All-Time Indians: Johnny Burnett

Name: John Henderson Burnett Position: SS, 3B, 2B
  Number: 1
Tribe Time: 1927-1934 DOB: 11/01/1904
Best Season (1932) 129 512 81 152 23 5 4 53 46 27 2 5 .359 .385 .297 .744
Career 488 1629 271 475 84 14 9 187 144 91 14 12 .347 .377 .292 .724

Johnny Burnett is the first real utility infielder to be featured as an All-Time Indian, but he is well deserving as he played more than 90 games at three different positions over an eight year career with the Cleveland Indians. When compared to the full time short stops in team history, Burnett’s offensive numbers come up very favorably, despite the fact that he never played more than 130 games in a single season.

Burnett started was signed by the Indians in 1927 and had the unfortunate luck of being a short stop on a team with Hall of Famer Joe Sewell. That season he was used mostly as a pinch runner, getting into 17 games, but seeing only eight at bats and playing in just two games defensively, both at second. It was a poor start for Burnett as he didn’t get a hit, stole just a single base and committed an error on one of his six chances. Over the next two seasons, things didn’t change much, although he did become a full replacement player rather than just a pinch runner.

In 1930, Burnett was finally given a real chance and he came through, knocking in 20 runs in 54 games and batting a career high .312 while splitting time between second and short. Sewell was moved to third base for his final season with the Tribe and newcomer short Jonah Goldman was a less than impressive replacement. This is where Burnett received the majority of his playing time as second baseman, Johnny Hodapp was right in the prime of his great career. Burnett broke his wrist in July, but used this opportunity to spring board his career as he became the primary short stop in 1931.

The 1930’s were a transitional time for the Indians as the 1920 World Series winning team aged and retired while they were beginning to rebuild for the run in the 1940’s. Burnett was not to be part of either championship squad, but was a bright spot on the 1931 and 1932 teams. Over those two prime seasons, he played 166 games at short stop, 61 at second, 21 at third and even one in the outfield. With Earl Averill and Joe Vosmik driving in the runs from the middle of the lineup in ’31, Burnett was second on the team in runs scored to just Ed Morgan. He had another solid season in 1932 and it included the most impressive feat of his career. Against the Philadelphia A’s on July 10th, Burnett set the record for most hits in a single game with nine in eleven at bats in an 18 inning game.

The super utility player had one more solid year in 1933 as future Indians greats Odell Hale and Bill Knickerbocker took over at second and short respectively. Burnett played mostly at short (41 games), but also played at least ten games at second and third, knocking in another 29 and scoring another 39 runs in 83 games. At 29 in 1934, Burnett, who was never an amazing player, lost his prime and batted .293 in 72 games, spent mostly at third base, but with some time at each position he had played previously. After that season, Burnett was traded to the St. Louis Browns for another Indians great, Bruce Campbell. He played just one season with the Browns before being traded to the Reds, but he never played for them, instead spending 1936 with AA Toronto and 1937 in the White Sox minor league system. He retired after another attempted comeback with the Reds in 1938 at the age of 33. He died just 21 years later at the age of 54 from leukemia.

Joseph Coblitz

About Joseph Coblitz

Joseph is the primary writer and editor of and has been since its inception in 2011. He also writes for The Outside Corner and the Comeback and hosts the Tribe Time Now podcast. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and currently resides in Goodyear, Arizona the Spring Training home of the Cleveland Indians. Follow on twitter @BurningRiverBB