Tuesday, January 31, 2006

January 31st, 1893

George Burns Born

George Burns is sometimes included in lists of guys who inexplicably won the MVP Award, especially as it pertains to having robbed Babe Ruth in 1926. That year Burns put together a good year hitting .358 and drove in one hundred and fourteen runs, good for second in the league. Ruth meanwhile put together another Ruthian season, finishing second in the batting race with a .372, slugging forty-seven home runs (more than twice what the closest guy had; the Babe was practically playing a different game) and winning the OPS+ title by nearly seventy-five points. Ruth, however, failed to receive a single MVP vote so the award went to Burns instead. This isn't because of the foolishness of sports writers--not directly anyway--but instead because of a rule which existed in Major League Baseball for some time dictating that once a player had won a MVP Award (as Ruth did in 1923) he was thereafter ineligible to ever win it again. When one looks at Barry Bonds' six MVP Awards, it is important to remember that whatever else one thinks of the man, he would probably still be looking up at Ruth if not for that rule.

Burns was known as "Tioga George," which must've been after a place he grew up. Burns' listed place of birth is Niles, Ohio but I imagine 1893 records are a little shaky and he could've moved besides. According to my research, there are Tiogas in several states, although the closest to Burns' place-of-birth seem to be the ones in Pennsylvania and West Virginia which are about equidistant, or so it appears from my eyeballing Google Earth. The official Tioga, Pennsylvania web page makes no mention of Burns, so just which Tioga he was from may forever remain a mystery. And who knows, maybe he was just a big fan of bike seats.

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