Saturday, September 20, 2008

#202 Leo Burke

Leo Burke by you.
Card number three from John features utility man Leo Burke, the pride of Hagerstown, Maryland. Before I go on, I should note that he is not the same Leo Burke who wrestled in the U.S. and Canada for several decades. He got his start with the Orioles, who signed him in 1957 as an amateur free agent out of Virginia Tech. Leo had September callups with the Birds in 1958 and 1959, going a combined 7-for-21. He resurfaced in 1961 with the expansion Los Angeles Angels, but saw action in only 25 games over two years. He got more playing time in 1963, but hit .194 while splitting the year between St. Louis and the Cubs. Burke finally seemed to settle in with the Cubbies in 1964, playing a career-high 59 games and batting .262. He played at least one game at first, second, and third bases, and even had a game behind the plate, but his 18 games in right field were the lion's share of his defensive assignments. He was a frequent pinch hitter that year, going 10-for-34 for a .294 clip. After just 12 games played in 1965, Leo's big league career came to an end. He had made two appearances in consecutive days as an emergency catcher, but the Bruins saw the writing on the wall and called up an actual catcher from the minors and demoted Burke. He never made it back.

Fun fact: What the heck, let's go for it. With Yankee Stadium closing tomorrow, it's worth noting that Leo Burke hit well in the House That Ruth Built in a small sample size (24 at-bats): .333 AVG, 1.010 OPS, 2 HR, 7 RBI. Oh, and he hit one of his nine career homers off of Sandy Koufax. Well done, Leo.

Since this post was shorter than the past few, I have a few more notes on the progress of the Great 1965 Topps Project. First, I met Boog Powell this morning and got him to autograph his 1965 card, #560. You can see the scan and read the story here. Also, I've now completed over 10% of the 598-card set, with more coming. With that in mind, I'll be posting a checklist soon for the benefit of anyone who's just curious or thinks they can help me fill some needs. Thanks for reading, commenting, and sending cards!
Leo Burke (back) by you.

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