Long-time Astros fans surely remember Chris Burke and the heroics he provided during the 2005 playoffs. Although Burke only played for the Astros for parts of four seasons, his place in Astros lore is secured by one legendary swing of his bat. Chris Burke was the hero in one of the most spectacular moments in Astros history.
Burke was a first round draft pick for the Astros in 2001, and spent the next four seasons working his way up through the minor league system. He got his first big league hit during a September call-up in 2004, and went into the 2005 season as a top prospect, primarily in left field. He started that season in Houston, but was sent to Triple-A Round Rock in early May. The Astros recalled him in June, and Burke went on to play in 108 games. He hit .248 with five home runs and 26 RBI, splitting time with several others as the Astros tried to find the right man in left field.
Burke and the Astros celebrate after his dramatic home run.
While Burke’s regular season was nothing special, it was the postseason when the 25 year-old former University of Tennessee star showed his true value. He didn’t play much in the NLDS against Atlanta, but when he did, he made it count. Burke appeared in three games in that series, accumulating only four plate appearances, including two hits, a walk, and a run scored. The hits were both for extra bases, a double and a home run. It’s the homer that carves Burkes’ name into Astros historical legend.
The setting was Sunday, October 9, 2005, at Houston’s Minute Maid Park. The game was tied at 6-6 in the bottom of the tenth when Burke entered the game as a pinch-runner for first baseman Lance Berkman. Burke stayed in the game in center field, later moving to left as the Astros shuffled players around as the extra innings wore on.
Burke flied out to left field in the bottom of the 13th in his first at-bat, and then walked in the 15th, putting two men on base for the Astros (Biggio had walked earlier and sacrificed to 2nd by pinch hitter Roger Clemens.) Unfortunately, Morgan Ensberg grounded into a double play to end the inning.
The game was still tied when Burke stepped to the plate with one out in the bottom of the 18th. On a 2-0 pitch from Atlanta’s Joey Devine, Burke drove an inside fastball into the seats in left field giving the Astros the 7-6 win. Burke’s dramatic walk-off home run sealed the series win for the Astros, sending them to the NLCS for the fourth time.
Of course, Houston won that series against St. Louis and went on to the World Series for the first and only time in team history. Although the Astros lost to the White Sox in four games, Burke’s home run in the bottom of the 18th inning in Game 4 of the NLDS stands as one of the greatest moments in Astros history. The blast made Chris Burke an Astros legend, remembered for all time.