Jim Burris

Inducted 1990

BASEBALL

James H. Burris, after decades as the Chief Executive Officer of the Denver Bears, has compiled an enviable record, in both the areas of crowd promotion and assembling championship teams. During his tenure, the Grizzlies won many divisional titles and five of those clubs went on to capture the championship. At the same time, Denver had been consistently at or near the top in minor league attendance despite the difficulties of promoting in a city, which had several major league sport franchises, like the Broncos. For several years, Burris had to overcome the obstacle of not knowing for sure whether Denver’s ball club would be playing in the American League or the American Association.

Again in 1984, the Bears encountered the added difficulty of sharing Mile High Stadium with Denver’s newest pro football team, the Gold, for the first half of the season. The 1983 Bears season was a great satisfaction to Burris as the club rolled a 73-61 record to walk away with the Western Division crown, and then reeled off seven straight wins over Iowa and Louisville to win the playoffs following an opening setback against Iowa.

Despite some early weather problems, 1983 was also a box office success with 445,670 fans flowing through the turnstiles; second best in the minor leagues, and a single-game turnout of 59,781 on Fireworks night, the second largest crowd ever. This gave the Bears an enviable four-year attendance record of 2,104,604 for regular season games.

In 1981, the Bears also led the minors in attendance with a draw of 555,806, plus 18,103 more in the playoffs. The ’81 climax took the sting out of an otherwise spectacular season in which the Bears set a league record for a 136-game schedule with a 92-44 record and then a record attendance total of 565,214 (583,012 counting playoffs) only to lose the title series to Springfield.

Burris was named the Minor League Executive of the Year by The Sporting News in 1980, one of the many honors he has received. He was named American Association Executive of the Year in 1971, 1976, 1977 and 1980 after receiving an Executive of the Year award once during Denver’s Pacific Coast League membership. The Bears’ chief honcho was also honored by the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1978, when he received the “King of the Hill” award.

A native of Newcastle, Indiana, Burris graduated from Coffeyville, Kansas Junior College in 1942 before spending two and a half years in the United States Army. He then obtained a degree in journalism at the University of Missouri. During his military service, he also studied at the University of Georgia and the University of Texas.

In 1947, he worked for the legendary J.G. Taylor Spink at The Sporting News. From 1948 through the 1950 season, he did national publicity for the American Legion baseball program before launching a 10-year stint as Director of the American Association Service Bureau.

After the death of Ed Doherty, Burris served as president of the American Association in 1961 and 1962 before the league suspended play for six years. In 1963, he served as a special assistant for Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick and played an important role in the indemnification negotiation on Houston’s entry into the National League. He then served as president of the Texas League in 1964, maintaining his home in Denver and commuting back and forth regularly to Texas.

The energetic Burris began his long tenure as general manger with the Bears in 1965, where he brought Denver back to the pinnacle of the minor leagues.

He was truly Mr. Baseball in Denver.

Jim Burris

He was truly Mr. Baseball in Denver.