#32 - Steve Barber (1960-1967)
When Mark and I started researching players for our the top 40 Orioles list, left-handed pitcher Steve Barber was a player that I'd heard of but about whom I had very little knowledge. He and Merv Rettenmund were the biggest mysteries on our list, I have to say. And I can't speak for Mark, but sometimes the ones you know the littlest about end up being the most fun to write.
Anyway, Steve Barber. He was a local boy from just down 95, born in Takoma Park. He went to high school at Montgomery Blair in Silver Spring and was signed by the Orioles in 1957. Learning this fact about Barber endeared him to me immediately because everyone loves a local boy (except you, Mark Teixeira).
One thing I know for certain is that if Camden Chat had been around when he was pitching for the Orioles, there would have been meltdowns aplenty in the gamethreads. Because even though Barber was good, he was wild. Oh boy, was he wild. In his rookie year of 1960, Barber pitched 181 2/3 innings with an ERA of just 3.22. But he walked 113 batters and threw 10 wild pitches, both of which led the league. In 10 of his games pitched he walked at least five batters and in one game he even walked 10. You know how they say that if a pitcher gives up home runs, he better not give up walks? Well, Barber gave up walks but he didn't give up many home runs, so I guess that saying can go both ways.
Barber always struggled with his control, but after his rookie season he was able to get his walk rates down into the mid 3's per nine instead up over 5. In 1963, Barber was a 20-game winner, with a 2.75 ERA and the lowest walk rate of his career, 3.2 BB/9. He pitched 258 2/3 innings in '63 and both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference agree that it was his most valuable season.
In 1966, Barber was on his way to his best season yet. He made 22 starts with a 2.30 ERA, pitched in the All-Star Game, and looked like the ace of a pitching staff that also included Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, and Wally Bunker. But towards the end of July he was diagnosed with elbow tendinitis and shut down. He tried to come back in September, but after pitching in four games (outings of 1 IP, 2 IP, 5 IP, and 1 IP) it was clear he wasn't ready. It's sad, really. Barber was one of the best pitchers on the Orioles from 1960-1966, but when they finally went to the playoffs he wasn't able to contribute.
Things really went awry for Barber in 1967. Perhaps it was residual effects from his earlier injury, but he just lost it. He made 15 starts for the Orioles '67 in which he walked 61 batters in just over 74 innings. One of his most memorable games, however, came in 1967, when he pitched an absolutely ridiculous no-hitter. He was pitching on the road in Detroit and took a 1-0 lead and the no-no into the 9th inning. He retired the first two batters but then walked the next two. The tying run came in on a wild pitch, and after Barber was taken out of the game, the winning run scored on an error. His pitching line for the night: 8.2 IP, 0 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 10 BB, 3 K, 2 HBP, 1 WP, one throwing error.
On July 4, 1967 the Orioles traded Barber to the New York Yankees for three guys who never ended up playing in the majors. Barber pitched for seven more seasons with seven different teams, and other than some success out of the bullpen for the California Angels in 1972-73, he never showed with those teams what he did with the Orioles for eight seasons.
Barber was elected into the Orioles Hall of Fame in 1988. He passed away on February 4, 2007.
|BAL (8 yrs)||95||75||3.12||253||211||53||19||1414.2||86||668||918||52||115||1.329||7.7||0.5||4.2||5.8|