Monday, May 19, 2008


Baseball is a game with a history of players overcoming adversity.  Diamond heroes include Jackie Robinson and Henry Aaron, who overcame racial barriers (many don't realize that Henry Aaron broke the color barrier in the Southern League when he played minor league ball).   Players with disabilities have also featured prominently in the national pastime, such as Jim Abbott, a one-armed pitcher that threw a no-hitter in the majors;  Curtis Pride, a deaf man who played for the Montreal Expos; and Dave Dravecky, who recovered from cancer in his pitching arm, only to have one of the most horrific comebacks in sports history.

Lost to history, however, is the inspiring story of Bill Burns, a journeyman pitcher who played professional baseball from 1908-1912.  Perhaps his story was tainted because he was involved in the Black Sox scandal of 1919, when he approached the first Chicago White Sox players on behalf of mobster, Arnold Rothstein (Burns later went on to become the key witness for the prosecution.  His trial testimony can be found here).

What is his inspiring story?  His official nickname was "Sleepy Bill," but his friends probably knew him as "Lefty."   Why?  As this 1910 T-206 tobacco card illustrates, Bill Burns was born with two left hands:

1 comment:

em said...

It is also possible that what should have been his left hand was actually a right. Because the evidence is lost to some ungainly photo cropping (I know, it's a painting, which makes it curiouser still), we will likely never know.