Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms ofThe Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.
Did a gold-digger wind up with Jimmy Burke’s 1932 Yankees World Series ring, or was it a gift to a long-time caring friend?
I found myself pondering that after I read a mid-1943 report in The Sporting News concerning the disbursement of the estate of long-time professional ballplayer, manager and coach Sunny Jim Burke.
Burke had played professionally all over the Midwest between 1896-1913, and been a major league manager with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1905 and the Browns, 1918-20 (he was the only man to manage both St. Louis major league teams). He was an off-and-on minor league manager between 1906-25, mostly in the American Association.
He was a major league coach for the Tigers (1912, 1914-18), Red Sox (1921-24) and Cubs (1926-30) before moving over to the N.Y. Yankees with Joe McCarthy in 1931. Burke’s baseball career ended when he suffered a stroke after the 1933 season, rendering him an invalid until the time of his death of pneumonia in a St. Louis hospital on March 26, 1942.
More than a year later, this news brief appeared in the "Caught on the Fly" column . . .
Miss Nellie Smith, former executor of the estate of the late Jimmy Burke, who managed both the St. Louis Cardinals and Browns and served as coach of the New York Yankees, was charged with concealing more than $83,000 of assets in the estate in an action filed in probate court in St. Louis, May 29, by William Gauvin, trust officer of the Tower Grove Bank and Trust Co.
In a petition for citation for concealment of assets, Gauvin stated he had good reason to believe that Miss Smith, a friend of Burke, is "withholding and concealing $83,000 in deeds of trust believed to have been held by Burke, $1,500 in bonds, a diamond ring presented to Burke by the New York Yankees and a watch given him by Louisville baseball fans."
|Burke was manager at|
Indianapolis in 1909 when
this T206 card was issued.
The inventory of the estate was filed by Miss Smith six weeks after his death, March 26, 1942, and was listed at $10,845. Three days later 13 relatives sued to have the will set aside, alleging Burke was not of sound and disposing mind when it was drawn. The bank has replaced Miss Smith as executor.
Scouring of The Sporting News for a number of months after the initial account, and a desultory google-search on the topic failed to turn up any further mention of the affair. The disposition of his Yankees ring is unrecorded.
During his playing and managing days, Burke had the reputation of being a fighter. In his days with the Cardinals, Burke had trouble with a St. Louis sportswriter named Joe Finnegan. In September of 1904, after Finnegan had called Burke "a cow's foot," (apparently those were fighting words a century ago), the two mixed it up at the Victoria Hotel in Chicago.
The Pittsburgh Press provided this colorful blow-by-blow of the fight:
“First round–Burke hit Finnegan in the lobby, and followed the blow with a left hook on the back of the neck, breaking the scribe’s collar. Burke pressed the advantage and struck Finnegan near the cigar stand. Finnegan blocked cleverly, uppercut with the left and caught Burke in the snout. Finnegan crossed his right and landed on Jimmy’s potato-trap. Burke jolted Finnegan in the rotunda and followed with a short swing near the Turkish parlor. Finnegan shot the right to the ear, and the left to the lamp. They clinched. Terrific short-arm fighting, completely wrecking Finnegan’s collar and cuff. Johnny Farrell separated the men. Time.
—The house detective threw both fighters out in the alley. Time. Decision to Finnegan.”