Players Past: Jim Burton

July 2, 2009

Jim Burton played for Michigan from 1968-1971.  He was a left handed pitcher who was known to bat right  handed, somewhat of an oddity in today’s game.  He was drafted by the Tigers in the 1967 draft, but he decided against signing the professional contract and came to Ann Arbor.  While his college he had 288 strikeouts in 228 innings.  The highlight of his career in Ann Arbor had to be his no hitter, thrown against Wisconsin (back when they had a team) in 1971.  It was the first no-no thrown by a UM pitcher in 88 years (so long that they don’t even have reliable records for games before that).  It’s one of only 2 complete game no hitters in Michigan history.  That’s impressive.  While I haven’t found his win total for his 3 years on the varsity squad, he did have a ridiculous 19 wins his senior season (there wasn’t a cap on games played in a season until the late 80s/early 90s).

Burton was selected in the 1st round (5th overall) by the Red Sox in 1971. After several years of pitching woes (rampant wildness) and back problems, he finally broke into the big leagues in 1975, a big year for the Red Sox, it was the year of the epic Red Sox vs Reds World Series.

Burton had a successful season with the Red Sox.  In 29 appearances (4 starts), he went 1-2 with a 2.89 and a save.  His bad luck began in the World Series.  In game 3 at Riverfront stadium in Cinncy, Burton lasted only 1/3 of an inning with a walk.  Game 7 was worse.  Jim would be tagged with the loss in the ninth after walking Griffey, getting 2 outs, then giving up the winning run on a Joe Morgan single.  A walk later and he was yanked.  Many Boston fans blamed him (or manager Daryll Johnson for putting him in) for the loss of the series.

Burton was interviewed many years later for the book “Boys of October” by Doug Hornigs:

“Yeah.  You know, over the years Morgan has always given me credit for making a good pitch in that situation […] Which doesn’t change the outcome, unfortunately.  But I threw that pitch because the one before it, which was an inside fastball he fouled off.  I was surprised at how fast he came around on an inside pitch like that, and I decided I better not try it again.  Fisk came out.  We discussed it and decided on the slider.”

“That’s what it was.  I wound up and threw it exactly where I wanted it, as hard as I could throw one.  My slider wasn’t a tight one; it was more like a ‘slurve’ that started in close to a left-hander and broke a lot, away from him.  That’s what that pitch did. It fooled Morgan, and you can see him start to bail out at first.”

You can, but but it’s not by much.  And his recovery is amazingly fast.

“Then he kind of threw the bat at the ball.”  Just trying to foul it off?  “Maybe.  But he got the end of the bat on it and blooped the fly to center.  I turned, and the first thing I saw was Freddie Lynn going back a step or two.  And I thought, ‘Oh, no.’  I knew Morgan hadn’t hit it solid.  I could see Freddie had no play.”

Burton spent the next year at AAA Pawtucket trying to regain his confidence.  He eventually made it back into the MLB for one game in 1978.  He threw 2.2 innings giving up a hit, a walk, and striking out three.  He would spend the next season in the Mets minor league before heading back to his native Michigan to begin life after baseball. After trying a few different jobs in Michigan, he opened his own printing shop.  The job eventually took him to Charlotte, NC, where he still lives today.

A special thanks to the The Baseball Biography Project for so much great information.


Brief Update: Burnt to a Crisp Edition

June 29, 2009

Things have gotten a bit slow in these parts.  Summer ball winds down this week, Pony tournament season is just getting started.  School is in mid-swing.  Yeah… stuff.

On to today’s topic… heat exhaustion.  This weekend I was the victim of some outrageous temperatures.  I got a call Sunday morning around 10:45am to head down to Big League Dreams to do some 12A (or something like that) baseball.  The kids are 12 and they play real baseball rules, much like Pony/Colt leagues.  The first thing I thought was sweet, Big League Dreams is supposed to be awesome.  The complex has 5 fields, each a replica of a historic baseball stadium.  I was on Fenway, but they also have old Yankee Stadium, Wrigley (Cubs), the Polo Grounds (New York Giants), and Forbes Field (Pirates).  The outfield seats are painted to look like a crowd, there are stadium style seats around the plate, it’s pretty awesome. The second thing I thought was “hell yeah, $70 in cash.”  The last, “dammit, I better leave now.”

So I hurriedly got my clothes together, grabbed a big cup of water, downed it.  Refilled, grabbed a pair of gatorades and hit the truck running.  I got down there and was somewhat surprised by the facilities.  Admission and anti-outside food or drink nazis are protecting the one little gate with intent to nab anyone they can.  I couldn’t even bring in the gatorade I had just opened.  Teenagers… bah.  So I downed the gatorade and went on in.  It’s hot at this place.  Everything is concrete outside of the fields; there’s hardly any grass at all.  The infields are all Astro turf which doesn’t help either.  It just traps the heat, warms the presumably metal or concrete beneath the surface, and makes it even hotter.  The outfields are the only grass in sight.  Bummer.

Big League Dreams (this one's in PA, so imagine the surrounding area to be flat and hot... less grass, more concrete, lots of astroturf)

What was nice is the “press box” area.  In the middle of the three fields on my side of the complex is a building that you’d think was a press box from outside.  In reality, it’s a restaurant/bar area.  Yes, a bar.  They had at least 4 beers on tap, situated right in the middle of the box.  Behind it was a fast food restaurant with all the greasy fried food you could want.  The best part, it was fully air conditioned.  After waiting at the umpires’ table for the game before mine to end, I got acquainted with the rules we’d be playing on the day (U-Trip?) and enjoyed some more water.  Here’s when I noticed the teenagers behind the counter would only offer water in small cups (Styrofoam, slightly smaller than a red cup, perhaps even the same number of ounces).  I didn’t think much of it at the time, but this came into play later.

My partner makes it out of his game alive, sweating enough to make you wonder if they didn’t shower him with the water bucket.  Come to find out… there aren’t water buckets.  So he goes to change out of his plate gear.  He’s already called two games behind the plate.  The man needs a break or he may not make it.  So I take the field with the tournament director to start the game while my partner changes and cools down a bit.

The game starts excellently.  I have to throw a kid out in the first inning because – not only does he not slide – he throws both his elbows at the catcher.  Yay! Easy call!  YOU’RE OUTTA HERE!  And then fun with their coach starts.  First he argues, “What else is he supposed to do on a play like that?”

“Uh… slide, coach?”

“Well, he didn’t even throw an elbow!”

“So you are admitting he didn’t slide then… which is also grounds for throwing him out.  Excellent!  Batter Up!”

Parent coaches are clowns.

Parent coaches are clowns.

I love those easy sort of talks with coaches.  So the game went on.  My partner made it down to the field before the start of the 2nd inning feeling refreshed.  The rest of the game went fairly well.  I called a ball on a full count and 2 outs in the last inning, allowing the home team to win on an ensuing base hit and passed ball.  A mom from that team let me and my partner know after the game just how shitty we were.  I told her thanks and just walked off.  The pitch was a curve ball that was just off the plate.  I’m not going to ring a kid up for a ball that might be close enough to call a strike.  The pitch was a ball, deal with it.

So after blowing this lady off, my partner and I head inside to the “press box” for more water.  It’s getting damn hot outside if I haven’t mentioned that.  I’ve been fine so far, but I know I need to keep on the water intake since I didn’t get all day to hydrate like I normally would.  I ask for a cup of water at the food area.  They give me the same small cup.  I ask if they can’t give me a bigger one so I can take it to the field.  The 16 year old behind the counter says no.  Bitch.  Also, I noticed the US was up on Brazil 2-0.  I really thought that it might be a good omen of the game to come.   America beats Brazil.  I umpire a great game.  Destiny right?  Dammit.

So we go on to game 2.  This is the championship game for the weekend tournament.  Yeah, I was thinking the same thing: why on Earth are they letting a guy who has never called a game at this level or with this rule book umpire the championship game?  I didn’t get it, but it pays well, so I guess I’ll just hold my tongue.  Game 2 was damn hot.  It’s hit the peak of the day as its just after 2pm.  There still isn’t a cloud in the sky.  It’s damn hot.  Both teams are on their second game of the day.  My partner is on his 4th (2 behind the plate early, now his second on the field).  It’s damn hot.

We get the game going.  The team that won the first game is taking on the team that won the 10am game.  We made it through about 2 innings before I knew I wasn’t getting enough water.  Every half inning I’d get a bottle of water from the team I had in the first game or a cup of water from the new team.  I’d try to drink it slow to keep me from getting sloshy, but I also had to drink the whole cup in between innings just to stay hydrated.  It’s damn hot.

By the 3rd inning, I’m occasionally starting to black out around the edges.  I have to squat, or at this point kneel, down well before the pitch to let my head settle and the black to fade out of my vision so I can see the pitch.  It’s damn hot.  The home team had to make a pitching change in the 3rd.  That’s when shit started to hit the fan.  All the players cleared the field to get in the cool dugouts and get water.  It was just me, my partner, the pitcher, the coach catching the pitcher, and the heat.  I downed at least 2 water bottles during the break.  The bastard visiting coach had the audacity to question me letting the kids all go into the dugout for water during the break.  It’s 100+ degrees with another 15-20 degrees of heat index.  Coach, you can suck it.

Eventually the game went on, but my condition was getting worse and worse.  Each pitching change was hell on Earth.  Each pitch was hell on Earth.  It was so fucking hot it was all hell on Earth.  I noticed I stopped sweating completely in the 4th inning – there goes what little SPF I was getting from the sweat, which I hear is around SPF 5.  This was the beginning of the end.  A few time outs later and I found myself not able to balance properly when leaning down to pick up my water bottle.  It’s damn hot.  I made it through the inning, barely able to squat or kneel down during pitches.

We started the 5th inning, but with an early pitching change with the bases loaded… I was done.  Luckily the game on the next field over had already ended.  A guy I umpired a scrimmage with during the TASO season was behind the plate and offered to take over the rest of the game for me.  Thank god he did.  My partner came to take a good look at me and found I was shaking from the heat exhaustion.  I switched out with the guy and went back to the press box for more water and to cool down.

I get to the press box hardly able to walk, not breathing properly.  I’m nearly hyperventilating here.  I ask for a big cup of water.  That same 16 year old bitch says this is all she can give me.  I take it, down it, ask for a refill.  She looks at me as if she’s afraid I’m going to pass out, but just gives me the small cup again.  I take it over to the umpires’ table and sit down on the floor.  At this point I managed to get my shirt and chest protector off.  Not wanting to risk my current condition driving, I called up my sisters to come pick me up.  A few check ups later by some people generally concerned about me, I decided to rest my eyes.  I’m still fucking hot even in the air conditioning.  I heard Brazil beat the US 3-2 before I doze off.  Dammit.

Wanted: Sun, Last seen: Directly above Big League Dreams

Wanted: Sun, Last seen: Directly above Big League Dreams

The next thing I know the tournament director is waking me up with a pair of EMS certified parents.  Apparently I didn’t respond very quickly to being awoken.  Also, instead of sitting up like I was on the floor against the wall, I’m laying on the floor now.  Not sure how that happened.  Oops?  I got ample ice packs and water brought to me.  Even some gatorade from some really nice people.  The ambulance arrives with a stretcher and equipment.  They took my temperature which at this point was fine.  My blood pressure was fine, too.  They ended up just taking some information then letting me alone.  Man I didn’t want an IV, much less go to the emergency room.

The sisters picked me up a few minutes later and I was on my way home.  The crispness of my skin became pretty apparent on the way home.  My arms and neck are a dark brown with tint of red.  They didn’t, or at least not yet, feel burnt, which is very lucky.  The drive home was way too long.  Having all that liquid inside my body made me need to pee so bad.  In retrospect, that might have been just as bad as the heat.  Okay, not really…. but still.

So lesson learned:  hydrate adequately if you’re going to be in the sun.  I wish I would have had more than a 30 minute notice to leave the house.  I’d hydrated all morning if I knew that was the case instead of just grabbing something on the way out the door.

I’ve got the quick turn around as I’m back at it today.  I think I’ll be alright being in the heat again, but I’m warning my partner and both coaches before we even start today’s game.  There’s no need to risk mine or the kids safety over this heat.

Stay thirsty my friends.

Umpire Ejects The Whole Crowd

June 14, 2009


Straight out of Iowa, an umpire ejected the entire crowd at a high school game.  Yes, he ejected the entire 100 fans at the game.  That’s so awesome I’m not even sure where to begin.  I guess I’ll start with man, I wish I could do that.  The Texas Association of Sports Officials (TASO) won’t allow umpires to eject the crowd, but they do let us delay the game until we feel it is no longer a threat to the games.  The schools all have security on site, and these armed police officers generally remove anyone they feel is a threat.  So that’s good.

Unfortunately, that ends with the playoffs.  Summer ball, as the Dawson coach put it, is lucky to get 2 umpires, much less security.  If it gets bad enough in summer ball, the only option I have is to just walk right out of the stadium.  Hopefully my games down at Santa Fe don’t get so bad that it becomes warranted.  I’m sure they’ll remember me after that last one.

Pearland HS Loses in State Semis

June 12, 2009

Texas Region III Champions

For those of you unaware, my high school baseball team made it to the state semi’s today and lost to Lufkin.  The guys outplayed Lufkin for a majority of the 10 inning game but blew their chances.  With runners on 1st and 2nd with 0 outs, they couldn’t push a run across.  Lufkin hit a 2 run homer in the bottom of the inning to win 4-2.

Great job to all the Oilers on this team, both the out-going seniors and the returning underclassman.  You represented us well.

More Fun With Screen Grabs

May 2, 2009


Why yes, I read that thinking that perhaps Dick Cheney thought he wasn’t conservative enough and wanted him dead.  Poor joke and probably too soon.  Still, that’s really bad headline writing.

It now reads: “Former VP hopeful Jack Kemp dies after long illness

Why I Try to Stay Positive

April 8, 2009

Hillsdale College editor finds carcasses on porch following publication’s critical editorial on baseball team

This guy wrote one hell of a critical article of the Hillsdale baseball team and ended up with a porch full of road kill including what looks like a goat carcass.  Jesus.  I take back all my unkind words about Mike Wilson, Jeff DeCarlo, all of the team strikeouts, and the radio announcers‘ first game.   Also, I apologize to any player I may have spoke poorly about.  Please have mercy on my soul and my porch.


My Sister Got Drunk/LBJ Library Trip

April 5, 2009

For those of you who don’t know me as well, I have two younger sisters, one at UT Austin (freshman) and the other at Texas Tech (junior/senior-ish). The last 24 hours were spent mostly with the younger. My economics professor offers up to 5 points on your final average if you attend a field trip to one of the [currently] two presidential libraries in Texas on a weekend late in each semester. Last semester was the George H.W. Bush library in College Station that I didn’t go to (I had a 97 in the class). This semester it was the Lyndon B. Johnson library in Austin.

So after making a bit of a pit stop at Cy Ranch, I made it out to Austin, getting in just after 11pm.  I was pretty tired having just umpired two games and driven over 3 hours.  I was ready to hit the shower then go to bed.  Enter my sister.

My sister found me at the bottom of the steps to the famous clock tower… or rather I found her stumbling back to find me with her friends.   When I saw her stumble over the curb, I knew the night was one of those special occasions.

So after walking the short walk over to the Jester dormitory, and hearing several times “wow, my face is numb” and “oh my god I’m drunk,” we made it to her dorm.  I was proud to see that handle of Burnett’s Cherry Vodka sitting out on the table, about a quarter of the way emptied.  I bought it from Spec’s during spring break, but she was saving it for this night when I’d return.

Oh the nights we used to have together...

Oh the nights we used to have together...

Being this drunk, my sister definitely wasn’t ready to give up on the night just yet.  It was her friend’s birthday, and she wanted to return to the party.  After a quick shower, her friends convinced me I should go to the party too.  I tried so hard not to go (read: I gave right in on one condition — I’ve got to get some drinks in me ASAP).  So after downing two frozen mugs of 50/50 Burnetts and Sprite, I was good to go.  Nothing like 10 shots of vodka to get the old party juices flowing.

So we leave the room, where I notice my sister didn’t bring her keys.  I thought about questioing her about this, but I let it slide.  We’ll call this mistake number one on the way out the building.  We’ll come back to this mistake, but there was too much other funny stuff that happened in the mean time.

Mistake number two in leaving the building (yes, we couldn’t get out of the building without a drunken incident) was in the staircase to exit.  My sister made it to the last two steps on a flight of stairs before she kicked her shoe off mid step, causing her to fall straight back.  She took a step right in the back… it’s a good bruise.  Ouch.  I laughed.  I’m still laughing at the thought of it.

The walk to the place at West Campus wasn’t too bad.  We got to the party where I was introduced to 15-20 people.  I wow’d the crowd with my excellent name remembering abilities.  The party was meh.  They had Bud Light and what they called “girl drinks.”  I’m pretty sure it was just vodka cranberry.  Nothing much.

One really weird thing did happen at the party.  The other white (non-Jewish) guy there came up to me and told me it’s nice to see another white guy at the party.  He’s usually jokingly referred to as “Cracker Casey” at this place’s parties.  This was both weird, creepy, and oddly increasing my desire for more Bud Light – a feat within itself.

We were there about an hour before my sister wanted to leave.  She was getting sick from too much alcohol.  She dragged me out of the place rather quick, totally ignoring my questions about do you have a key?  We made it to the bottom floor on the elevator before the sister made her first reference to “I need to puke.”  We made it just around the corner into the alley before she did… twice.

After that, things calmed down for the rest of the walk home.  We made it back to Jester after about 10 minutes walking.  Since its a single sex housing dorm, my sister couldn’t bring me through the door as a guest.  Instead, I was sent to the side door by the stairs while she scanned herself in.  It took a while, but she eventually made it over to the staircase door.  Later, I found out she mistakenly tried to swipe in incorrectly twice.  The first time she swiped air through the scanner… as in her hand was holding an invisible card.  When that didn’t work, she tried her bank card.  The door attendant wasn’t amused (supposedly).

We get up to the room, and the sister starts turning an invisible key to unlock the door.  Mark me nonplussed.  She tried it at least 5 times.  I was trying so hard not to laugh.  Then she tried knocking… not sure who she was trying to reach there as her roommate was still at the party we had just left.

Speaking of that roommate, my sister called her.  Without telling me anything, my sister just walks down the hall, and goes through the 3rd door from hers.  I assumed maybe it was an RA desk or someplace to get a spare key.  I wait 2-4 minutes, then go look out of curiosity.  My sister is passed out on the couch in a lounge area.  She’s not totally out yet, but it was getting close.

I answer her phone that she’s decided to ignore to find that the roommate is taking another one of their friends home because he’s puking all over the apartment we had partied at previously.  She does let me know that the RA desk at the front could get a spare key to loan out, so I let her know we’ll do that then hang up.

I tell my sister the plan, and she looks with a drunken blank face.  Something I’d expect from a friend of mine, we’ll call him protonone.  She gets up, makes it for the door, goes towards her room, but before she gets there, shes walks into the room before hers.  The first thing I think is where the hell is she going.  The second thing I think is who the hell leaves their room unlocked.  I tell my sister that isn’t her suite, but she just “shushes” me  and continues.

She thought she was going into the suite adjacent to hers to cut through the bathroom and unlock her door.  She was too drunk to remember locking the bathroom door (their suites lock you in the bathroom instead of out of it).  So she didn’t find it the least bit surprising that she came around to open the other room.  When she gets there, she turns on the light and opens the door.  The three girls in that room are freaking out… “This isn’t your room!”  “What are you doing in here!?! Get out of this room!”

I grab the sister and run back to the lounge to avoid being seen in the hallway.  We wait a minute before I set her straight on the previous plan.  She is just barely grasping what she had just done, much less what the plan was.  Finally she figures out what she has to do and heads to the front desk.

When she returns she has a key, but she also has a $10 and $20 bill.  Where did this come from?  Come to find out, she set her wallet down in the room she opened up.  When she picked it up, those people had left money there too.  My sister picked up the wallet and the cash without knowing it.

So we finally made it into the room.  No sooner than she makes it through the door she’s swan dived into the bed face down.  I lock the doors, turn off the light and scrounge for bedding.  I’ve got one sheet and a towel to use for a pillow while I sleep on the tile floor.  She’s got the blanket at least.  Then it was sweet dreams from there.

The next morning was a little rough for her.  She threw up again and couldn’t even stomach breakfast.  The water she drank at the party didn’t help the hangover apparently.  Cest la vie.

The two of us made it to the LBJ Library by the noon sign in time.  The library was okay, but much of it was kind of boring.  There was a large section on the launch of NASA and Lady Bird Johnson.  I felt there was a large lack in “the Great Society” work started by Johnson.  Things like Medicare and Medicaid both gained traction under his term, as well as many great educational achievements.

LBJ is probably one of the presidents who doesn’t get enough credit.  Sure JFK was the big name, and even Nixon had his stories, but in between Johnson really pushed a great liberal agenda that helped a lot. Unfortunately, he’s remembered more for the Vietnam incidents than his 1000 pieces of legislation.

After two hours at the library, we’d seen everything on exhibit and headed to lunch.  We ate at a rather unique diner called Kirbey Lane.  While they specialize in pancakes (served 24 hours), their entrees are a mix of Mediterannean and Tex-Mex.  Mexican Rice and black beans are available as a substitute for fries or hummus.  It’s kind of weird (what in Austin isn’t?).

After that it was the hop skip jump and 3 hour drive back home with a quick stop at Buc-cee’s (It’s a Beaver!).  And to think the weekend is only half over.