One of the first features I wrote for 5280 was the story of how this longtime minor-league baseball town finally ended up with a big-league team. It didn’t take much reporting to realize that the article would essentially become a profile of Jim Burris.
Burris died Friday at 89 years old of congestive heart failure, leaving behind a legacy that all Colorado baseball fans should revere. Through perseverence and the purest kind of joy for the game, Burris made baseball—specifically, Denver baseball—his life’s work. He spent 20 years as general manager of the Denver Bears, including the 1980 team that remains one of the best in minor league history. (He also briefly ran the Broncos during their formative phase.) Managerial icons Billy Martin and Felipe Alou got their start on Burris’ squads, which also fielded future hall-of-famer Andre Dawson and a host of greats and near-greats.
These players comprised but a small portion of the man’s influence and life experience. Burris counted sports legends Doak Walker and Ben Hogan among his friends, and during his decades-long career he crossed paths with such titans as Joe DiMaggio, Rogers Hornsby, Dizzy Dean, Ty Cobb, and Babe Ruth, among too many others to count. (The wonderful collage of memorabilia and historical photos we used as art for the story came straight from Burris’ west suburban home.)
More than anything, Burris was a tireless advocate for local baseball, a riveting and hilarious storyteller, and quite simply, a sweet and generous man. Others may have contributed more financially to our city’s major league efforts, but—as all fans will hopefully remember the next time they pass through a Coors Field turnstile—no one gave more love, enthusiasm, and hope to Denver baseball than Jim Burris.
—Image courtesy of Shutterstock