Burgess in about 1953.
February 6, 1927|
Caroleen, North Carolina
|Died: September 15, 1991
Rutherfordton, North Carolina
|April 19, 1949 for the Chicago Cubs|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 1, 1967 for the Chicago White Sox|
|Run batted in||673|
|Career highlights and awards|
Forrest Harrill "Smoky" Burgess (February 6, 1927 – September 15, 1991) was an American professional baseball player, coach and scout. He played in Major League Baseball as a catcher from 1949 to 1967. Later in his career, he became known for his ability as a pinch hitter, setting the major league career record for career pinch-hits with 145. In his playing days, he stood 5'8" (173 cm), weighed 188 pounds (85 kg), batted left-handed and threw right-handed.
Born in Caroleen, North Carolina, Burgess was signed as an amateur free agent by the Chicago Cubs in 1944. In 1947, he led the Tri-State League with a .387 batting average. He followed that by leading the Southern Association with a .386 average in 1948. Burgess made his major league debut at the age of 22 with the Chicago Cubs on April 19, 1949. In October 1951, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, who promptly traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies for catcher Andy Seminick before the start of the 1952 season. With the Phillies, he platooned alongside the right-hand hitting Stan Lopata. He had his best season in 1954, when he had a .368 batting average in 108 games for the Phillies, earning his first All-Star Game selection.
At the beginning of the 1955 season, he was once again traded for Andy Seminick and returned to Cincinnati, where he finally got the chance to play every day. He rose to the occasion, hitting for a .306 batting average for the rest of the season along with 20 home runs and 77 runs batted in, gaining his second consecutive berth on the National League All-Star team. On July 29, 1955, Burgess hit three home runs and had nine runs batted in during a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Burgess began the 1956 season as the Reds' starting catcher, but when the team faltered early in the season, Reds manager Birdie Tebbetts decided to shake things up and replaced Burgess with a younger man, Ed Bailey.
In 1959, Burgess was traded along with Harvey Haddix and Don Hoak to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Whammy Douglas, Jim Pendleton and John Powers. Burgess was the Pirates catcher on May 26, 1959 when Haddix took a perfect game into the 13th inning against the Milwaukee Braves before losing the game. Burgess also won a World Series with the Pirates in 1960, batting .333 in the seven-game series.
By 1963, Jim Pagliaroni had taken over as the Pirates' starting catcher and in late 1964, Burgess was acquired by the Chicago White Sox, who were in the heat of the pennant race. In his first plate appearance with the White Sox on September 15 against the Detroit Tigers, he hit a game-tying home run off pitcher Dave Wickersham. Over the next three years, he was used almost exclusively as a pinch hitter, appearing in just 7 games behind the plate. Burgess played his final major league game on October 1, 1967 at the age of 40.
During an eighteen-year major league career, Burgess played in 1,691 games hitting for a .295 career batting average with 126 home runs, 673 RBI and a .362 on-base percentage. He accumulated 1,318 career hits with 230 doubles and 33 triples. His .295 career batting average ranked him 10th among Major League catchers as of 2006. A six-time All-Star, Burgess led National League catchers in fielding percentage three times, in 1953, 1960 and 1961. His Major League record of 145 career pinch hits was broken by Manny Mota in 1979. Along with Curt Simmons, he was the last player to formally retire who had played in the major leagues in the 1940s (not counting Minnie Miñoso, who un-retired twice).
When his playing career ended, Burgess spent many years with the Atlanta Braves as a scout and minor league batting coach with the Pulaski Braves in Pulaski, VA. He was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 1975. He was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1978. Burgess died at age 64 in Rutherfordton, North Carolina.
- Smoky Burgess obituary at the New York Times
- George Vass, Baseball Digest, November 2004, Vol. 63, No. 11, ISSN 005-609X
- Jerry Beach, Baseball Digest, June 1999, Vol. 58, No. 6, ISSN 005-609X
- Smoky Burgess at Baseball Reference
- Smoky Burgess Trades and Transactions at Baseball Almanac
- 1947 Tri-State League Batting Leaders at Baseball Reference
- 1948 Southern Association Batting Leaders at Baseball Reference
- Catcher With The Highest Average, by Ed Rumill, Baseball Digest, December 1963, Vol. 10, ISSN 0005-609X
- 1954 All-Star Game at Baseball Reference
- 1955 All-Star Game at Baseball Reference
- July 29, 1955 Pirates-Reds Box Score at Baseball Reference
- Bailey- Next Catching Great?, by Bob Pile, Baseball Digest, August 1956, Vol. 15, No. 7, ISSN 0005-609X
- May 26, 1959 Pirates-Braves Box Score at Baseball Reference
- May 26, 1959 Pirates-Braves Box Score at Baseball Almanac
- 1960 World Series at Baseball Reference
- Smoky Burgess post-season batting statistics at Baseball Reference
- September 15, 1964 White Sox-Tigers box score at Baseball Reference
- Career Batting Leaders for catchers at Encyclopedia of Baseball
- Baseball Digest, July 2001, P.86, Vol. 60, No. 7, ISSN 0005-609X
- Smoky Burgess at the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame
- Smoky Burgess at the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame
- Baseball Library - profile and chronology
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference
- The Deadball Era
- Smoky Burgess obituary at the New York Times
- Catcher With A Belly, by Frank Yeutter, Baseball Digest, May 1953
- let Me Have Men About Me That Are Fat..., by Walter Bingham, Sports Illustrated, June 22, 1959
- Catcher With The Highest Average, by Ed Rumill, Baseball Digest, December 1963
- The Buddha with the Clutch Touch, by Francis Stan, Baseball Digest, July 1966