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Lew Burdette, 80; pitcher was MVP of 1957 World Series

February 07, 2007|From the Associated Press

Lew Burdette, most valuable player of the 1957 World Series when he pitched the Milwaukee Braves to their only championship, died Tuesday at his home in Winter Garden, Fla. He was 80 and had lung cancer.

A two-time All-Star and a member of the Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame, Burdette was 203-144 with a 3.66 earned-run average from 1950 to 1967. He also pitched a no-hitter.

Burdette's greatest success came in the 1957 World Series, when he went 3-0 with an 0.67 earned-run average while pitching three complete games against the New York Yankees. He capped his performance with a seven-hit shutout in Game 7 at Yankee Stadium, finishing a run of 24 straight scoreless innings.

Born Selva Lewis Burdette Jr. in Nitro, W.Va., on Nov. 22, 1926, he was called both "Lew" and "Lou." At 6 feet 2 and 180 pounds, he was an imposing figure on the mound who was suspected of throwing a spitball. But he was never caught and never admitted having done it.

He started his career with the Yankees and was traded to the Boston Braves for Johnny Sain during the 1951 season. He also spent time with the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies, and finished his career with the Angels. He was Atlanta's pitching coach in 1972-73.

Burdette went 17-9 in 1957, then took over the World Series. He beat the Yankees 4-2 in Game 2 and outpitched Whitey Ford for a 1-0 victory in Game 5. Burdette came back after two days' rest to clinch the title when teammate Warren Spahn became ill with the flu.

The next season Burdette was 20-10, again teaming with Spahn to pitch the Braves into the World Series against the Yankees. Burdette won Game 2 but, with chances to close out the championship, lost Game 5 and Game 7.

The right-hander led the National League with 21 wins in 1959, ERA (2.70) in 1956, and twice led the league in shutouts. He pitched a no-hitter against the Phillies on Aug. 18, 1960, and was the winning pitcher in a famous game in which Harvey Haddix of the Pittsburgh Pirates lost a perfect game in the 13th inning; Burdette went all 13 innings for the victory.

Burdette hit 12 home runs, including two off Sandy Koufax. The Braves star especially enjoyed swinging at the Los Angeles Coliseum, where the Dodgers played from 1958 to 1961. The reconfigured football stadium featured a left-field pole about 250 feet from home plate, along with a screen more than 40 feet high.

Burdette hit half of his career homers at the Coliseum, and lofted a fly ball over the screen for his only grand slam as part of a two-homer, five-RBI game against the Dodgers in 1958.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Ann; son Lewis; daughters Madge, Mary Lou Burdette-Wieloszynski and Elaina Fontana; a brother; a sister; eight grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

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