Ellis Rena Burks (born September 11, 1964 in Vicksburg, Mississippi) is a former outfielder and designated hitter who played in Major League Baseball for 18 seasons. He batted and threw right-handed.
Selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 1st round (20th pick) of the 1983 amateur draft, Burks made his debut in the 1987 season as a regular center fielder at age 22, becoming the third player in the Red Sox history to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in one season. He was selected to both the Baseball Digest and Topps "All-Rookie" teams. Defensively, Burks showed excellent range, a sure glove and a strong arm. The only problem for Burks while with the Red Sox was that he was injury-prone. He had shoulder surgery in 1989, and it was the first of many setbacks for him. Later he suffered from bad knees and back spasms. After six pretty good seasons in Boston, and despite his injuries, Burks ended up leaving as a free agent and signing with the Chicago White Sox in January 1993.
Burks found his old self in Chicago. He surpassed all expectations around him by turning in a solid, injury-free season, filling the White Sox urgent need for a quality right fielder. He was one of the club's better performers in the playoffs, batting .304. A free agent at the end of the season, he signed a lucrative 5-year contract with the Colorado Rockies (1994-98).
In 1996 Burks enjoyed his best season. He led National League hitters in runs (142), slugging average (.639), total bases (392) and extra-bases (93); was second in hits (211) and doubles (45), and fifth in home runs (40) and RBI (128). His .344 was also second in the batting title race (behind Tony Gwynn, .353). Burks finished third in the MVP voting.
Burks was traded to the San Francisco Giants in mid-season 1998. In 2000, batting fifth behind Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent, he compiled significant numbers of .344, 24, 96, in only 122 games and 393 at-bat. He was signed by the Cleveland Indians after the season.
In his new role as a DH for the Indians, Burks provided a consistently production in the middle-of-the-lineup, hitting .280, 28, 74 in 2001, and .301, 32, 91 in 2002. He sprained his wrist in spring training of 2003 and kept playing in 55 games until the muscles in his right hand affected his ability to swing the bat. He underwent season-ending surgery to repair nerve damage in his right elbow. The Indians didn't pick up their 2004 contract option or offered him salary arbitration, and he returned to the Red Sox in 2004. He retired at the end of the season.
In 18-year career Burks was a .291 hitter with 352 home runs, 1206 RBI, 1253 runs, 2107 hits, 402 doubles, 63 triples, and 181 stolen bases in 2000 games.
- Boston Red Sox (1987-1992, 2004)
- Chicago White Sox (1993)
- Colorado Rockies (1994-98)
- San Francisco Giants (1998-2000)
- Cleveland Indians (2001-03)
- 2-time All-Star (AL, 1990 - NL, 1996)
- Gold Glove Award (1990)
- Top 10 MVP (3rd, 1996)
- Second in batting average (1996)
- Led league in runs, slugging average, total bases and extra bases (1996)
- One of 19 players in MLB history to join the 30-30 club (1996)
- Ranks 68th in the all-time home run list