Nicknamed "Ol' Stubblebeard," Grimes was born in Emerald, Wisconsin. He made his major league debut in 1916 for the Pittsburgh Pirates and in 1920, when the spitball was banned, he was named as one of the 17 established pitchers who would be allowed to continue to throw the pitch. The 26 year old Grimes made the most of this advantage, and over the course of his 19-year career, won 270 games and pitched in four World Series. At the time of his retirement, he was the last of the 17 spitballers left in the league.
Burleigh Grimes was elected to the United States Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964.