Players From The Past: Lew Burdette
Selva Lewis “Lew” Burdette
Born: November 22, 1926 in Nitro, West Virginia
Died: February 6, 2007 in Winter Garden, Florida
Major League Debut: September 26, 1950
Final Game: July 16, 1967
Lew Burdette was signed by the New York Yankees in 1947 but pitched only one inning for them. It was ironic that Burdette would beat the Yankees three times in the 1957 World Series while winning the MVP award.
He was traded to the Boston Braves along with $50,000 cash while the Yankees acquired Johnny Sain in the trade on August 29, 1951.
Posted 15-5 Record In First Milwaukee Season
He compiled a 6-11 record in the last two years the Braves were in Boston and then posted a 15-5 record in his first year as a Milwaukee Brave.
In 1959 he led the NL in wins with a 21-15 record. That same year he defeated Harvey Haddix of the Pirates in the famous 12 inning perfect game on May 26 of that year.
While Haddix was pitching perfect baseball Burdette was giving up 12 hits in 13 innings but didn’t walk a batter while striking out only two batters.
Pitch Counts No Concern In Game
The Braves would win the game 1-0 leaving Haddix the losing pitcher of what may be the greatest baseball game during a regular season. There is no record of how many pitches he threw in that game at baseball-reference.com but it is safe to say he far exceeded the pitch count limit used by any manager today.
Burdette said after the game:
“I’m the greatest pitcher that ever lived. The greatest game that was ever pitched in baseball wasn’t good enough to beat me, so I’ve got to be the greatest!”
Burdette gave up a lot of hits and led the NL in hits in the 1959, 1960 and 1961 seasons allowing 312, 277 and 295 hits. However he walked only 38, 35 and 33 batters in those seasons.
Very Few Strikeouts
He wasn’t a strikeout pitcher and he struck out only 113 batters in his highest strikeout season of 1958. He struck out only 1004 batters in his 18 year career which didn’t help his Hall of Fame chances.
His 203-144 lifetime record gave him a +59 wins over losses. He won the 1956 NL earned run crown with a 2.70 mark.
He is third on the all time least walks per nine innings list with 1.84 walks per nine innings. He is behind Robin Roberts with a 1.73 mark and Carl Hubbell and Juan Marichal with identical 1.82 marks.
Burdette hit 12 home runs and drove in 75 runs as a batter.
1957 World Series
Burdette has the second best ERA of any of the 13 three game winners in the World Series as the Braves defeated the Yankees that year. Only Christy Matthewson with a 0.00 ERA was better than Burdette and Stan Coveleski who both compiled ERA’s of 0.67.
He only allowed two earned runs in 27 innings in the 1957 World Series. Only Bob Gibson in 1967, Mickey Lolich in 1968 and Randy Johnson in 2001 have won three games in a World Series in the last 52 years after Burdette accomplished the feat.
He pitched three complete games and two shutouts which probably will never be accomplished again in this pitch count era.
1958 World Series
Burdette did not fare nearly as well in the 1958 World Series. He posted a 1-2 record with a 5.64 ERA as the Yankees came back from a three games to one deficit to win the World Series.
Traded To The Cardinals
The Braves traded Burdette on June 15, 1963 to the St. Louis Cardinals for Gene Oliver and Bob Sadowski ending 13 years with the Braves and prohibiting him from playing for the Braves in three different cities since they would move to Atlanta a couple of years later.
He was traded again on June 2, 1964 to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Glen Hobbie. Burdette pitched his last three major league seasons for the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies and the California Angels.
Burdette may not have been elected to the Hall of Fame but he pitched better than some pitchers in the Hall of Fame. Bringing a World Series championship to Milwaukee was the greatest achievement of his career.