Hewitt "Taft" Burton

"I can't watch a whole game anymore. The players today catch one-handed, and have an attitude. They don't respect the game."
--Hewitt Burton

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Negro Leaguer of the Month
November, 2006

Hewitte Burton

Born: Sept. 18, 1920 in Anniston, Alabama
Ht:5'8", Wt: 155
Batted right and threw right
Position: shortstop, center field
Years: 1940-1950
Teams: Youngstown AA, Colored House of David, Bud's Tailors, Montey Ditd's Jewelery

Growing up, Hewitt Burton never thought he'd play pro baseball. In hindsight, he now realizes that he was part of something special.

Burton was born in Anniston, Alabama, near the Fort McClellan Army base, and a few hour's drive from both Birmingham and Atlanta--both great black baseball cities.

Burton was a speedy outfielder, with surprising power for his size, while playing on the local sandlots in Alabama, and later Ohio.

Unlike most young baseball players, Burton didn't have many baseball heroes growing up. His greatest hero in baseball turned out to be his future teammate, Johnny Longhorn, a top semipro pitcher from Atlanta. More recently, Burton had the pleasure of meeting Hank Aaron, who greatly impressed him. "He was so nice, and I was surprised, he hit all those homers and he wasn't much bigger than me!" recalled Burton.

When Burton went into the army during World War II, he played on a service team, this time as shortstop. "I liked center field best, but no one wanted to play shortstop, so I did," remembered Burton.

Burton's quick feet and strong arm made him a natural at shortstop, and he played well enough to attract the attention of a Negro League scout. When he was discharged from the army, Burton was sent a contract and train ticket from the Colored House of David team out of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The House of David team didn't wear beards like their white counterparts, but they played great baseball, and their home field was beautiful Nicollet Park, home of the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association.

With the House of David in 1947, Burton played mostly shortstop, but did play a few games in centerfield at Nicollet Park, where, four years later, Willie Mays would star for the Millers before being called up to the New York Giants.

The House of David played the top traveling teams and town teams in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, traveling by bus; the bus driver was former Colored House of David star Maceo Breedlove.

The "Davids" boasted slugging first baseman "Lefty" Williams, outfielder Emerson Smith, and player-manager Guy Osley.

The Davids carried only 14 players, and split their profits (after taking 1/3 off the top to keep the bus repaired and full of gas) equally. Burton usually made about $100 a month, and it was after the '47 season that he realized he couldn't make a living on such low pay.

Burton moved back to the Youngstown, Ohio area where he played semipro ball for several more years while working in the steel mills. Burton's semipro teams played such great teams as the Homestead Grays, Pittsburgh Crawfords and Cleveland Buckeyes. Though usually over-matched, Burton's teams occasionally upset the black Big Leagues' best.

Nicollet Park, home of the Colored House of David
and Minneapolis Millers
(from stewthornley.net)


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