November 18, 1916|
|Died: December 29, 2004
|April 21, 1945, for the St. Louis Cardinals|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 25, 1949, for the Cincinnati Reds|
|Earned run average||3.84|
Kenneth William Burkhart (born Burkhardt) (November 18, 1916 – December 29, 2004) was an American right-handed pitcher and umpire in Major League Baseball. From 1945 through 1949 he played for the St. Louis Cardinals (1945–48) and Cincinnati Reds (1948–49), and he served as a National League umpire from 1957 to 1973.
The Knoxville, Tennessee native posted a 27–20 record with 181 strikeouts and a 3.84 earned run average in 5192⁄3 innings pitched. He posted an 18–8 mark as a Cardinals rookie in 1945, with 22 starts and 20 relief appearances; his 18 victories and .692 winning percentage each tied him for third in the National League, while his 2.90 ERA ranked him seventh, but an ailing throwing arm ended his season prematurely, and he increasingly worked from the bullpen afterwards. As a pitcher, since he lacked a speedy fastball, he relied on an "oddly breaking knuckleball"  for much of his success. On July 26, 1948, Burkhart was traded by St. Louis to the Reds in exchange for first baseman Babe Young. He appeared in 11 games for the Reds in 1949 and retired at the end of the season.
Following his playing career, Burkhart developed as a well-regarded umpire. He worked in three World Series (1962, 1964 and 1970), serving as crew chief in 1970, and in the 1972 National League Championship Series. He umpired in four All-Star Games (second 1959 game, second 1962 game, 1967 and 1973), and also umpired in no-hitters on consecutive days in 1968 for Gaylord Perry (September 17) and Ray Washburn (September 18). On May 11, 1963 he was umpiring at second base when Sandy Koufax pitched his second no-hitter, and on June 21, 1964 he was at third base when Jim Bunning of the Philadelphia Phillies pitched a 6–0 perfect game against the New York Mets. Burkhart officiated in eight no-hitters overall, then one short of the record for NL umpires, but did not work behind the plate for any of them. He was, however, behind the plate on July 12, 1962 when brothers Tommie and Hank Aaron both hit home runs in the ninth inning to propel the Milwaukee Braves to an 8–6 win, with Hank's grand slam winning the contest.
Burkhart was involved in a controversial play in Game 1 of the 1970 World Series when he collided with Baltimore Orioles catcher Elrod Hendricks in a close play at home plate. With one out in the sixth inning and two Cincinnati Reds runners on base – Tommy Helms at first and Bernie Carbo at third – pinch-hitter Ty Cline batted a pitch off Jim Palmer in front of the plate. Burkhart stepped forward to call a fair ball and found himself caught in the middle of a play when Hendricks – who initially intended to throw out Cline at first base – instead snatched up the ball and spun around in an attempt to tag out Carbo, who was speeding home. Hendricks tagged Carbo with his mitt while holding the ball in his other hand. Burkhart, who was knocked to the ground and had his back to the play, was obviously distracted during the collision and called Carbo out on contact, although replays showed that Hendricks tagged Carbo with an empty glove and Carbo missed the plate. Reds manager Sparky Anderson ran out of the dugout and argued with Burkhart about the play. Carbo touched home plate incidentally when he headed back to the dugout and thus should have been called safe. The score remained tied at 3–3, with the Orioles eventually winning 4–3.
Burkhart was inducted to the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1982. He died of emphysema in Knoxville at age 89, and was buried in that city's Woodlawn Cemetery; he was the last surviving major league umpire who had previously played in the majors.
- The Sporting News. October 23, 1946
- Coberly, Rich (1985). The No-Hit Hall of Fame: No-Hitters of the 20th Century. Newport Beach, CA: Triple Play. p. 142. ISBN 0-934289-00-X.
- Coberly, p. 143.
- Coberly, p. 122.
- Coberly, p. 127.
- Dittmar, Joseph J. (1990). Baseball's Benchmark Boxscores. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. pp. 136–38. ISBN 0-89950-488-4.
- "Ken Burkhart, 88; Umpire Noted for Disputed Call". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. 2005-01-01. p. B15.
- See list.