Watch Burnham

  • Card series: Beginnings: 1880's
  • City: Indianapolis
  • Team: Hoosiers (NL)
  • League: National League

George Walter Burnham (1860-1902) was lured from the ranks of National League umpires to become the first manager of the new Indianapolis Hoosiers franchise when John Brush brought the beleaguered St Louis Maroons to a joyous community. “Watch” thus became a key figure in the sad saga of major league baseball in Indiana. The club lost every one of its arduous 22-game road trip and floundered all of the 1887 inaugural year. Burnham thought fining all the players might improve morale but captain Jack Glasscock mutinied. The Chicago Tribune reported the fear that “someday the men will decline to go on the field.” Days later Brush replaced Watch with another manager with no playing or managing experience and would try yet another neophyte, a sportswriter, before that dismal season mercifully ended with a 37-89 record. Burnham’s reputation preceded him to the Hoosiers and gave pause. The nickname was said to have derived from George’s failed attempt at self-promotion by presenting himself with an engraved watch during a Cleveland game in ‘83 that he was umpiring.

  • Watch’s total experience officiating was 107 games scattered over five seasons between ‘83 and ‘95. He called Old Hoss Radbourn’s no-hitter on July 25, 1883
  • The Hoosiers’ prospect finally seemed ready to improve in 1889 with the arrival of Amos Rusie. Sadly for the city, Brush parlayed his investment into a lucrative career with the Reds and Giants by dumping the woebegone Hoosiers after their third losing season

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