Jesse Burkett

Position: Outfielder
Teams: New York Giants, 1890; Cleveland Spiders, 1891-1898; St. Louis Perfectos (Cardinals), 1899-1901; St. Louis Browns, 1902-1904; Boston Pilgrims, 1905

Jesse Burkett
Jesse Burkett's frequent spats with
umpires earned him the
nickname "The Crab."

Jesse Burkett made the river his second home in his youth. In his early teens, he plunged into its swirling waters in a valiant but unsuccessful attempt to save a drowning girl. The incident proved to be the most memorable moment in his life, even more than his baseball exploits.

Jesse Cail Burkett (1868-1953), born and raised in Wheeling, West Virginia, began his pro career as a pitcher, winning 39 games for Worcester of the Atlantic Association in 1889.

Hammered regularly the following season in his rookie big-league campaign with the New York Giants, however, he was transferred to the outfield. Exhibiting only flashes of the exceptional bat control that would make him one of the game’s premier hitters in the 1890s, Burkett was returned to the minors after being purchased by Cleveland in 1891.

The following year, his first as a regular with the feisty Spiders, he hit just .275 -- nevertheless ranking among the club’s top batters as averages all over the National League were down in 1892, the last season in which the pitcher’s box was only 50 feet from home plate. When 10 feet, 6 inches were added the next year, Burkett’s average jumped to .348; he didn’t bat below .340 again until 1902. In the nine intervening seasons, Burkett twice topped the .400 mark and on three occasions led the National League in batting.

Popular with sportswriters because of his readiness to discuss hitting, Burkett was less of a hit with fans. Thus while his surly manner and frequent battles with umpires early in his career earned him the nickname “The Crab,” he was always available to instruct young admirers about batting and could usually be found after a game nursing a vanilla ice cream cone.

In 1899, Burkett was switched to St. Louis along with most of Cleveland’s better players in an effort by the Robison brothers, who owned both the Cleveland and St. Louis franchises, to punish Clevelanders for poor attendance of the Spiders’ games. After three years with the Cardinals, he was persuaded to jump to the American League in 1902 by St. Louis Browns manager Jimmy McAler, a former Spiders teammate.

Burkett hit .306 in his initial campaign with the Browns, then declined rapidly. His trade to the Boston Pilgrims for rookie outfielder George Stone before the 1905 season proved to be one of the most one-sided deals ever. While Stone was winning the 1906 American League batting title, Burkett was in the minors serving as player-owner-manager of Worcester in the New England League. Burkett was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1946.

Here are Jesse Burkett's major league totals:

.3392,0708,4131,7182,853322 183 75 952 389

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