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Ernest Burke, 79; Was Pitcher, Outfielder for Negro League Team

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Ernest Burke, 79, a pitcher and outfielder for the Baltimore Elite Giants in the Negro leagues, died Saturday from complications of kidney cancer at a hospital in Baltimore.

After being among the first African Americans to serve in the Marines during World War II, Burke played professionally for four seasons with the Elite Giants. He then played in the Canadian Provincial League.

The Giants were not allowed to play at the old Baltimore Stadium, where white teams held games. Instead the Giants used Bugle Field.

After leaving baseball, Burke worked as a heavy-equipment operator. He retired in the early 1980s and then taught tennis.

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Burke was born in Maryland and moved to Quebec as a teenager after his parents died.

He returned to the U.S. to enlist in the Marine Corps during the war and played baseball on segregated Marine teams in the Pacific against white ball clubs. After he got three hits off a former major league pitcher, the pitcher advised him to try out for a Negro league team.


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