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Lehigh man recounts history, records from 40 years in Lee County leagues

December 13, 2017
By ERIC DeVAUX (news@breezenewspapers.com) , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Everyone has a story - no matter who you are, where you are from or what you have done. And like any community, Lehigh Acres has stories that may go unheard for decades - until they are told.

Resident Dave Burkhead, 81, may appear to be your average citizen.

However, he holds many sports records in Lee County's basketball and slow-pitch softball leagues over a 40-year time period. Most notable is winning 652 games in softball, which is the most wins over the past decades for the county.

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ERIC DEVAUX
Dave Burkhead holds many sports records in Lee County’s basketball and slow-pitch softball leagues over a 40-year time period.

"Ain't nobody ever going to touch that," Burkhead said. "There won't be anybody who does that good 50 years from now."

He played softball from 1964 to 2004, and every team he was on ended up in a good position.

According to Burkhead, there were about 20 local teams in softball. He and his teams won five A-League Championships at Shady Oaks and five in Lehigh. He played shortstop for the first 14 years, followed by center field for the next 18 years and finally pitcher for the last 18 years.

"I threw a backspin. I could keep it up about 11 to eight feet and that's why I won so many games," he said. "Nobody else in the whole county ever won over 500 games pitching and, in that same time, I won 652."

In 1987, Burkhead broke a record. He noted that he is the only pitcher to win over 30 games in one league, which was the A league.

"There's no better than A," Burkhead said.

He won 36 championships overall - 30 in the A league, five in the B league and one in the C league, according to Burkhead. Thirty-six championships is also a record for Burkhead.

In basketball, he played from 1964 to 1994. He holds the record for most wins with 185 compared to 40 losses. He also holds the record for most points per game as a guard, which was 18 points.

Burkhead decided to leave basketball before softball because age set in.

"I was 50, and there's not many basketball players out there that are 50 years old," he said. "When I was 50 years old, the rest of the guys were 20 through 25."

Burkhead credits his longevity in sports to past experiences as a farmhand and an Army officer.

"That was good because all those 40 years I played down here, I never was hurt one time," he said.

Growing up on a Missouri farm, he was interested in sports at a young age.

Burkhead built a basketball hoop in the farm's loft.

"I had a bunch of guys come down my house on Saturday and we'd play basketball up in the barn all afternoon," he said.

After graduating from Arkansas State University, he was drafted to the Army where he joined the softball and basketball leagues. While serving in the Army, he played in the New Orleans Basketball Invitational Tournament and ended up on the All-Star team, playing alongside other great players.

"Two of them guys that played on that All-Star team played for Tulane University, four years in college," Burkhead said. "I didn't event play in high school."

He noted that he misses getting out on the softball field and basketball court.

"At my age, I couldn't play out there with them now," Burkhead said.

But, he still is a fan of the game and a fan of the league.

"I went out there Tuesday night and they played a double hitter," Burkhead said. "I'm the biggest fan they got. When the games over, they wanted me to come out there and meet with them on the field. They went undefeated and I haven't missed a game all season."

 
 

 

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