Jim Burris, former Denver Bears GM "Mr.
Baseball," dies at 89
Burris died Friday of congestive heart failure at 89, leaving behind a prominent place in Denver's professional baseball history and a storybook full of episodes that allowed him to boast he was involved in the game at the "very best possible time."
As general manager of the Denver Bears for 20 seasons, from 1965-84, Burris helped keep the baseball fires burning in Denver as it struggled to attract major-league baseball. Nine years after he retired, the Colorado Rockies brought major-league baseball to Denver.
"Naturally, everyone in baseball has the ambition of winding
Burris also was general manager of the Denver Broncos for one season in 1966 while working for Empire Sports and Gerald Phipps.
In recognition of his work, Burris was an official guest of the Rockies on opening days.
It may not have been major league, but the Burris stories were eventful. One of his favorites was telling how the Bears stole home seven times in the second half of the 1968 season with manager Billy Martin calling the shots.
Burris rated himself as a tough no-nonsense general manager.
"I think I was looked at as being pretty ruthless in changing managers and working agreements," Burris told a reporter. "I never hesitated to change if I thought an organization was running short of players."
Other than Martin, the list of managers Burris brought in to guide the Bears included Vern Rapp, Jack McKeon, and Felipe Alou.
"He was a magnificent storyteller," Bob Burris, Jim's son, said. "I went to a lot of winter baseball meetings with my dad and the big-leaguers never treated him like a minor-leaguer. He knew the game, and they knew
Jim Burris, second from left, talking to Babe Ruth, far left, about three months before Ruth died. (Special to The Denver Post)it."
Jim Saccomano, who went on to lead the media relations department of the Broncos, worked for Burris at the Bears.
"He was a hands-on general manager," Saccomano said. "He wanted the best team he could get in Denver. The Denver fans were lucky to have him."
Dave Plati, the sports information director at the University of Colorado, also worked for Burris with the Bears.
"Jim taught me a work ethic," Plati said. "If you don't have a work ethic in this business and minor-league baseball, you're done."
Services are pending.