Year Inducted: 1946 (Veterans Committee)
Say what you will about the talent pool being better today, and the revenue coming in higher than ever before, but one thing the earliest years of baseball had that they no longer really do was personality. Granted, a lot of that came from drunken tirades and gambling allegations, but still there was a lot more extra entertainment to games back in the early 1900’s. But, for the most part, the players left a lot on the field and were very approchable and kind off the field, especially to teammates and fans. Not everyone however. There was a reason that Jesse Burkett was nicknamed “Crab”-and it didn’t have to do with how he walked either.
Like many other older players, Jesse Burkett was known as much for his playing abilities (he was one of the top hitters of the time), as he was for his demeanor. Burkett was ejected from both ends of a double header once, and was absolutely one of the angriest and ill-tempered players of all-time. Yet, he could channel all that aggression in a 16-year career as one of the best hitters to ever live. Overall, Burkett hit .338/.415/.446 with a wRC+ of 137. Playing at the beginning of the Dead Ball Era, Burkett managed to hit 320 doubles, 182 triples and 75 homers, totals that are very impressive for that period. He also was a run-scoring machine, tallying over 1700 runs scored in his career while driving in nearly 1000 while being a top of the order hitter.
Burkett’s lowest wRC+ in a season was only 107 in his second season. Only two other times was it below 120, including in his final season. This means that Burkett was a consistent and dominant offensive force in the lineup, and that was where he contributed a lot of value. On the bases and in the field, he was a negative player despite being 5-8 and 155 pounds. Still, he managed to score a lot of runs and stole nearly 400 bases in his career.
Burkett’s surly attitude surely soured him to the voters, who didn’t induct the well deserving Burkett until 1946, one of several meetings with the Commissioner’s office and executives directed to address the lack of pre-1900 players in the Hall of Fame. Burkett was one of the finest hitters ever on a ballfield, and one that surely deserves a place in the top 100 players of all-time.
Stay tuned for the next updates:
On deck 11/16/16
#69- The Dominican Dandy
#68- One of the greatest catchers ever, his career ended due to being hit in the head by a pitch.