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A MEAN HAND WITH A ROCK
Roy Terrell
October 21, 1957
Lew Burdette, who came out of the West Virginia hills to tame the dread Yankees in the World Series, is baseball's biggest paradox: killer and clown, with a touch of genius on the side
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October 21, 1957

A Mean Hand With A Rock

Lew Burdette, who came out of the West Virginia hills to tame the dread Yankees in the World Series, is baseball's biggest paradox: killer and clown, with a touch of genius on the side

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On the road, Spahn and Burdette room together. "Because we enjoy each other's humor," says Spahn. "Because no one else can stand us," says Burdette.

But the Braves do not really complain. "If that's what it takes to win ball games," they say, "we could use some more squirrels."

Undoubtedly one of baseball's worst hitters, Burdette was able to look back this summer through six long years to the last time he hit a home run, in 1951 when he was playing with San Francisco in the Coast League. But against Cincinnati on August 13, he hit not one but two. After the second, Lew puffed back to the bench and announced he was giving up home-run hitting.

"It's just too dang far," he said, "around those bases."

But beneath the clownish exterior on the one hand and the ornery, determined one on the other, Burdette is a man of many and diversified talents. He has driven a taxi, tarred roofs for a construction company, handled a public-relations job and is now vice-president of a real-estate firm in Sarasota, Florida, where for the last two years the Burdettes have made their off-season home.

He is an expert fisherman, a connoisseur of hillbilly and Dixieland music, a home repair man of repute ("Although, usually, when he gets through with cigaret lighters, they never work again," says Mrs. Burdette) and a singer ("This is questionable," says Spahn). Also an articulate and poised after-dinner speaker, a crossword-puzzle expert and, in fact, an expert on just about anything.

"If you want to know how much it usually snows in Alaska or what a salamander eats," says Joe Taylor, the Braves equipment manager, who really doesn't care for salamanders but is impressed nonetheless, "just ask Lew. He knows something about everything."

Burdette is also a deliverer of babies, a talent well hidden until Christmas Day, 1954, when the Burdettes' second child, Midge, was born in a police ambulance speeding toward a Milwaukee hospital.

"I'm in this ambulance with a cop and Mary tells me we're not going to make it in time," says Lew. "So I ask the cop, 'What'll I do?' And the cop says, 'See for yourself.' So 1 did and, by golly, I did all right."

TWO NORMAL BURDETTES

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