Perhaps the most significant achievement in the Cardinals career of pitcher Frank Barnes is that he was chosen to be the pinch-runner for Stan Musial after the St. Louis slugger got his 3,000th hit.
Dig deeper, though, and what emerges is an intriguing story of a baseball pioneer who exceled at the highest levels of the Cardinals’ minor-league system.
The Web site, Baseball-Reference.com, reported in July 2015 that Barnes, 88, died on Oct. 19, 2014, at his home in Greenville, Miss. Like so much of his baseball career, Barnes’ passing unfortunately went largely unnoticed on the national scene.
At 21, Barnes began his professional career in 1947 with Indianapolis of the Negro American League. Three years later, in July 1950, while playing for Kansas City of the Negro American League, Barnes and teammate Elston Howard had their contracts sold to the defending World Series champion Yankees, who were slow to integrate.
Barnes and Howard, an outfielder and St. Louis native, were assigned to a Class A farm club in Muskegon, Mich.
Howard, converted to catcher, eventually became the first African-American to play for the Yankees. Barnes was dealt to the Browns organization.
In 1956, at age 30, Barnes was with Toronto, a Class AAA franchise without affiliation. Toronto loaned him to the Cardinals’ Omaha affiliate and Barnes appeared in seven games for the American Association club.
Backed by Keane
Johnny Keane, the Omaha manager, gave a positive report on Barnes to the Cardinals. On the strength of that recommendation, Cardinals general manager Frank Lane acquired Barnes from Toronto on Oct. 1, 1956, for pitcher Jim Pearce, cash and a player to be named (first baseman Rocky Nelson).
Barnes began the 1957 season with Omaha. On May 28, he struck out 17 Denver batters in 10 innings of a 1-0 Omaha victory. In a stretch from May to June, Barnes pitched 41.1 consecutive scoreless innings, breaking the American Association record of 39 by Bill Schardt of the 1915 Indianapolis team.
Keane cited “pinpoint control on everything he throws” and “much improvement on the breaking pitches” as reasons for Barnes’ success, The Sporting News reported.
Lane sent an assistant, Joe Mathes, to Omaha to scout Barnes and two other pitching prospects, Bob Mabe and Tom Cheney.
Barnes completed the 1957 American Association season with a 12-10 record, six shutouts and a league-leading 2.41 ERA.
Reaching the majors
The Cardinals rewarded him with a call-up for the final month of the season. On Sept. 22, 1957, Barnes, 31, made his big-league debut with a scoreless inning in relief of starter Lindy McDaniel against the Reds at Cincinnati. Boxscore
Two days later, Barnes pitched six scoreless innings in relief of starter Sam Jones against the Braves at Milwaukee. Boxscore
Barnes “showed speed and a good slow curve,” The Sporting News reported.
Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson gave Barnes his first big-league start on Sept. 29, 1957, against the Cubs at St. Louis. Barnes lacked command of his pitches that day and was shelled for five runs in three innings.
In three appearances for the 1957 Cardinals, Barnes was 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA. Still, he was prominent in the Cardinals’ plans for spring training in 1958.
On March 9, 1958, the Cardinals started Barnes against Yankees ace Whitey Ford in the second exhibition game of the spring. Barnes pitched well, yielding a run in three innings.
In his first 15 spring training exhibition innings, Barnes gave up a total of two runs, prompting The Sporting News to describe his performance as “dazzling pitching.” Impressed, the Cardinals put Barnes on their Opening Day roster.
For Barnes, two highlights of his stint with the 1958 Cardinals occurred in May.
Musial delivered his 3,000th career hit, a RBI-double to left-center off the Cubs’ Moe Drabowsky, on May 13 at Chicago.
Hutchinson lifted Musial for a pinch-runner, choosing Barnes for the honor. Barnes raced home from second on a single to left by Don Blasingame, tying the score at 3-3 in a game the Cardinals would win, 5-3. Boxscore
Five days later, on May 18, Barnes earned his only big-league win.
In the opener of a doubleheader against the Dodgers at St. Louis, Barnes, in relief of Mabe, pitched six innings and held the Dodgers to one run (a Johnny Roseboro home run) and four hits. The losing pitcher was future Hall of Famer Don Drysdale, who relieved starter Fred Kipp in the second and gave up two runs and five hits in four innings.
Billy Muffett relieved Barnes in the ninth and earned the save in a 6-5 Cardinals victory. Boxscore
Return to Omaha
Barnes was 1-1 with a 7.58 ERA in eight games for the 1958 Cardinals. He was returned to Omaha in June after St. Louis acquired pitcher Sal Maglie from the Yankees in a cash transaction. Lee MacPhail, Yankees farm director, told The Sporting News that he asked the Cardinals for Barnes in exchange for Maglie, but St. Louis refused.
On Aug. 4, 1958, Barnes pitched a no-hitter for Omaha against Louisville. He walked three and struck out 11.
Barnes completed the 1958 season with a 7-6 record and 2.58 ERA for Omaha.
He spent the entire 1959 season with Omaha, posting a 15-12 record and 2.87 ERA as the ace on a staff that included Bob Gibson and Ray Sadecki.
After opening the 1960 season with the Cardinals’ Rochester farm club, Barnes was called up to St. Louis on April 29. He went 0-1 with a 3.52 ERA in four games with the Cardinals.
On May 19, 1960, the Cardinals sold Barnes’ contract to the White Sox, who assigned him to their San Diego farm team. Barnes continued to pitch professionally in the minor leagues and Mexico until age 40 in 1967, but never got back to the big leagues.