George J. Burns

  • Card series: Diamond Heads '15
  • City: New York
  • Team: Giants
  • League: National League

George Joseph Burns (1889-1966) was dubbed by his teammates “Silent George” for his reserved, soft-spoken manner. He might as well have been named “Anonymous George” as one of the greatest outfielders of his generation of whom few remember today. He retired holding records for leading the National League in runs scored five times, a Giants’ club single-season record for steals (62) that still stands, and top-ten ranking in games played and games in the outfield in MLB. The Utica native debuted with McGraw’s crew in 1911 and George quickly found a home in left at the Polo Grounds, mastering its odd angles and even conquering the dazzling afternoon glares, prompting scribes to dub the area Burnsville. He was one of the first to don sunglasses and his mates later described him as “the ‘greatest sun fielder’ in the history of the game.” Only Rogers Hornsby exceeded George’s total bases in 1917 and it wasn’t till Willie Mays 53 years later in 1972 that his career stolen base record for the Giants would be eclipsed. His last hurrah in NY was the 1921 Series. The team hadn’t won in October since 1905 and George hadn’t performed well in his previous attempts at post-season glory. But ’21 proved triumphant for Burns and his team as they beat the Yankees in the first Series between teams sharing the same home field. Babe Ruth had been phenomenal in the regular season but was hurt during the post-season and George got to wear the laurel wreath.

  • A renowned amateur boxer and wrestler, the diminutive Burns never backed down from invitations to grapple with his much more physically formidable teammate Jim Thorpe
  • Growing up in his father’s pool hall, Burns was a world-class pool player, but teammates wouldn’t play with him unless he agreed to play left-handed
  • McGraw traded Burns to the Reds two months after the ’21 World Series for Heinie Groh, but the speedy Burns wasn’t through. He set an NL record with his 28th steal of home in 1922
  • In fifteen ML seasons, Burns’ 2,077 hits produced a .287 career average and only Musial and Hornsby equaled his feat of leading the NL five-times in runs record

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