Half-Baked Hall Profile: Ross Barnes

Ross Barnes 1850-1915

2B, SS
Rockford Forest Citys 1868-1870
Boston Red Stockings 1871-1875
Chicago White Stockings 1876-1877
Cincinnati Reds 1879
Boston Red Stockings 1881


“Ross Barnes was one of the best ball players that ever wore a shoe,
and I would like to have nine men just like him right now under my
management. He was an all-around man, and I do not know of a single
man on the diamond at the present time that I regard as his superior.” -Cap Anson

Career WAR: 27.9

Best Season: 1876- .429/.462/.590/1.052 235 OPS+ 21 2B 14 3B 6.0 WAR

Known For: One of the most exciting players in the early days of the professional baseball and a dominant hitter over the course of his very short career. Was an expert at the fair-foul hit, a ball that landed fair initially but rolled into foul territory. Barnes took advantage of the foul rules before it was changed by bunting balls that would roll into foul territory.

The Bad: His career was cut short by a malaria like disease called “the ague” which he contracted in 1877. His numbers never completely recovered from the illness, and shortly after his return the rule was changed and the fair-foul hit was no longer legal. He technically only played nine major league seasons, which make him ineligible for the Cooperstown Hall of Fame.

Interesting: Hit the first home run in National League history in 1876.


“Barnes was not only a good fielder of wide range, but he was a sure fielder. He played the hardest hits with so much ease that they looked easy. Almost every second baseman, who, at some time, commands so much attention that he is esteemed to be a leader, excels in some one characteristic or another. Either he is a great thrower or fields a ball better on his right side than on his left. Such was not the case with Barnes. He was almost Base Ball perfect in everything and as expert with one arm as with the other. If a one-hand stop was to be made it seemed as if he could grasp a ball as easily with his left hand as with his right.” -Spaulding Guide Obituary – 1915

Base Running:

“Harry Wright put Barnes to lead off in the batting order, both for his ability with the `wagon tongue’ and his speed on the bases. Probably Barnes could get to first base oftener than any other player on the Boston team, not excepting the great George Wright.” – Sam Crane, 1911

Comments from Voters:

“Barnes played before his 1871 stats on Baseball-Reference for Forest City in Rockford, Illinois (with Al Spalding). All his triples suggest he had great power for the era . He also was a master of the bunting foul balls at pitches he couldn’t handle before the rules were changed to not allow plate appearances to continue indefinitely. Being the best all-around player for five-plus years is nothing to sneeze at.” – The Dread Pirate

“* Barnes was freaking dominant.
Ross Barnes batted .431 in 1873, handily winning the batting title. Second place was secured by a time-travelling Milt Thompson¹, who batted .091 under the name “Dave Birdsall”². That over 300 points difference. That’s crazy.

¹ – Cap Anson batted .391 in 1873, but I have excluded him for reasons that only true keepers of the game like myself and Brian McCann understand.
² – I can’t prove this… yet.

* He won the sabermetric triple crown twice
That’s pretty crazy, considering he only played seven full years. It’s safe to say that if Ross Barnes had been able to play as long as Hank Aaron, he would’ve won the sabermetric triple crown a total of six times, and we wouldn’t even need to have this discussion, because we would’ve named the Hall after him.” – Nibbish

WGOM Election Results Page


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