Great Braves Through The Ages: Lew Burdette

In his latest "Great Braves Through The Ages", Dan Pace takes a look at the illustrious career of pitching phenom Lew Burdette.

In 1951 the Braves and the Yankees were two historic franchises in two very different places. The Yankees had won back to back world championships in 1949 and 1950 and had won 3 of the last 4 World Series. The Braves were 3 seasons removed from their World Series loss to the Indians in 1948 and were struggling to wrestle fans away from the crosstown Red Sox.

On August 28th of that season the Braves traded aging ace Johnny Sain to the Yankees in exchange for fifty thousand dollars and a young pitcher named Lew Burdette. It would be a trade that woud haunt the Yankees only 6 years later but we'll get into that a little later.

Lew Burdette was born on November 22nd 1926 in Nitro, WV. He made his major league debut on September 26th 1950 with the New York Yankees. Burdette got into 2 games that season for the Yanks pitching a total of 1 and 1/3 innings and giving up one run. Lew ended the season with no wins, no losses and no strikeouts.

After being traded to the Braves in August of 1951 the Braves called him up from the minors. Playing in 3 games for the Braves Lew pitched 4 1/3 innings giving up 3 runs, with 5 walks and 1 strikeout.

1952 would be Lew's first full major league season. Pitching mostly out of the pen Burdette got into 45 games for the Braves starting in only 9. That season Lew pitched 137 innings and had 47 strikeouts, 47 walks and a era of 3.61.

In 1953 the Braves moved to Milwaukee and Lew found himself once again pitching mostly out of the bullpen. In 46 games he only started in 13. But Burdette had a breakthrough season. Winning 15 games and losing only 5 he pitched 175 innings and had 58 strikeouts, 56 walks and a 3.24 era.

Lew pitched almost exclusively in the starting rotation for the Braves in 1954. In 38 games he was the starting pitcher 32 times. With a record of 15 wins, 14 losses he pitched 238 innings with 79 stirkeouts and 62 walks. Lew's 2.76 era was second best in the NL while his 4 shutouts were also second in the league.

In 1955 Lew started in 33 of his 42 games pitched. Posting a 13 and 8 record Lew had 70 strikeouts, 73 walks and a 4.03 era.

The season of 1956 Lew put together his strongest season yet. Burdette had 19 wins and led the league in era with 2.70 and shutouts with 6. He also had 110 strikeouts which was the first time in his career having 100 or more.

1957 would be another good season for Lew as he helped lead the Braves to thier first World Championship since 1914. Burdette had 17 wins, 14 complete games, 1 shutout and a 3.72 era. But Lew saved his best stuff for the World Series. The Braves took on the mighty Yankees who were led by former Braves manager Casey Stengel. The Milwaukee fans were rabid leading Stengel to call the city and fans "Bushville".

In the series Lew pitched 3 complete games and 2 shuouts. His 3rd complete game and 2nd complete game came in game seven of the series. Fellow Braves ace Warren Spahn was to start game seven but was put out of action by the flu. Burdette going on only 2 days rest limited the Yankees to 7 hits and no runs in 9 innings. The Braves won thier first World Series in 43 seasons. Burdete finished the series 3-0 with a 0.67 era, 13 strikeouts, 4 walks, 3 complete games and 2 shutouts gaining him the World series MVP award. The popular saying around Milwaukee was "Bushville Wins!".

Lew continued his great pitching in 1958. He won 20 games for the first time in his career, his 2.91 era was 3rd best in the NL, his 3 shutouts were 2nd best in the NL and he had 19 complete games which were 3rd best in the league. Burdette finished 3rd in voting for the Cy Young award which at the time was for both leagues.

The Braves once again took on the New York Yankees in the World Series. This time the Yankees figured out Lew. Burdette finished the series with 1 win and 2 losses. He had 12 strikeouts, 4 walks and gave up 14 runs in only 22 and 1/3 innings giving him a series era of 5.64. The Yankees went on to win the series 4 games to 3. It would be the Braves last World series appearance until 1991.

In 1959 Lew would tie with teammate Warren Spahn for the NL lead in wins with 21. His 20 complete games were 2nd best in the NL whie his 4 shuouts led the league. The Braves would end the regular season tied with the Dodgers for the NL pennant. So the Braves and Dodgers met in a best of 3 NL Championship series. The Braves put up a good fight losing game 1 of the series 3-2. In game 2 the Braves went into the 9th inning with a 5-2 lead but the Dodgers tie the game and win it in the 12th. Giving the Dodgers the NL pennant.

Lew would go on to win 19 games in 1960, 18 in 1961 and 10 in 1962. On June 15th 1963 the Braves traded Burdette to the Cardinals for first baseman Gene Oliver and pitcher Bob Sadowski.

Burdette would go on to pitch for the Cardinals, Cubs, Phillies and Angels before retiring after the 1967 season at the age of 40. Lew was voted to the Braves hall of fame in 2000 and continues to appear at Braves hall of fame inductions.

Lew Burdette career Braves stats:
Games: 468
Wins: 179
Complete games: 146
Shutouts: 30
Strikeouts: 923
Era: 3.53

Lew Burdette Career stats:
Games: 626
Wins: 203
Complete games: 158
Shutouts: 33
Strikeouts: 1,074
Era: 3.66

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