Redditball Pioneers : The Man Who Turned It All Around

05/29/2020

Tim Burr is my favorite fake baseball player of all time. It's a product of being so stuck in the past, being the person who founded the league and who has been here for (mostly) its entire run. Ask me about Season Four and I couldn't even tell you the playoff teams. Ask me about Seasons One or Two and I could list you the rotation off the most obscure of MLR club.

Not many people talk about Burr anymore. He is arguably not even the most famous Burr in the league. When you think of the game's best pitchers, you think of the people still playing, two-time Pitcher of the Year Superbone Threefinger, Expos aces Callie Braden and Hadyn Werfer. But the pioneers that left the league long ago are arguably just as important, faces like Sal Shark and Cal Tiberius Jr. Tim Burr was one of these, a man who picked up his team immediately upon his debut and hurled them into winning ways. He was his team, and when they disappeared in the middle of Season Two, so did he.

Tim Burr's team has been lost in time; eradicated, wiped off the roster sheets forever. Its name exists in Arthur Vandelay's Season Five ballclub, its history paved with new records and players and memories. The original Minnesota Twins were the first team to pick in the Season One draft, were early favorites to win the whole thing. But for a while, the Minnesota Twins were fucking terrible. 

Sonny Streaker was the first ever pitcher for the club, taken in the fifth round after four masterstroke acquisitions: the Minnesota-loyal Twinkie Power, active Discorder Hashcoin Shitstorm, future Athletics General Manager JP Panik, and longtime Phillie Miguel Snow. At the time, there were high hopes for Streaker, one of the more decently known pitchers in the draft's mid-round pool. The team was expected to have the offense to back him up if he didn't pan out. But no one predicted the sheer notoriety that would be tied to Streakers name.

Later called MLR's Octavio Dotel, Streaker wouldn't stay in Minnesota for long. He gave up 11 runs in his only 3 games with the club who drafted him, pitching 13 total innings alongside closer Pablo Sanchez. He was shipped to New York in a trade that sent Hudson Quin, another struggling pitcher, to the Twins, a move which would set a long chain of new ballclubs for Streaker until his eventual retirement.

Even after Quin took the mound for the Twins, they still lost, beginning the season 0-4 after a failed comeback against the Oakland Athletics. No one expected this. The bats were cold and the pitchers were struggling, and all was surely lost for the organization that seemingly drafted so well.

That's where Tim Burr came in. Before Session Five of that season began, the pitcher was announced as a free agent and subsequently signed with the Minnesota Twins to be their third pitcher, a number uncommon in those days. He was a reddit-only player, invisible to the fledgling community entirely. Nobody expected anything out of him. The Twins, winless until that point, were expected to lose again to the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team renowned for their offensive prowess. Names like Will Power and Assassin Panda were batting close to or over .400 on that team, with Panda leading the league in home runs.

I umpired that game. I greeted the pitcher in reddit DMs, carefully explaining how to go about pitching. In retrospect, the message feels silly, naive to what kind of pitcher I was talking to.

Will Power led off, and induced a weak grounder. Rico Veringhipster came to the plate and went down the same way. The third batter was Brent Royal, a former GM and rookie batter, who would find himself swinging and missing at a changeup-- Burr's first ever strikeout.

The offense-starved Minnesota Twins pushed one run across the plate in their half of the first inning, courtesy of a Dark Bobman homer. When the Diamondbacks came back in the second inning, they were once again foiled by Tim Burr, who fired back-to-back strikeouts against Garret Ipnov and first-round pick Garren Smudge.

This was the rhythm of the game. The Twins didn't make much noise, but Burr made sure the normally unforgiving Diamondbacks offense was entirely mute. With each out, I became more and more fascinated with this dude and the game he was pitching. He was kind, prompt, and most importantly, extremely effective at his job. I was cheering for him the whole way. It was difficult to stay impartial.

Tim Burr left his debut after 3 and a third innings pitched. He gave up one hit, struck out five, and faced the minimum amount of batters.

The Twins won that game 1-0, the first W in franchise history. It lifted the spirits of that close-knit and active clubhouse, who went into Session 6 against the Astros with a newfound spirit. They could still turn this around. At the time, the season had not yet been announced as shortened, and hope was alive.

Tim Burr immediately took the mound again. The Twins scrapped together 2 runs in the first and second innings against Houston, and Burr pitched as he had his first game, retiring batters left and right. This time, he was kept in all the way through the game, and pitched 5 scoreless innings. In the sixth, things buckled as he let go his first earned run, a solo shot off the bat of Tristan Uzumaki. The Twins would pull the game out 2-1, and it would be the only run Burr surrendered in Season One.

Burr came out late in the final game of the season, Session Seven, against the Atlanta Braves. The 5-1 Braves were looking for a playoff spot, but gave up 3 against the Twins in the first. they rallied back against Hudson Quin to tie it, but Burr was sent out for the last two innings to shut the game down. Two hitless innings pitched by Burr and one sixth inning comeback later, the Twins were 3-4.

Burr had pitched 10 innings in his first season over three games, with an ERA of 0.56. Despite protests from OOTC member AdmiralJones42 and a career of only a handful of games, Burr came close to winning the Pitcher of the Year Award, finishing just second in the American League. He was the new buzz around town, a mysterious pitcher that no one had ever spoken to.

He really turned the Twins around. When Season Two came and began, pitchers like Sal Shark and Cal Tiberius Jr. succumbed to sophomore slumps, but Burr only got better. He began his season against the newly-formed Texas Rangers, and pitched 4 innings while surrendering just 1 run and 2 hits. In 29.1 total innings, he saw an ERA of 1.64. His WHIP was just 1.057, as 5 of his 8 total earned runs for the season were homers. 

Burr started the All-Star Game that year, pitching two innings and allowing one run. He was a fan favorite, a master of the game that rarely showed his face. 

Session 11 was Burr's sixth start of the season. It was a normal session following his performance in the All Star Game, a contest against the Baltimore Orioles. No one thought much of that session; it was a part of the midseason slog, the dog days of the 18-session marathon. 

This would be the Twins' final game, however, as the Schism erupted during the contest. In turn, it would be Burr's last appearance as well.

He pitched 4 innings that day, surrendering just 1 hit in typical Tim Burr fashion. His team, hardly whole anymore, limped to a 2-0 victory against Baltimore. His last pitch would result in a popup by Bernie Petrol, one that he would watch soar into the air, eyes trained for its descent. Time slowed down as he snagged the ball in his own glove. He took it with him into the dugout, and never ran onto the field again.

I've made attempts to bring Burr back into the league before. He said that he would maybe return one day, when he was less busy, but three seasons have passed and we haven't seen him appear again on the free agent's list. It's likely he never will. MLR's best pitcher, one of the game's original elites, left the mound quietly in his prime, abandoning a career that could have solidified him in the history books.

Perhaps Tim Burr is my favorite player because his career never got sullied by bad games or downward trajectories or drama. Maybe, given enough time, it would be. He could just as easily fall out of favor like Cal Tiberius Jr, stats decaying until a bitter and dark league exit. We will never know, and I am okay with that. All I know is, as a connoisseur of league history, sometimes the best moments aren't those happening on the field, but those memories buried beneath it, captured in a long drive to left field or an 0-4 record or a lonely baseball popped up to one pitcher of hundreds, brought down into a dusty glove, tucked away into the dugout never to be seen again.

Stay tuned for my next installment of Redditball Pioneers: The Man Who Hated Fake Baseball.

Written by Jayson Burdwell