A good speed/power combo guy early in his career, Burks battled nagging injuries year after year. Despite time on the shelf he still managed to exceed 2,000 career hits and 1,000 runs scored. A two-time All-Star who had his monster year while with the Rockies, Burks was more than just a Coors Field bat–he also performed well at his other stops.
A first round pick by the Red Sox in 1983, Burks was brought up by the parent club in 1987 when the Sox still had fixtures Jim Rice and Dwight Evans. As a rookie in ’87, Ellis showed his speed/power skills by posting a 20 HR/20 SB season. With Rice rapidly declining, the Red Sox needed Ellis and fellow youngster Mike Greenwell to take some of the burden off Evans’ shoulders, and they did just that by leading Boston to the postseason in 1988. That season, Burks, Evans and Greenwell all posted 30 or more doubles.
Ellis looked well on his well to stardom but the first of his nagging injuries cropped up in 1989. The Sox fell to third place with Burks on the shelf and Rice’s skills completely eroded. But when Ellis was healthy again in 1990, and Rice’s dead lumber was replaced by Tom Brunansky, the Red Sox went to the postseason again. Burks led AL center fielders in RBI and smacked a pair of doubles in the ALCS–a series lost to Oakland.
After a down year in 1991 and another injury-plagued season in ’92, Boston gave up on their once promising center fielder and allowed him to test the free agent waters. He signed on with the White Sox for the 1993 season and helped them reach the ALCS where he hit .304 in a losing cause. Burks would make the postseason six times in his career but never played for a club that won an October series.
After a healthy year with the White Sox, Ellis cashed in and signed a free agent deal with the Colorado Rockies. Burks found out that a shift in leagues couldn’t keep the injury bug away as he missed most of the 1994 season. After a modest year in ’95, Ellis erupted in 1996. With a stellar cast around him in Colorado, Ellis put together his finest season by leading the senior circuit in runs scored, slugging percentage and total bases. He had an amazing offensive line of .344 BA/45 2B/40 HR/128 RBI.
Still productive in ’97, Ellis led NL center fielders with 32 homeruns. Traded to the Giants at the trade deadline for Daryl Hamilton and two minor leaguers in 1998, Ellis proved to the baseball world that he was more than a Mile High Slugger. With San Francisco in 1999, Burks clubbed 31 homeruns and drove in 96 runs. His career year for on-base percentage came the following year when he posted a terrific OBP of .419.
With his legs ailing him, Ellis signed a free agent deal with the Indians in 2001 to be their designated hitter. He led designated hitters in homeruns in both the 2001 and 2002 seasons with Cleveland before injuries interrupted his career again and officially ended his time in the Majors in 2004.
G 2,000/R 1,253/H 2,107/2B 402/3B 63/HR 352/RBI 1,206/SB 181/BB 793/SO 1,340/BA .291/SA .510/OBP .363