Command and Control

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Lew Burdette

It’s natural to remember Lew Burdette as primarily a 1950s pitcher. That was his dominant decade. Teaming with Warren Spahn and Bob Buhl to fashion one of the most formidable starting rotations in the National League, Burdette was a commanding right-handed starter, using his power and control to win 120 games for the Milwaukee Braves between 1953 and 1959.

But Burdette also pitched for eight seasons into the 1960s, winning 77 games as a starter and reliever for four different teams.

Lew Burdette spent 13 of his 18 major league seasons with the Braves. His finest moment in a Braves uniform came in the 1957 World Series, when he won three complete game victories over the New York Yankees, including two shutouts.

Burdette was signed by the New York Yankees in 1947. He made his only two appearance in Yankee pinstripes at the end of the 1950 season.

In 1951, he was traded by the Yankees with $50,000 to the Boston Braves for Johnny Sain. He pitched in 45 games for the Braves in 1952, all but nine in relief, and compiled a 6-11 rookie season record with a 3.61 ERA. He became the Braves’ closer in 1953, finishing 24 of his 46 appearances. He posted a 15-5 record with a 3.24 ERA and eight saves.

By 1954, Burdette had moved into the Braves’ starting rotation, winning 28 games over the next two seasons. In 1956, he went 19-10 and led the National League with six shutouts and a 2.70 ERA. He won 17 games during the 1957 season, and was the Most Valuable Player in the 1957 World Series, beating the Yankees three times with a pair of shutouts. He closed out the 1950s with back-to-back 20-victory seasons: 20-10 in 1958 and 21-15 in 1959, while leading the league that season in starts (39) and shutouts (four).

In 1960, Burdette led the league in complete games (with 18, tied with Spahn and Vern Law) while going 19-13 with a 3.36 ERA. He also pitched a 1-0 no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies that season. He allowed only one base runner (hitting Tony Gonzalez with a pitch) and faced only 27 batters – while driving in the winning run. He won 18 games in 1961, and then slipped to 10-9 in 1962.

Lew Burdette was never afraid of piling up innings. For eight consecutive seasons (1954-1961), Burdette pitched 200 or more innings. From 1958 to 1961, he averaged 278 innings pitched per season.

In 1963, after more than 13 years with the Braves, Burdette was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for catcher Gene Oliver and pitcher Bob Sadowski. He had a combined record of 9-13 for the Braves and Cardinals, and the next season was a combined 10-9 for the Cardinals and Chicago Cubs, after being traded in June for pitcher Glen Hobbie.

He split a 3-5 1965 season with the Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies. He closed out his career as a reliever for the California Angels, going a combined 8-2 with a 3.67 ERA in 73 appearances over two seasons.

Burdette retired after the 1967 season with a career record of 203-144 and a 3.66 ERA. He completed 158 games (out of 373 starts) with 33 shutouts over a career that amassed 3,067 innings. He was an All-Star twice.

 

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