Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, July 13, 2014, pg. 6
A reminder: If your Albion High School class is having a reunion this summer, how about having copies of my Albion history pictorial books at your event? Contact me for details at (517) 629-5402, or Albionfp@hotmail.com
Play ball! The baseball season is now upon us. There have been only a few nationally prominent persons in baseball who have hailed from Albion, such as James "Deacon" McGuire. I recently learned of another one, however. He was George Walter "Watch" Burnham (1860-1902). No, he wasn’t a player, but instead was a major league umpire!
Burnham was born in Albion on May 20, 1860. His parents were Hiram (1822-1892) and Hannah Burnham. Hiram was a druggist by profession. What they were doing in Albion I don’t know and I can’t find them on any 1860 records, but if anyone wants to research the details you are welcome to and let me know the results.
Burnham umpired in the National League in 1883, 1886-1887, 1889, and 1895 for a total of 107 games. Most of them were at the home plate. He was given the nickname of "Watch Burnham" during his first year of umpiring. Burnham was the home plate umpire for a no-hitter by Hall of Fame pitcher Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn in 1883. According to the story, "Burnham ejected Hall of Famer Joe Kelly from a game and pulled out a watch as he gave Kelley one minute to leave the field. Kelly promptly knocked the watch out of Burnham’s hand and crushed it. The joke was on Kelley however when he discovered that the watch had actually been presented to Kelley by his team prior to the game and Burnham had been holding it for him."
Burnham also became the manager of the Indianapolis Hoosiers of the National League beginning on April 28, 1887. However, his team compiled a dismal 6-22 record during the first few months, and Burnham was fired on June 2. He then went back to umpiring in 1889.
It was because of his managerialship of the Indianapolis team in 1887 that a baseball card bearing his image was issued. From our Historical Notebook this week we present an "Old Judge" cigarette card by the Goodwin & Co. of New York in 1887 featuring his image. This card was auctioned last year on E-Bay and sold for $130. The description states "N172. The card pictures ‘Watch’ in his street clothes, wearing a dignified bowler hat."
His wife was named Lillian. Watch died in Detroit on November 17, 1902 in Eloise in Wayne County. He is interred in Oakwood Cemetery in Saline in Washtenaw County in the family plot where his father is interred. His www.findagrave.com listing number is 55815502. From our Historical Notebook this week we present that baseball card of Watch Burnham.
George Walter "Watch" Burnham (1860-1902)
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic