Thursday, March 24, 2011

#198 Smoky Burgess

#198 Smoky Burgess
The contest is over. I'm officially declaring Forrest Harrill "Smoky" Burgess to be the oldest-looking player in this set! Heck, if it weren't for Bill Rigney and Casey Stengel, ol' Smoky might be the oldest-looking person in the entire set. Assuming this photo was taken during the previous year, he would have been a spry 37. Compare him to Harold Reynolds, who was 47 when this photo was taken and looks no different today at age 50!

Fun facts about Smoky Burgess:

-Smoky was born in Caroleen, NC, and signed with the Cubs as a teenager in 1944.

-After winning batting titles at Class B Fayetteville in 1947 (.387) and AA Nashville the following year (.386), he spent most of the 1949 season in the majors as a pinch hitter, batting .268 with a home run.

-A trade sent him to the Phillies for the 1952 season, where he hit .316 with a .393 on-base percentage in three-plus seasons as part of a catching platoon with Stan Lopata.

-Burgess made his first All-Star team in 1954, as he had a career-high .368 average and .432 on-base percentage. As he played in just 108 games, he was not eligible for the league lead in those categories.

-After being traded to the Reds in early 1955, he found his power stroke and reached personal bests with totals of 21 homers and 78 RBI while batting .301. He made his second straight All-Star Game.

-On July 29, 1955, he punished the Pirates with three home runs and nine RBI as Cincinnati romped to a 16-5 win.

-Smoky was dealt to the Pirates prior to the 1959 season. He made the All-Star team in each of his first three seasons in Pittsburgh, compiling a .298 average in that span. He started five games at catcher in the 1960 World Series, batting .333 (6-for-18) with three multi-hit games as the Pirates squeaked by the Yankees.

-He was acquired by the White Sox late in the 1964 campaign and spent the last three-plus years of his career as a pinch hitter for them. He set a major league record with 145 career pinch hits, later broken by Manny Mota in 1979.

-Burgess retired after the 1967 season as a career .295 hitter in parts of 18 seasons. He totaled 126 home runs and 673 RBI, and he and pitcher Curt Simmons were the last two players active in the 1940s to retire.

-He was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 1975 and the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1978. Smoky spent several years as a scout and instructor in the Braves organization. He was 64 years old when he passed away in 1991.
#198 Smoky Burgess (back)


  1. Check out Smoky's 1967 Topps card. Not only does it look like he's playing in a graveyard, it looks like he's about a day away from spending eternity there.

  2. Steve - I have seen that one. It's a classic.

  3. Y'know Smoky later became well known as Uncle Joe on Pettycoat Junction.

  4. The Smokester! A lengend in his few years with the Reds.

  5. Anon 1 - Very funny!

    Anon 2 - I have Smoky's 1957 card with the Reds/Redlegs.