from the Worcester (Mass.) Evening Gazette, Saturday, Feb. 13, 1926.
After withstanding the assaults of the batting stars for 26 years, Jesse Burkett's record of batting over the .400 mark for three years has finally been equaled and brings to light once more the wondrous skill of the Worcester man when in his prime. The new occupant of the lofty pedestal along with Jesse is Rogers Hornsby, star of the St. Louis National League team, on which, by a coincidence, Burkett played when he made one of his .400 batting averages.
In reaching Burkett's mark Hornsby established himself as the greatest batsman of all time, for he not only eclipsed the mark made by Jesse back in the last century, but also surpassed two other long standing records, that of the life time grand average of Dan Brouthers and of Hans Wagner in leading the National League for consecutive seasons. Hornsby also leads Burkett in the grand averages for the three years in which both went over the .400 mark by a margin of .005.
Hornsby hit .401 in 1922, .424 in 1924, and .423 last season, a grand average of .416, as against the grand average of .411 for Jesse's three big years. Burkett hit .421 in 1895 instead of the .423 he is usually credited with, .410 in 1896, both years as a member of the famous Tebeau Cleveland team, .402 in 1899 as a member of the same team which that year was transferred from Cleveland to St. Louis.
Hornsby excelled Dan Brouthers' life time average of .353 by 15 points, while the Wagner record to go into history was made when the Dutchman led the league four years in succession in 1906, 1907, 1908 and 1909.
When one considers that during the period over which Burkett's record stood there were such sterling batsmen as Ed Delehanty, Billy Keeler, Hugh Jennings, the peerless Lajoie, Hans Wagner, Fred Clarke, Joe Kelly, Elmer Flick, and others of rare skill all shooting at the figures it gives one some idea of what a star with the bludgeon Burkett really was.
Naturally, the question arises: What would Burkett have done with the lively ball of today, instead of the slower one in use when he was in his prime? Was the pitching of Jesse's day as good as that of the current time?
The answer to the first query will always be open to controversy, but as to the pitching the writer believes Burkett batted his best in the golden era of pitching, against such stars as Rusie, Clarkson, Clark Griffith, Joe Corbett, Sadie McMahon, Jouett Meakin, Bill Dineen, Joe McGinnity, Jack Stivetts, Charley Nichols, Harry Staley, Esper, Tony Mullane, not to mention other outstanding boxmen.
The writer does not recall that Jess ever batted against Mathewson, for the latter came into his own after Burkett had left the National League to play with the Americans at St. Louis and Boston.
Still, the partial list named gives some idea of what pitching Burkett had to contend with. Then, too, pitchers were not under the restrictions of the present day. They had greater latitude in their work making for greater effectiveness.
Hornsby is a freer hitter than Burkett was, according to the averages and to him must go the credit of the super batman of all time in the National League.
Jesse Burkett was born Dec. 4, 1868, at Wheeling, W. Va. He first played professionally in 1888 with the Scranton club of the Central league as a pitcher. His next engagement was with the Worcester club of the Atlantic association in 1899. He took part as a pitcher in 49 championship games. His good work both at the bat and in the pitching box helped the Worcester club to win the championship of the Atlantic association. His release was purchased by the Indianapolis club of the National league, and Burkett finished the season of 1889 with them.
A deal was completed during the winter of 1889-90 whereby the players of the Indianapolis club were released to the New York club. Burkett was one of the players thus transferred. In 1889, he joined as an outfielder, the Lincoln club of the Western association, and ranked fourth in its official batting averages. He remained with that club until Aug. 15, when he joined the Cleveland club of the National league, and finished the season with that team.
His excellent work both at the bat and in the outfield, led to his re-engagement with the Cleveland club for the season of 1892. That year he batted for .280, in 1893 for .372, in 1894 for .356, and in 1895 led the league with a batting average of .423, and was the only man who batted for .400 or over. In this year, Delehanty was second with .399 and Keeler third with .394. In 1896 Burkett again led the league with .410 and again was the only one who batted above .400. Jennings second with .397, Delehanty third with .394, and Keeler, fourth with .392. In 1897, he was still a top-notcher, hitting for .385, Keeler leading with .432, Fred Clarke, .404, Joe Kelley, .389, Jack Stivetts .388. In 1899 he was again a .400 man, being second to Delehanty, .402 to .408. In 1900 his percentage was .360 and he ranked fourth. Wanger led with .380, Flick .374, and Keeler .376. In 1901, he again led with .382 to .357, for Delehanty, and .358 for Keeler. In the American league in 1902, he batted for .306, in 1903 for .296, in 1904 for .273 and in 1905 with the Boston Americans he hit for .257.
Burkett purchased his own release from the Boston American team in 1906 in order to be eligible to play with Worcester.
From the vertical file of Ohio County Public Library, provided by the National Baseball Hall of Fame library.
Picture of Burkett from 1890s that accompanied the article
Service provided by the staff of the Ohio County Public Library in partnership with and funded in part by the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation.