. In the ninth inning Burkett again insulted Umpire Wolf and was ordered out of the game. He refused to leave first base, and the umpire called two policemen, and the Indians' tough left fielder was ejected from the grounds. Right fielder McCreery had been traded to New York and a money consideration and pitcher Miller given ten days' notice of his release. Attendance, 1,100.

The Case of Burkett

clipping from an unidentified newspaper, dated 10/1906, provided to the OCPL by National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Jess Burkett has not obtained his release, so they tell me, but there is no reason why any one should lose any cleep over that fact. So far as I can make out it is up to Collins to dispose of the Burkett case and both are owners of the Worcester Club. It will be remembered that so far back as the end of last season Jess said he would not play ball this season and he meant what he said. Jess cost the club $2500 and George Stone. Collins always set considerable store by Jess. That the former St. Louisan did not do better is to be regretted, yet he did fully as well was some other crack outfielders. Jess' failure to satisfy was the penalty of greatness. He was expected to do a deal more than he could do. Never did a player try harder to fill the bill. He started out early in the spring and never let up. Doubtless it was because he tried so hard that he fell short. He will carry with him lots and lost of good wishes for succss in his new field of labor. Patsy Dowd, the sporting editor of the Worcester "Telegram," came to Boston last week to see the dog show, and voiced it as his opinion that Jess would strike oil in Worcester. "The new ground,' said Patsy, "is five minutes walk from the Union Station, and but fifteen minutes walk from the Bay State House, the principal hostelry of the city. Jess is very popular in Worcester and everybody will work hard to help him succeed." And Patsy knows.


unidentified clipping dated 10/2/1915, provided to the OCPL from National Baseball Hall of Fame.

WORCESTER, Mass., September 25. – Jesse Burkett, for several years manager of the Worcester team, of the New England League, and a part owner, has withdrawn from connection with the club. His stock was taken over by Secretary John U. O'Donnell, and will be sold to local men.

[ newspaper articles from the vertical files in the OCPL's Wheeling Room ]

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