Tex Burnett


“A catcher must want to catch. He must make up his mind that it isn't the terrible job it is painted, and that he isn't going to say every day, 'Why, oh why with so many other positions in baseball did I take up this one.'”
--Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey
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Negro Leaguer of the Month
August, 2006

Fred "Tex" Burnett

Born: ca. 1900 in Texas

Died: ?
Ht:5'-9", Wt: 170
Batted both and threw right
Position: catcher, first base, of, manager
Years: 1920-1946
Teams: Pittsburgh Keystones, Indianapolis ABCs, N.Y. Lincolns, Harrisburg Giants, Atlantic City Bacharachs, Brooklyn Royal Giants, N.Y. Black Yankees, Baltimore Black Sox, Homestead Grays, Newark Dodgers, Brooklyn Eagles, Newark Eagles, Pittsburgh Crawfords, Nashvile Cubs.

Tex Burnett was the Henry Blanco of the Negro Leagues. If you're never heard of Blanco, a Major League journeyman, it's understandable, because he changes teams like average players change their socks.

Burnett, who grew up in Texas (hence the nickname), was a strong-armed catcher, with an average bat. He was generally a back-up catcher, doing most of his work in non-league games, and the most common reason for his frequent dismissals was his inability to control his temper.

Burnett's biggest claim to fame, though, because he played for so many strong teams, was that he was priveledged to catch some of the greatest pitchers in black baseball history. The list includes: Leon Day, Double Duty Radcliffe, Smokey Joe Williams, Max Manning, Raymond Brown, Roy Partlow, Bill Holland, Ted Trent, Luther Farrell, Bun Hayes, Jonas Gaints, William Bell, Roy Williams, Satchel Paige, Terris McDuffie and Connie Rector.

Incomplete stats show Burnett with occasional season averages in the high .300s or mid .100s, but he usually was good for a .250 average with medium power.

In 1935, Burnett was the third-string catcher for the Brooklyn Eagles, behind Double Duty Radcliffe and Dennis Gilchrist. When Radcliffe jumped the team mid-season, Burnett got more playing time and batted close to .300 for a mediocre team.

in 1937, Burnett became the manager of the Eagles, now out of Newark, and was fortunate to have a pitcher, Leon Day, who didn't lose a game all season. Depite decent success, Burnett was replaced by Dick Lundy at the end of the year. In fact, he Eagles had four different managers in 3-1/2 seasons.

Catchers, because they are the field generals of their teams, and because it takes smarts to be a good catcher, often make good managers, and the Negro Leagues had many great catcher-managers over the years: Burnett, Double Duty Radcliffe, Quincy Trouppe and Biz Mackey to name a few. The Major Leagues have boasted many too: Joe Torre, Yogi Berra, Bob Boone, Roger Bresnahan.

In 1940, Burnett took over the managerial position for the New York Black Yankees, and was not very successful, finishing fifth out of six teams in their division. He was a respected manager, though, and in 1942 was chosen by Vic Harris to be one of his coaches for the East in the East-West All-Star game.

In the 7th inning of that game, with the tying run on second and two outs, Harris asked Burnett who he thought couuld come in and relieve. Tex recommended Leon Day, who got of the inning without a run scoring, then k'd 5 of the last 6 batters in 8th and 9th to win the game.

Not much is known about Tex in retirement, and his date of death has not been determined.

 


 

XXX


 




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