Ballplayer Burns and his Gloversville ties

Sports enthusiast Mike Hauser has a personal stake in advocating National Baseball Hall of Fame stat

Sports enthusiast Mike Hauser has a personal stake in advocating National Baseball Hall of Fame status for George Joseph Burns, who played his best years with the New York Giants. Burns was the brother of Hauser’s great-grandfather on his mother’s side.

Locally, Burns is being inducted into the Fulton County Baseball and Sports Hall of Fame on July 11 during the annual vintage baseball game.

Born in Utica in 1889, Burns lived in Little Falls and St. Johnsville before the family moved to Gloversville, where they operated a Main Street pool hall.

In 1910 Burns was in Utica watching the minor league Utica Harps. The Harps’ catcher didn’t show up and the team asked Burns to play. He did well and the team hired Burns as a catcher.

From there, he was spotted by the New York Giants and sat on the bench most of the 1911 season to absorb the wisdom of manager John McGraw. Because of his speed and strong throwing arm, McGraw assigned Burns to left field for the Giants in 1912.

Left field at the Polo Grounds became known as Burnsville. When he retired, his total of 1,844 games in the outfield ranked sixth in National League history. He stole home 21 times in his career, still a league record. Burns was one of the first baseball players to use sunglasses and wear a long-billed cap.

Burns led the league in runs scored in four seasons. He played in three World Series and in 1921 had a key role in game five. It was Babe Ruth’s first World Series as a New York Yankee and Ruth hit his only home run of the series in that game. But Burns hit a bases clearing double that won the game to trump Ruth’s home run.

Two months later, Burns was traded to the Cincinnati Reds. Hauser has a series of letters between Burns and the Reds that give an idea of major league salaries then. Cincinnati was offering $10,000 a year but Burns was holding out for $12,500.

Burns remained popular with the Giants and the team postponed its World Series celebration at the Polo Grounds until the first time Cincinnati visited for the season.

Burns returned to Gloversville with the Cincinnati Reds in 1923, playing a game against the local Elks team at Parkhurst Field.

In 1924 Cincinnati traded Burns to Philadelphia where he played for the legendary Connie Mack. Mack thought highly of Burns, according to Hauser, who quotes family sources as saying Mack would seek Burns out at ceremonies in Cooperstown even if the room included a bevy of more famous baseball stars.

Burns’ major league career ended in 1925 and from 1926 to 1930 he was a player-manager with minor league teams in Texas and Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

In 1930 he returned to Gloversville to work at the family pool hall. In 1937, he went back to the New York Giants for one season as a bench coach. He returned to Gloversville the next year and worked for Levor Tanneries as a payroll clerk from 1938 until his retirement in 1957.

Burns was married twice. His first wife died. They never had children. His second wife had children of her own. In later years, Burns spent time as an umpire where he impressed younger players with his speed. Burns died in 1966 at age 76 and is buried in Mount Carmel Cemetery off Route 29.

George Joseph Burns the outfielder is sometimes confused with George Henry Burns, a first baseman who was born in 1893 in Ohio and who played in the American League.

Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Anyone with a suggestion for a Focus on History topic may contact him at 346-6657 or [email protected].

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply