Former Cub Ellis Burton Dies At 77

He didn't play very long for the Cubs, or very well. But he did one unusual thing in his big-league career that you should know about.

Ellis Burton didn't play too many games for the Cubs -- just 152 games in parts of three seasons -- or play very well, batting .216/.299/.362 in 467 at-bats, although with 13 home runs. Even in the lower-offense mid-1960s, that wasn't a very good hitting performance.

But the outfielder, who passed away at the age of 77 about three weeks ago (and that's the only obituary or death notice that's available), did one signature thing during his Cubs career that's worth noting and remembering.

It happened Saturday, August 31, 1963 at Wrigley Field. The Cubs entered the bottom of the ninth inning against the Houston Colt .45s (they were still two seasons away from being called "Astros") trailing 5-1. With two out and a runner on first base, a pair of singles made the score 5-2, and a walk loaded the bases.

Up stepped Burton. You know what's coming here, right?

Burton hit a walk-off grand slam on reliever Hal Woodeshick's first pitch and the Cubs had a stunning 6-5 win. A very modest-sized crowd (9,027) must have gone crazy, and you can probably, if you grew up in that era, hear Jack Brickhouse's "Hey! Hey!" coming from your console TV. It was the Cubs' first grand slam of the 1963 season.

This kind of home run has been termed an "ultimate grand slam" -- hit with the team down three runs in the bottom of the ninth. Here's a list of the 27 such slams in major-league history; of those 27, just 15 have been hit with two out -- at the time, Burton's was just the second such two-out slam.

Burton had special reason to enjoy his special hit -- he had been in spring training with the Colt .45s that year, but had been sold to the Indians just before the season began, and then on to the Cubs a couple of months later. The Tribune quoted Burton after the game as saying, "There's no team in the big leagues I want to beat as bad as this one."

It was the climax of Burton's career. He hit poorly (.186/.273/.283) as a part-time outfielder for the Cubs in 1964 and 1965 and was released. Returning to his native California, he became a bank manager.

There's one other player you're familiar with who has hit an ultimate grand slam -- Brian Bogusevic, who hit it off the Cubs' Carlos Marmol August 16, 2011 (irony: when Bogusevic was recalled to the Cubs from Triple-A Iowa last summer, it was to replace Marmol on the active roster). Bogusevic and Burton don't appear on each other's lists of most comparable players at baseball-reference.com, but they do seem to be similar players -- a bit of power, modest batting averages, a few walks, a few stolen bases.

Condolences to Ellis Burton's friends and family, and for his ultimate grand slam, he's worth remembering.

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