Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, starting with the most recent one first.
Radhames Liz, pitcher for the 2015 Pirates. He signed with the Baltimore Orioles at age 19 in 2003 as an international amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic. He didn’t debut until 2005, beginning his pro career with a half season of Low-A with Delmarva of the South Atlantic League, and a half season of short-season ball with Aberdeen of the New York-Penn League. He had a 7-7, 2.86 record and 137 strikeouts in 94.1 innings over 21 starts that year, with much better results at the lower level. In 2006, he split the year between Frederick of the High-A Carolina League (16 starts), and Double-A Bowie of the Eastern League (ten starts). Liz went 9-6, 3.78 in 133.1 innings with 149 strikeouts, putting up better results at the lower level. In 2007, he pitched in Bowie until late August, going 11-4, 3.22 in 137 innings, with 161 strikeouts. He then made four starts and five relief appearances for the Orioles, going 0-2, 6.93, with 24 strikeouts in 24.2 innings. Liz pitched for the Orioles for three seasons from 2007-09, posting a 7.50 ERA over 110.1 innings, while making 21 starts and seven relief appearances. Most of his playing time came during the 2008 season, when he went 6-6, 6.72 in 84.1 innings over 17 starts. He spent half of the year with Triple-A Norfolk of the International League, going 3-7, 3.62 in 87 innings, with 85 strikeouts. The 2009 season saw him spend part of the year back with Bowie, going 4-1, 2.63 in 48 innings over eight starts. He also made six starts and 11 relief appearances for Norfolk, putting up a 5.68 ERA in 44.1 innings. He pitched twice in relief that year for the Orioles, finishing with disastrous results, allowing ten earned runs in 1.1 innings.
Liz pitched winter ball in the Dominican over the 2009-10 off-season and had an 0.83 ERA in six starts. He spent the 2010 season with Portland of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, after signing with the San Diego Padres. He posted an 8-8, 4.83 record and 109 strikeouts in 123 innings over 22 starts and three relief appearances that season. He went to Korea for the 2011-13 seasons and excelled in a starting role, culminating with big stats during his final season. He went 11-13, 3.88 in 164.2 innings in 2011. Liz went 5-12, 3.69 in 2012, with 144 strikeouts in 151.1 innings. In his big final season, he had a 10-13, 3.06 record and 188 strikeouts in 202.2 innings during his final season. He pitched in the minors for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014, but most of his time was spent in Double-A New Hampshire of the Eastern League, where he had a 1.93 ERA in 42 innings. He struggled in Triple-A with Buffalo of the International League, putting up a 5.21 ERA in four starts. After spending five full seasons in the minors/Korea, Liz showed huge improvements during the 2014-15 winter playing ball in the Dominican. He went 4-0, 1.90 with 29 strikeouts in 23.2 innings, which earned him a deal with the Pirates.
Liz would make 14 relief appearances for the Pirates in 2015, posting a 4.24 ERA in 23.1 innings. He had excellent results that year as a starter at Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League, posting a 1.40 ERA in 64.1 innings. That time with the Pirates ended up being his last big league experience. Since his stint in Pittsburgh, he has played in China, Japan, winter ball in the Dominican and even spent some time in Triple-A for the Milwaukee Brewers. In 2016, he went 4-6, 3.95 in 37 innings in Japan. In 2017, Liz only played winter ball after the season, going 2-0, 0.50 in seven starts, with 31 strikeouts in 35.2 innings. With the Brewers in 2018, he had a 4-3, 6.75 record and 28 strikeouts in 22.2 innings with Colorado Springs of the Pacific Coast League. In 2019, he pitched in China, where he went 16-6, 4.18, with 179 strikeouts in 161.2 innings. He only played winter ball during the 2020 season, making three starts in the Dominican. The 37-year-old Liz spent the 2021 season pitching in Mexico, posting a 3.96 ERA in 52.1 innings. He then pitched winter ball in the Dominican, where he had an impressive 1.60 ERA in 39.1 innings over eight starts. In 2022, he played back in Mexico, matching his 3.96 ERA from 2021, finishing 3-5 in 15 starts, with 69 strikeouts in 72.2 innings. Between all of his stops in pro ball, he has a 127-125 record and he has thrown over 2,000 innings in 452 games.
Joel Hanrahan, reliever for the 2009-12 Pirates. He was a second round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2000 out of high school. He went to the short-season Pioneer League as a starting pitcher and had a 4.75 ERA, a 1.31 WHIP and 40 strikeouts in 55 innings for Great Falls. The next season saw him move up to Low-A Wilmington of the South Atlantic League, where he had a 9-11, 3.38 record in 144 innings, with a 1.33 WHIP and 126 strikeouts. The next season saw him make 25 starts with Vero Beach of the High-A Florida State League, along with three starts in Double-A with Jacksonville of Southern League. With Vero Beach, Hanrahan had a 10-6, 4.20 in 143.2 innings, with 139 strikeouts, while his ERA was 10.64 in 11 innings at Double-A. The 2003 season was mostly spent with Jacksonville, where he went 10-4, 2.43 in 133.1 innings, with 130 strikeouts. He also made five starts with Triple-A Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League and had a 10.08 ERA and 20 walks in 25 innings. He pitched for Las Vegas all year in 2004, going 7-7, 5.05 in 119.1 innings, with 97 strikeouts and a 1.71 WHIP. Despite spending all of the 2004 season in Triple-A, he saw most of his time in 2005 back in Jacksonville, though he also dropped down to High-A Vero Beach for five starts. Hanrahan went 10-8, 5.08 in 133 innings between both stops, with 127 strikeouts and a 1.57 WHIP. The 2006 season was split evenly between Las Vegas and Jacksonville, with much better results in Double-A. He combined to go 11-5, 3.58 in 140.2 innings, with a 1.39 WHIP and 113 strikeouts, showing a sharp drop in his strikeout rate.
Hanrahan became a free agent after the 2006 season and signed a deal with the Washington Nationals. They sent him to Triple-A Columbus of the International League, where he went 5-4, 3.70 in 75.1 innings over 15 starts. He debuted in the majors in late July of 2007 as a starting pitcher for the Nationals, posting a 5-3, 6.00 record in 51 innings over 11 starts and one relief appearance. He switched to relief in 2008 and excelled in the role, going 6-3, 3.95 with nine saves and 93 strikeouts in 84.1 innings over 69 appearances. He started off the 2009 season poorly, going 1-3, 7.71, with five saves and 35 strikeouts in 32.2 innings over 34 games with the Nationals. He was acquired by the Pirates mid-season in 2009 in a deal that included Sean Burnett and Nyjer Morgan from the Pirates and Lastings Milledge coming back from Washington. Hanrahan immediately turned things around, putting up a 1.72 ERA in 31.1 innings over 33 appearances with the 2009 Pirates. He had a total of 72 strikeouts in 64 innings. In 2010, he went 4-1, 3.62, with 100 strikeouts in 69.2 innings over 72 games, while picking up six saves. He switched to the closed role in 2011 and made his first of two straight All-Star game appearances. That season saw him go 1-4, 1.83 in 68.2 innings over 70 games, while picking up 40 saves. His strikeout rate was still good, but it tumbled from the previous season, going from 12.9 to 8.0 per nine innings. He went 5-2, 2.72, with 67 strikeouts in 59.2 innings over 63 games in 2012. Hanrahan had 36 saves that year.
After the 2012 season, Hanrahan was part of a six-player deal with the Boston Red Sox that brought Mark Melancon to Pittsburgh. Hanrahan had a 2.59 ERA and 82 saves in 229.1 innings over 238 appearances with the Pirates. After the deal with Boston, he lasted just nine games in the majors, putting up a 9.82 ERA in 7.1 innings. He also made two rehab appearances in Triple-A with Pawtucket of the International League, allowing two runs in two innings. Hanrahan had to have a pair of Tommy John surgeries, one in mid-2013 and another in 2015, which kept him from pitching again. Despite losing their closer, the 2013 Red Sox still won the World Series. He finished his career with 22-18, 3.85 record in 362 games, with 100 saves, 441 strikeouts and 404.2 innings pitched. Hanrahan was a minor league pitching coach for the Pirates from 2017 through 2021. He left in 2022 to become a pitching coach in the Nationals system.
Jeff Zaske, pitcher for the 1984 Pirates. He was a 27th round pick in 1978 and spent just a few weeks total in the majors six years later. Zaske debuted in pro ball at 18 years old in 1979. He was drafted out of high school in 1978, but didn’t start playing until the following season, though he went right to full-season ball. He played for Shelby of the Class-A Western Carolinas League, where he had a 5-10, 5.22 record and 88 strikeouts in 100 innings over 16 starts and nine relief appearances. The next season saw him go 8-10, 4.30, with 103 strikeouts in 132 innings over 26 starts for Salem of the Class-A Carolina League. That was the only season in pro ball that he topped 100 strikeouts. In 1981, Zaske spent most of the season with Alexandria of the Carolina League, though he got four relief appearances for Double-A Buffalo of the Eastern League as well. He combined to go 5-10, 4.35 in 110 innings, with 80 walks and 79 strikeouts. That was his third straight season with more walks than strikeouts. In 1982, he spent the year with Alexandria as a reliever, posting a 7-4, 2.89 record and 14 saves in 74.2 innings over 48 appearances. Zaske had a massive improvement with his control, finishing that season with 29 walks and 84 strikeouts. Most of 1983 was spent with Lynn of the Eastern League, where he had a 2.18 ERA, 72 strikeouts and 24 saves in 70.1 innings over 48 games. He spent some time in Triple-A with Hawaii of the Pacific Coast League, where he had a 6.00 ERA in six games. During his lone season in the majors in 1984, he had a 3.58 ERA in 60.1 innings for Hawaii.
Zaske tossed a total of five shutout innings for the in his only three big league appearances, while playing with the 1984 Pirates. He was called up on July 13th, though he didn’t debut until eight days later. He last played on July 28th, though he wasn’t sent back to Hawaii until August 5th. So he got in just over three weeks at the majors, but all of his pitching came during an eight-day stretch. Zaske spent the next two seasons back with Hawaii. In 1985, he went 2-7, 3.41 in 46 appearances, with five saves and 75 strikeouts in 68.2 innings. In 1986, he had a 5-5, 4.12 record in 40 appearances, which included eight starts. He had two complete games, one save and 87 strikeouts in 113.2 innings. After spending the 1985-86 seasons in the minors, the Pirates used him to acquire pitcher Randy Kramer, who pitched three years in Pittsburgh. Zaske never made it back to the majors. After leaving the Pirates, he spent time in the minors with the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A’s, as well as playing in Mexico. He won two starts with Tulsa of the Double-A Texas League in 1987, then spent the rest of the season in Triple-A for the Rangers, playing for Oklahoma City of the American Association. He combined to go 4-0, 4.76 in eight starts and 17 relief appearances, throwing a total of 70 innings. The 1988 season was split between Tacoma (A’s) and Albuquerque (Dodgers) of the Pacific Coast League, and a 20-game stint in Mexico. He pitched 32.2 innings over 11 appearances in affiliated ball that year, while posting a 2.63 ERA in 27.1 innings in Mexico.
Two years after he was drafted, Zaske was throwing batting practice against Bill Madlock and had a crazy run-in. Madlock took a swing at a pitch and then told Zaske to throw harder. Dave Parker first, then other Pirates, yelled at Zaske to hit him with the next pitch for saying that. He apparently listened to the crowd, which led to Madlock coming to the mound and taking a swing (and connecting) at him. Despite the incident, the sidearm-throwing Zaske still got his 15 minutes of fame from the incident.
Gene Clines, outfielder for the Pirates from 1970 until 1974. He was drafted by the Pirates in the sixth round of the 1966 draft. He played four seasons in the minors, making it up to Double-A, before getting promoted to the Pirates mid-season in 1970. Clines started in the short-season Appalachian League in 1966, where he batted .358/.442/.455 in 52 games at 19 years old. He moved up to Raleigh of the Class-A Carolina League in 1967, hitting .259 with 34 runs, 15 extra-base hits, 29 RBIs and a .646 OPS in 83 games. The next year saw him jump to Double-A, playing for York of the Eastern League. He hit .241 with 46 runs, 18 extra-base hits, 33 RBIs, 23 steals and a .588 OPS in 137 games. He was with York again in 1969 and hit .268 in 135 games, with 86 runs, 23 extra-base hits, 47 RBIs, a .692 OPS and 63 steals in 75 attempts. The Pirates Double-A affiliate moved to Waterbury of the Eastern League in 1970 and Clines hit .310 with 62 runs, 28 extra-base hits, 42 RBIs, 32 steals and an .801 OPS in 95 games before joining the Pirates in late June. Being used mostly as a pinch-hitter during his first big league shot, he batted .405/.436/.460 in 31 games. That earned him a spot for the 1971 season, which turned out to be the fourth World Series winning season for Pittsburgh.
During that 1971 season, Clines batted .308 with 52 runs, 17 extra-base hits, 24 RBIs, 15 steals and a .758 OPS over 97 games. He saw most of his playing time in center field, though he also got occasional starts in left field and right field. He went 1-for-3 in the NLCS with a homer, then went 1-for-11 in the World Series. The next year he hit .334 in 107 games and received some mild MVP consideration (20th place in the voting). He was mostly a singles hitter at the time, finishing that year with no homers, 17 RBIs and a low walk rate, but the high average led to 52 runs scored and a career best .790 OPS. He mostly split his time in 1972 between the two corner outfield spots, before the 1973-74 seasons saw him spend more of his time in center field. Clines saw his average drop to .263 in 110 games in 1973, with 42 runs scored, 15 extra-base hits, 23 RBIs and a .656 OPS. That OPS dropped down nearly 100 points to a .557 mark in 107 games in 1974. He hit .225 with 29 runs, six extra-base hits, 14 RBIs and 14 steals that season. He was traded to the New York Mets for catcher Duffy Dyer on October 22, 1974.
Clines had one season in New York and didn’t go well, finishing with a .227 average, 27 runs scored, nine extra-base hits, ten RBIs and four steals in 82 games in 1975. His OPS actually went down (slight to .554) from his low mark with the Pirates. He was traded to the Texas Rangers in December of 1975 and he hit .276 with 52 runs scored, 15 extra-base hits, 38 RBIs, 11 steals and a .620 OPS in 116 games in 1976. He had a career high 480 plate appearances that season, which was 143 more than his second highest season total. Clines was traded to the Chicago Cubs prior to the 1977 season. He hit .293 with 27 runs, 17 extra-base hits and a career high 41 RBIs in 101 games in his first season in Chicago. His .756 OPS was easily his best mark since his 1972 season. His three homers that season represented more than half of his career total. The offense fell off the next year, with a .258 average, 31 runs, 12 extra-base hits, 17 RBIs and a .640 OPS in 109 games, seeing a lot of that time off of the bench. His pro career ended when he was released by the Cubs a month into the 1979 season, going 2-for-10 with two singles in ten games, all coming as a pinch-hitter.
Clines batted .287 in 459 games with the Pirates, with 179 runs, 45 doubles, 14 triples, two homers, 81 RBIs and 51 stolen bases. He was a career .277 hitter with 314 runs, 85 doubles, 24 triples, five homers, 187 RBIs and 71 steals in 870 big league games over ten season. Clines only homered in two parks, hitting all three of his homers in 1977 at Wrigley Field, while his two with the Pirates came at Dodger Stadium two years apart. After his playing days, he took up coaching and remained active in baseball until 2012. In 1989, he returned to play, taking part in the upstart Senior Professional Baseball Association’s inaugural season. The 1971 season was his only year where both his WAR on offense and defense were both above average. He finished with 4.6 career WAR, with his overall defense dragging that number down a bit. His WAR while with the Pirates was also a 4.6 mark.
Tom Padden, catcher for the Pirates from 1932 until 1937. He was a platoon starter for three seasons and backup for the three other years while in Pittsburgh. The Pirates purchased him out of the minors from the New York Yankees in late May of 1932 for $7,500. They also needed to loan two players to Newark of the International League, where he was playing at the time. Padden was in the middle of his fifth season in pro ball at the time of the deal. He debuted in 1928 at 19 years old and saw some advanced play that first season, spending part of the year in the Class-B New England League and the rest of the year with Hartford of the Class-A Eastern League. He batted .272 with 12 extra-base hits in 92 games between the two stops. Padden played for two teams in the Eastern League in 1929, where he’s credited with a .261 average and 13 extra-base hits in 79 games (full stats aren’t available due to the split). He then split the 1930 season between New Haven of the Eastern League and Baltimore of the Double-A International League, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. He batted .320 with 44 extra-base hits in 129 games between both stops, with better stats at the lower level. He stayed at the Double-A level in 1931, moving to Kansas City of the American Association, where he hit .311 in 94 games, with 15 extra-base hits. When the Pirates got him from the Yankees, he was with Newark of the International League and he was hitting .182 in 12 games, going 4-for-22 with four singles.
Padden was playing sparingly in the his first two years in Pittsburgh. He batted .263/.315/.331 in 47 games in 1932, getting 29 starts behind the plate. He began the 1933 season with the Pirates as a backup, then got released on option to Albany of the International League on June 25th, where he stayed until September. Padden hit .211/.237/.233 in 30 games with the Pirates that season, while putting up a .271 average and nine extra-base hits in 53 games with Albany. He was with Pittsburgh for all of the 1934 season, and he had a strong year at the plate, which in turn led to more playing time. He batted .321 that season over 82 games, with 27 runs, 14 extra-base hits, 22 RBIs, 30 walks and a .788 OPS. He played a career-high 97 games in 1935, hitting .272 with 30 RBIs, while setting career highs with 48 walks and 35 runs scored. He had just 11 extra-base hits (nine doubles), so along with that lower average, he saw his OPS drop 99 points from the previous season. Despite being known as a solid defender, he led the National League in errors and stolen bases allowed during that 1935 season. Padden played 88 games and set a high with 31 RBIs in 1936, but the average dropped to .249 and he had a .610 OPS. His playing time suffered in 1937, though he batted .286/.369/.306 in 35 games.
The Pirates used Padden in October of 1937 as part of a package that included three players and cash, to acquire outfielder Johnny Rizzo from the St Louis Cardinals. Rizzo went on to set a Pirates single-season record for homers as a rookie. Padden spent the 1938-42 seasons in the minors, before coming back for a brief stint with the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Senators in 1943. In 1938, he played his first of two seasons with Jersey City of the International League. He hit .278 in 101 games that year, with 40 runs, 20 extra-base hits and 47 RBIs. In 1939, he batted .287 in 102 games, with 15 doubles and three triples. Padden moved to Newark of the International League for the 1940-42 seasons. He hit .233 in 124 games in 1940, with 11 doubles and nine homers. In 1941, he batted .217 in 93 games, with 30 runs, 11 extra-base hits and 33 RBIs. In 1942, Padden hit .208 in 86 games, with 28 runs, 11 doubles, a homer and 23 RBIs. He played a total of 20 games with the Phillies and Senators in 1943, hitting .273/.333/.273 in 48 plate appearances. That brief stint in the majors ended up being his only big league experience outside of his time with the Pirates.
Padden played a total of 69 games in the minors in 1944, splitting his time between St Paul and Minneapolis of the American Association. He’s credited with hitting .228 with seven doubles and a homer during that time. He hit .268 in 24 games for Milwaukee in 1945. Heplayed his final minor league games in 1948 as a player/manager for his hometown team in Manchester of the Class-B New England League, where he started his career 20 years earlier. He was coaching high school baseball in Manchester during the 1946-47 seasons, before returning to his last shot at pro ball. He hit .272, with 116 runs, 40 doubles, two homers and 109 RBIs in 329 games with the Pirates. He threw out 40% of runners attempting to steal during his career, which was slightly below the league average at the time.
Pat Duncan, outfielder for the 1915 Pirates. After debuting mid-season with the 1915 Pirates and getting into just three games, Duncan didn’t see the majors again until four years later. Once he returned, he would end up hitting .307 in 724 games with the Cincinnati Reds. Duncan played a total of 18 years in pro ball, debuted in the minors in 1912, the spending another five seasons in the minors after his final big league game. In all, he compiled over 2,300 career hits. He spent his first season in pro ball with Marion of the Class-D Ohio State League at 18 years old. There’s no stats available from that season, but we know he did well in 1913 when he moved to the Class-D Southern Michigan League, where he hit .299 with 23 extra-base hits in 97 games for the Flint Vehicles. He switched teams in the same league (reclassified as Class-C that year) during the 1914 season and hit .285 with 43 extra-base hits and 46 steals in 147 games for Battle Creek. He was with Battle Creek at the start of 1915, hitting .323 with 23 extra-base hits and 27 steals in 61 games, but the league folded after two months and it left him searching for a job. His landing spot was the Pittsburgh Pirates, who announced on July 8th that they signed him to a contract. It was reported that he received offers from 14 clubs, including other minor league teams. The Pirates got him when owner Barney Dreyfuss offered him a $300 bonus for signing.
Duncan got one start in center field and two pinch-hitting appearances for the Pirates. After spending three weeks with the team, going 1-for-5 in three games, he was released to Grand Rapids of the Class-B Central League on July 28th, where he hit .295 with six extra-base hits and six steals in 30 games. The Pirates had the option to recall him at the end of the season, but they let that option lapse, officially ending his time with the team. He hit .328 with 35 extra-base hits in 124 games with Grand Rapids in 1916. The next three seasons were spent with Birmingham of the Southern Association, though some of that time was lost to service during WWI. Duncan played just 35 games in 1917, hitting .293 with five doubles. In 1918, he hit .285 in 67 games, with 23 runs and 13 steals. His best season in Birmingham was 1919, and it helped him get back to the majors with the Reds late in that season. He hit .317 in 110 games for Birmingham, finishing with 17 doubles, nine triples and five homers. He then played 31 games for Cincinnati that year, hitting .241 with nine runs, eight extra-base hits and 17 RBIs in 31 games. The Reds won the World Series that year over the Chicago White Sox (Black Sox scandal) and he hit .269 with seven runs scored and eight RBIs in the eight-game series.
In 1920, Duncan was the everyday left fielder for the Reds, playing a career high 154 games. He hit .295 with 75 runs scored, 29 extra-base hits, 83 RBIs and a .722 OPS. He boosted that average to .308 in 1921, with 57 runs, 27 doubles, ten triples, 60 RBIs and a .775 OPS in 145 games. The next season saw him set career highs with a .328 average, 94 runs, 44 doubles, 12 triples, eight homers, 94 RBIs and an .850 OPS, while playing 151 games. In 1923, Duncan batted .327 in 147 games, with 92 runs, 41 extra-base hits, 83 RBIs and an .801 OPS. His 1924 season ended up being his last. He hit .270 with 34 runs, 29 extra-base hits, 37 RBIs and a .705 OPS in 70 games. He went to Minneapolis of the Double-A American Association (highest level of the minors at the time) the next season and showed that he had plenty left in the tank, but he still never returned to the majors. Duncan hit .345, .351 and .352 over the 1925-27 seasons, playing a total of 468 games during that stretch. His extra-base hit numbers were big in Minneapolis to start, but they dropped each year. In 163 games in 1925, he had 49 doubles, nine triples and 27 homers. His average went up to .351 during that 1926 season in 153 games, but he had still solid totals of 30 doubles, six triples and 23 homers, losing 26 extra-base hits from the previous season. He topped out at .352 in 152 games in 1927, but it came with 26 doubles, three triples and ten homers.
Duncan played two more seasons of pro ball before retiring, seeing time with Minneapolis each year, while also playing for Rochester of the International League in 1928 and Chattanooga of the Class-A Southern League in 1929. He had a .305 combined average in 1929, collecting 19 extra-base hits. He played just 16 games total during his final season. In his seven seasons in the majors, he batted .307 in 727 games, with 361 runs, 137 doubles, 50 triples, 23 homers and 374 RBIs. His actual first name was Louis Baird Duncan, but he went by the nickname Pat. We posted an extended article about his time in Pittsburgh here.
Eddie Burke, outfielder for the 1890 Alleghenys. He debuted in pro ball in 1886 at 19 years old, and played for four teams over four seasons before making the majors. Burke debuted in the Pennsylvania State Association and saw time with three teams in the league during that first year. He played 20 games with Scranton, 14 with Danville and four with Lewiston that first season, finishing with a .235 average, ten extra-base hits and 19 steals. He then spent the entire 1887 season in Scranton, though part of the year the team was in the International Association. While in the Pennsylvania State Association that year, he hit .350 in 20 games, with 37 runs, seven doubles and three triples. His stats aren’t available for the Scranton time in the International Association that year, but we know that when he moved to Toronto of the International Association in 1888, he hit .237 with 95 runs, 34 extra-base hits and 107 stolen bases in 111 games. He was back in Toronto for 1889 and hit .315 with 102 runs, 34 extra-base hits and 97 steals in 109 games, which led to his big league shot.
As a rookie in 1890 for the Philadelphia Quakers, Burke was hitting .263 with 85 runs, 16 doubles, 11 triples, four homers, 50 RBIs, 38 steals and a .728 OPS in 100 games prior to being acquired by Pittsburgh. The Alleghenys acquired him in August in a two-for-one swap with the Quakers. Pittsburgh got Bill Day and Burke (and cash), while Philadelphia got star outfielder Billy Sunday. It was a move made out of necessity for a team that was trying to scrape by to make it through the end of the season. However, the Alleghenys would have made out much better on the deal if they decided to keep Burke after the season because Sunday decided to retire before the 1891 season and Burke went on to become a solid big league player. Burke hit .210/.295/.307 over 31 games for the worst team in franchise history to close out that 1890 season. He finished that rookie year with 102 runs scored and 44 steals in 131 games. Despite the youth and success before joining the Alleghenys, he was let go after the season and signed with Milwaukee of the Western Association. He hit .273 in 96 games, with 103 runs, 38 extra-base hits and 54 steals. The Cincinnati team in the American Association folded in mid-August and Milwaukee was invited to play out their schedule, so Burke was back in the majors. He hit .236 and scored 31 runs in 36 games to finish out 1891.
Burke split the 1892 season between the Cincinnati Reds and New York Giants after the American Association shut down following the 1891 season. He did poorly in 15 games with the Reds, posting a .146 average and a .471 OPS, then had success with the Giants. On the season, he hit .248 with 87, 45 RBIs, 44 stolen bases, 45 walks and a.689 OPS in 104 games. In 1893, he led the league in games played (135) and hit-by-pitches (25), while hitting .279 with 122 runs, 42 extra-base hits, 80 RBIs, 54 stolen bases and a .778 OPS. Offense was up all around baseball in 1894 and Burke was no different. He hit .307 with 124 runs, 38 extra-base hits, 77 RBIs and 36 steals in a career high 138 games. He actually ended up with a slightly lower OPS (.767) than the previous season due to a lower walk rate and fewer homers. He played 95 games in 1895, finishing with a .263 average, 90 runs, 24 extra-base hits, 40 RBIs, 33 steals and a .679 OPS. Midway through that season he was suspended by the Giants for what was likely a drinking related incident. He ended up rejoining the Reds to finish the season and remained there for the rest of his big league career.
Burke’s best season perhaps came in 1896 when he hit .340 with 120 runs scored, 52 RBIs and 53 steals in 122 games for the Reds. His .818 OPS was a career high. Despite the success one year earlier, the 1897 season turned out to be his last in the majors. That year he hit .266 with 71 runs, 19 extra-base hits, 41 RBIs and 22 steals in 95 games. His OPS dropped 165 points to a .650 mark. He played another four years in the minors before retiring, which basically made his career an even split between the majors and minors, with equal stints (time-wise) in the minors on both sides of his big league career. Burke was with St Paul of the Class-A Western League during the 1898-99 seasons (no stats available for either year), which was the highest level of the minors at the time. He played for four teams in 1900, moving around quickly all season. The American League was a Class-A level of the minors at the time, and he played for Chicago, Minneapolis and Buffalo, though his time in those three places amounted to 14 games. He also played for Boise of the Montana State League, though no stats are available. He finished in 1901 with Spokane of the Class-D Pacific Northwest League, dropping down to the second lowest level of the minors. Burke was a .280 hitter over eight seasons in the majors and three times he scored over 120 runs in a season. He had 142 doubles, 57 triples, 30 homers, 413 RBIs, 293 stolen bases and he scored 747 runs in 855 games.