By Thomas Best
Today, I will wrap up the story of one of two young men from Roseville, Illinois who fulfilled their dream of playing major league baseball.
Larry Burright, who had shown glimpses of outstanding talent since the days of playing high school and college baseball in California, as well as in the minor leagues, had by the mid-summer of 1962, shown himself a viable candidate for “Rookie of the Year” honors with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
As I described last time, Burright, had turned second base into his dominion where he held court for growing numbers of fans. Hitting and fielding at a clip that would be the envy of many a talented veteran, he was increasingly receiving glowing praise from his astute manager Walter Alston.
Unfortunately, from mid-season onward, it appears that Burright struggled. Had pitchers figured out that he couldn’t adjust to a certain type of pitch or was something psychological at play? What I do know is that by the end of this 1962 season, he had started 69 games at second base, and batted a disappointing .205 with just a lowly .264 on-base percentage. He further banged out a meager 6 doubles, 5 triples, and 4 home runs. Even his speed and base running flash was diminished to 4 stolen bases along with 3 times being caught. At least his defensive skills gave him some optimism as in 397 chances to field the ball, he produced 206 assists and helped with 35 double plays. Only 15 errors came from these nearly 400 attempts.
The most unfortunate event for Burright, however, came in the 1962 National League tie-breaker series with the San Francisco Giants to earn a trip to the World Series. He made a critical error which gave his opponents a valuable insurance run in their 6-4 victory over their rivals. It his second error of this crucial match.
The resulting consequence? Burright was traded in the off-season to the newly formed New York Mets in a multi-player trade. As had happened at the start of 1962, Burright got hot early. By mid-April 1963, the famous baseball commentator Red Smith, considered Burright’s performance worthy of the “Best show in town.” Unfortunately, Burright once more regressed. After just 41 games in 1963, he wasn’t hitting was lackluster and well and was soon back in the Met’s minor league system.
In 1964, Burright tried his luck with San Diego in the Pacific Coast League, where he hit an even more disappointing .190. Given several more chances in the minors at Buffalo and Rochester, New York, and with some improvement, the Mets gave him one last chance. But in just 3 games and 7 trips to the plate he could not muster a single base hit. That was it for 1964. In 1965, he tried again to show his abilities in Buffalo. But after 43 games, he was batting only .174, Burright must have seen his decline as something permanent and decided to retire.
What he did next is still uncertain. I do know that he once had aspirations of becoming an engineer. I have attempted to contact, the still living baseball star, but I have yet to hear back from the soon to be 86 year-old Burright, who appears to be still living in California. I hope to still hear from him.
Thank you for your interest.