Saturday, May 27, 2017

Meet the Brewers #37: Bob Burda

On June 9, 1970, Marvin Milkes reached out to the San Francisco Giants and lined up a small deal. It was so small that it was not even a trade -- just an outright contract sale in which the Giants offloaded spare outfielder Bob Burda to the Brewers. To add Burda to the roster, it appears that friend of the blog and all around good guy Ray Peters saw his major league time come to an end.

1994 Miller Brewing Commemorative Set
A note before I jump in: all the material in this biography was obtained from stories appearing in The Sporting News. Access to these archival materials is available through a website called "Paper of Record." More importantly, access to that website is included for no extra charge as a benefit of membership in SABR.

Edward Robert Burda was born in St. Louis on July 16, 1938. He attended high school in Chicago, however, as his father Edward was working as an assistant bank examiner for the Federal Reserve. As you would expect, Burda was an excellent amateur baseball player. He was a Junior American Legion star and, in 1956, was a member of the Meramec Caverns team that won the National Amateur Federation tournament.

Right after high school and according to The Sporting News, Burda pursued his education in engineering at the University of Illinois and was attending Illinois on an athletic scholarship. Later articles state that he actually was attending Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. 

Midway through his sophomore year of college, however, MLB repealed its "bonus baby" rule, which had required teams that paid a bonus/salary package over a certain amount to place the signed player on the major-league roster or have the player become a free agent. This led to teams splashing cash on players left and right -- such as the Orioles signing Dave Nicholson to a contract with a bonus of $150,000 at a time when the payroll for the whole major league team might reach $500,000.  

The St. Louis Cardinals spent heavily in the 1958 offseason on college players and signed three young outfielders to bonuses: Jimmy Beauchamp from Oklahoma State (who got a $50,000 bonus), Charlie James from Missouri (who received a $15,000 bonus to take him away from being a star running back who eventually was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame), and Burda, who received $25,000. 

Burda only had one card as a Brewer, so I felt like I needed to add a photo I found.
Articles out of Cardinal spring training in 1958 indicated that Burda was the most polished of the three players, as Burda showed a better approach at the plate. To be honest, that didn't really help him get to the major leagues more quickly. Burda made his major league debut with the Cardinals in 1962, but by that time James had passed him as had another young player: a centerfielder by the name of Curt Flood. The next spring, the Cardinals discarded Burda -- trading him to the Pittsburgh Pirates for catcher Cal Neeman.

Burda seemed to hit well everywhere he went in the minor leagues. He showed some power in 1963 and 1964 with Columbus, but all that got him was another trade -- this time to the Giants in early 1965 with Bob Priddy in exchange for Del Crandall. Burda yo-yoed between San Francisco and Triple-A Phoenix in 1965 and 1966 before sticking in Phoenix in 1967 and 1968. A successful 1968 led the Giants to carry Burda as a pinch-hitter in 1969, but a .230/.317/.391 slash line that year made him expendable when Milkes came calling.

Since the 1970 Brewers were not a great baseball team, Burda got the most at-bats of his baseball career in one season as a Brewer. He did not make much of those at bats -- .248/.303/.342 with 4 homers in 245 plate appearances. He showed a good eye at the plate, of course, with a contact-based approach: he walked 16 times and struck out 17 times.

After the 1970 season, the Brewers dumped Marvin Milkes as the GM. Bud Selig had allowed Milkes a year to see what he could do, and apparently Selig was not impressed. That led Selig to hire Frank "Trader" Lane as his GM. Dumping Burda in a trade back to the Cardinals was Lane's second move as GM. Burda played a year in St. Louis before being traded to the Boston Red Sox for Mike Fiore. After that 1972 season, the Red Sox released him and that was the end of the line.

I haven't been able to determine what Burda did after his release and retirement from baseball. It appears that Burda and his family enjoyed the Phoenix area thanks to his time in the minor leagues there and settled there after his retirement. If Mr. Burda or his family happen across this, I'd enjoy hearing from him.

Bob Burda has just one card as a Brewer -- the Miller Brewing commemorative set from 1994. By the time Topps got around to issuing a card for Burda in 1971, he was already a member of the Cardinals and his card reflected that. As a side note, though, Burda's number has been retired by the Brewers. He preceded Rick Auerbach and some guy named Robin Yount in wearing #19.

3 comments:

  1. Meramec Caverns was a mandated field trip visit for school kids in my neck of the woods-at least seemed to be

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  2. Not a Brewers fan so I knew nothing of this card. The color and MGD, combined with the Brewers, is so perfect.

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  3. May have to track one of these down because of the Bosox connection

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