You don’t meet a guy named Oyster every day. But then again, Thomas P. “Oyster” Burns (1864-1928) wasn’t your everyday guy.
Nicknamed Oyster due to the fact that he sold shellfish during the offseason (which must be near the top of the baseball “offseason odd jobs” list – if there was one), Burns was known for being a loudmouth with an irritating voice and personality.
He was even described by one of his Orioles teammates as “a disturber and one of the worst that ever played ball. His disposition was very bad, and he made it unpleasant for any of the boys that crested him. He is what you would call a bulldozer. [Bridegrooms manager Bill] McGunnigle may be able to handle Burns, but I doubt it.”
I don’t exactly know what “crested him” means, but I assume you wouldn’t want to crest this Oyster! Burns, who saw big league action in the outfield and every infield position except catcher (he did more than his fair share of pitching), had an impressive – albeit not amazing – career. Oyster ended his career with a .300 average, 832 RBIs, 263 stolen bases, and 65 home runs. However, he led the league in home runs and RBIs in 1890 – with an earth-shattering 13 dingers and a very good 128 RBIs. And he did all this for a team named – you guessed it – the Brooklyn Bridegrooms! Yeah, if you claim to have guessed it, uh, let’s just say it’s fair to assume you had your pancakes Bill Lee style (i.e. with marijuana sprinkled on them) this morning. But that’s another story for another day. In his stint with Brooklyn, Oyster was described as “the noisiest man that ever played on the Brooklyn team. His voice reminds one of a buzz-saw.” How flattering. The bulldozer-like buzz-saw sure did get compared to tools a lot. I wonder if he ever dropped the hammer on opponents when he was on the mound. Oh god, that was an esoteric pun – “dropping the hammer” is slang for throwing a curveball, folks.
Funny tidbit – the erstwhile Bridegroom actually started his big league career with a team with an equally ferocious name – the Wilmington Quicksteps! I’m sure that name sent opponents running for cover on game day.
But back to Oyster’s off-field antics (and boy, are they interesting). In 1887, Oyster became Orioles team captain…until he threw a baseball at the opposing pitcher after grounding out! (Roger Clemens, move over) Can say I’ve ever seen that, thankfully. Burns, for the record, was fined $25 for the incident. And no, they weren’t sand dollars.
In another wonderful incident, Burns stabbed teammate Tom Daly, who was sleeping in center field in between games of a double-header, with a penknife. Luckily, Daly awoke during the incident (he must have smelled something fishy going on, despite his slumber), but suffered a severed tendon which kept him out of action for several weeks.
This man goes beyond crabby – he’s a darn piranha! I think his behavior warrants a departure from my usual send-off…
You chill, Oyster!