Friday, August 12, 2011

#223 - Jeff Burroughs

I always loved this action shot of Jeff Burroughs at Oakland. We would get it back in '75 as part of the MVP set and I thought this card and the Garvey one looked great together. When this photo was taken Jeff was a rising power hitter in a difficult park, but there was no indication he was heading into an MVP year. Jeff was the number one draft choice in '69 so it's fitting that he's only a couple cards removed from Tim Foli, the number one choice of '68. This seems a more representative card of Jeff; in his earlier shots he was always sporting blonde hair like the California surf dude he may have been back home.

Per the recent trend Burroughs was a multi-sport star in Long Beach, California. He then attended Long Beach City College and it was from there he was drafted by the Senators. He killed that year in Rookie ball, hitting .355 with eight homers and 47 RBIs in under 200 at bats. He also drew rave reviews from Senators manager Ted Williams. Jeff then jumped up to Triple A Denver where he had a pretty good power year and a lot of strikeouts. But Jeff wasn't a free swinger, like most power guys. In fact he was a very selective one and would frequently get two called strikes while waiting for his pitch which meant he wasn't even swinging until he got deep into the count. He would improve on his offensive numbers the next couple seasons at Denver, wrangling his K's a bit, and putting up good OBA numbers (his lifetime in the minors was about .390). In '71 he enjoyed a bunch of time up top for his rookie season and did ok, but the strikeouts were an issue so he spent most of '72 back at Denver. He then returned up top for all of '73, controlled the K's, and got everyone very excited with his homer and RBI totals. He went on a mid-season power binge, hitting three grand slams in ten days.

1974 would be Burroughs' shining moment as he won MVP based on his .301 average, 25 homers, 118 RBIs, and .397 OBA. He continued as the offensive leader on a team that challenged Oakland for the division down to the last couple days of the season. Only 23, he was being compared to Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, and other HOF-bound sluggers. Then frustration set in. Arlington Stadium was a notoriously nasty place to hit homers in, especially to right-center, Jeff's preferred alley. There was a very strong wind that blew from right to left field and many shots that would be homers there just became long outs. It was estimated that even in '74 Jeff hit 13 there that would have been over the fence elsewhere. Billy Martin's magic wore off and Texas did not perform nearly as well. Those two factors, combined with Jeff's selectivity at the plate forced him to try to become a pull hitter to compensate with not so great results the next two seasons. While he averaged 24 homers and 90 RBIs in '75 and '76 his strikeouts zoomed in the first year to an AL-leading 155 and his average plunged to .232 with a .315 OBA. After the '76 season the Rangers gave up an sent him to Atlanta for Adrian Devine, Ken Henderson, Dave May, Carl Morton, and cash.

For the Braves Burroughs revived. Finally in a hitters' park with no winds to battle, he upped his average to .271 with 41 homers and 114 RBIs. The Braves were pretty dreadful back then and while '77 was a pretty high strikeout year - 126 - in '78 the pitchers wised up and threw around him. Jeff also obliged management by becoming more of a line drive hitter. It paid off as he was leading the NL in hitting by the All-Star break - he was selected - and finished the season with a .301 average and a league-leading 117 walks and .432 OBA. The next two seasons Jeff spent a bunch of time on the DL and his average came way down. Before the '81 season he went to Seattle for Carlos Diaz. There he DH'd for a season before leaving as a free agent to go to Oakland. For the A's he enjoyed two pretty good years - .274 with a .355 OBA - as their regular DH before injuries took him out of pretty much all the '84 season. He then spent most of '85 in Toronto for his final season. Jeff finished hitting .261 with 240 homers, 882 RBIs, and a .355 OBA. He got into a game as a pinch-hitter in the '85 AL playoffs. He also was selected to two All-Star teams.

After playing Burroughs rather famously became a Little League coach back in California, also publishing books on coaching kids. In '92 and '93 he won the Little League World Series with a team on which his son Sean was a star pitcher and hitter. They became the first father-son duo to win that Series as Jeff had done so as a Pony League player as well. Sean would also go on to be a first rounder, put up a couple good seasons for the Padres in the early 2000's and then get into some serious drinking and other problems. He later revived and put some time in this year in Arizona and is currently playing for their Triple A club. In the meantime Jeff continued coaching - I cannot find out what else he has done professionally - and this year threw out the first pitch at opening day for the Rangers.


Big bonus for a big guy. Jeff is the second guy who would list watching TV in his cartoon - Jim Holt was the other - both of whom would later have weight issues while playing. That's a message for the kids out there.

Surprisingly this one goes through the AL:

1. Burroughs and Gene Clines '76 Rangers;
2. Clines and Ramon Hernandez '71 to '74 Pirates.

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