Lew Burdette or Lou Burdette
September 14, 2010
by William Szczepanek
Baseball cards did much to confuse the youth of America in the 1950s and 1960s. Errors were prolific and most could understand that those things can happen. But, nothing was more confusing to me than seeing cards of Lew Burdette, or should I say "Lou" Burdette. My first card of Lew Burdette was from 1956. His name was spelled "Lew". In 1957 his name was also spelled "Lew". In subsequent years all of his cards displayed his name as "Lou". In 1958 his card had "Lou" on the front and "Lew" on the back. So, I thought the 1956 and 1957 cards were in error. His name is even spelled "Lou" on the 1958 #289 combo card with Bobby Shantz. Burdette 6' 2" towers over the 5' 6" Shantz.
For his picture on his 1959 Topps baseball card, Lew Burdette grabbed Warren Spahn's glove and posed as a lefty. As a youth it confused me to no end. Burdette is righthanded, isn't he? Did Topps reverse the picture, which was not uncommon? No, everything else looked good.
It seems like after Burdette played the joke, Topps went one further and would never spell his name correctly again. But, even before this time in the baseball Bowman Card Collector series of 1953 and 1954, "Lou" is shown on the back of the card. So, who is joking who?
Burdette's 1954 Bowman card shows a signature of Selva L. Burdette Jr. Burdette's name is Selva Lewis Burdette, Jr. so his name is "Lew", not "Lou" for Louis.
You can call me Lou or you can call me Lew, in either event he
was a star pitcher for the Braves in the 1950s. His 3 wins, 2 by
shutouts over the powerful Yankees in the 1957 World Series will
go down as one of the most dominating pitching performances in
World Series history, winning by scores of 4-2, 1-0 and 5-0, all
of which were complete games. Game seven was pitched with only 2
He was known as a spitball pitcher, but he was never caught throwing the pitch. He also had a wicked screwball in his arsenal to complement his fastball, sinker and slider. Jocko Conlan, a Hall of Fame umpire, would say that Burdette never threw a spitball. It was all psychological.
Burdette was a practical joker. Whether it was to put a garter snake in a coat pocket , then ask for match, or tie someone's shoelaces together, or to light a match to someone's newspaper, he kept everyone on their toes.
In 1961 Orlando Cepeda was hitting everything Burdette fed him. Burdette had catcher Sammy White tell Cepeda what each pitch would be. Cepeda complained to the umpire. The ump said there was no rule against it. Burdette retired Cepeda every time up that day.
On May 26, 1959 Harvey Haddix of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitched a perfect game against Milwaukee for 12 innings, but lost in the 13th. Burdette went all 13 innings giving up 12 hits, but getting his shutout and win. When Burdette called Haddix to let him know that Haddix deserved the win, Haddix hung up on him.
On August 18, 1960, Burdette pitched a 1–0 no-hitter against the Phillies. He faced only 27 batters. He hit Tony Gonzalez with a pitch, but he was erased on a double play.
Burdette was one of the best control pitchers of all time. His career average of 1.84 walks per nine innings pitched places him behind only Robin Roberts (1.73), Carl Hubbell (1.82) and Juan Marichal (1.82).
You can check out Burdette's stats at Baseball-Reference.com.