In the first game he pitched in the major leagues, Ed Barry literally wore Cy Young’s uniform.
Barry pitched for the Boston Americans for three seasons in a row – 1905 through 1907 – though he worked only 12 games in all, and progressively fewer each year. He was quite tall for the day, standing 6-feet-3 (which earned him the nickname Jumbo) and weighed in at 185 pounds. He was a left-handed pitcher, though he batted from the right side. “Jumbo” was a nickname Barry likely earned before he arrived in Boston. When he did, he joined a pitching staff that boasted four other men who were 6-feet-1 or taller – Bill Dinneen, Joe Harris, Ed Hughes, and Cy Young.
Barry hailed from Wisconsin, born to James and Sarah (Sweeney) Barry on October 2, 1882, in Madison. Both parents were natives of the state. His own career took him to Boston, and he ultimately worked and died in Massachusetts.
Barry’s first season in professional baseball was with the Decatur Commodores of the Three-I League (the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League) in 1905, and he pitched 24 games in the first part of the year, earning a decision in each one (11-13) and attracting the interest of the Boston Americans. For the sum of $750, Boston purchased Barry’s contract from Decatur on July 30.i The Commodores ultimately finished fourth in the eight-team league. One sentence in the announcement of the deal appears confusing: “He was successful and won more games in proportion to the number pitched than any other player in the league.”ii Several stories said he had come to Decatur from Freeport, Indiana.
Taylor later gave Decatur an additional $500 so that Barry could come to Boston before the Three-I League season was over.iii He arrived on August 25, and made his debut on August 27, working in relief of Norwood Gibson in the first game of a doubleheader in Chicago against the White Sox. It was the fifth doubleheader in five days for Boston and the third in a row for the two teams. Gibson gave up five runs through the first four innings, and was taken out for a pinch hitter in the top of the fifth. Barry was brought in by manager Jimmy Collins and threw the rest of the game “clad in Cy Young’s clothes, which he filled out, made a good impression and showed considerable promise, having good speed and control.”iv
Barry’s first three innings saw nine batters retired in order, but the vaunted control was shaken some in the bottom of the eighth. Boston right fielder Kip Selbach dropped a fly ball, with the batter reaching second base. A sacrifice pushed him to third. Barry hit a batter, allowed a Texas Leaguer (for the only hit of his four innings), and threw a wild pitch. Two runs were scored on him, but only after Selbach’s error and some shoddy play by Hobe Ferris. The Chicago Tribune agreed that Barry would have blanked the White Sox but for the errors, and added, “Barry … is a ringer for ‘Rube’ Waddell in action and for Bob Fitzsimmons in build and everything except freckles.”v The Boston Globe described Barry as “white-haired.” The White Sox swept all three consecutive doubleheaders.
Barry’s first start came in New York on September 4, but he didn’t even make it through the first inning because a hard-hit line drive struck him on the back of the hand and the bruise forced him to leave the game.vi
Barry got another start just two days later, on the 6th at Boston’s Huntington Avenue Grounds against the visiting Philadelphia Athletics. He gave his team a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning when Lou Criger tripled and Barry singled him in. It was his first big-league base hit, but one of only two he ever had. Through seven innings, the 1-0 lead held, but Barry weakened in the eighth inning and gave up two singles to tie the game, and a single and a double in the top of the ninth, which gave Philadelphia a 2-1 win. “Barry has the earmarks of a comer,” declared the next morning’s Boston Globe.
A confusing note in the September 15 Globe said that Barry refused to sign a contract with team owner John I. Taylor, that he “was offered a good salary by Mr. Taylor. He thought, however, that his services were worth more money and demanded a big increase, which Mr. Taylor has refused to give him.” He was reportedly left in Boston when the team went out on the road, but must have come to terms because he pitched the final game of the brief road trip.
Barry started three more games for Boston, pitching the second game of a September 19 doubleheader in Washington. He gave up nine hits but struck out seven, and was said to have pitched good ball but received “wretched support.” Boston won the game with two runs in the top of the ninth, but it was only after Barry had left the game after eight, and the win was awarded to Jesse Tannehill.
Barry held his own in the first game of a doubleheader against the visiting White Sox on September 25, but lost the game, 3-1, because he “could not overcome the weak all-round work of his teammates” – though it’s hard to blame Jimmy Callahan’s two-run homer in the top of the first on his fellow ballplayers.vii The Boston offense, however, scored only once, in the bottom of the ninth.
Barry watched Bill Dinneen throw a no-hitter on the 27th. He himself pitched on October 3 and won his first (and only) major-league game. Cleveland was in Boston. “Collins gave his left-hander, Barry a good trying out, and the young man displayed fine speed and a clever all-round delivery, and, with plenty of work, promises to hold his own with the best of them.” He was 0-for-2 at the plate, but his sacrifice in the third inning helped advance two baserunners and kick off a five-run frame. Neither team made an error. The final was 7-4 in Boston’s favor. Barry had finished his season and was 1-2 with a 2.88 earned-run average, having worked 40⅔ innings with 18 strikeouts, 15 walks, and four hit batsmen.
Barry spent the winter in Decatur, reportedly spending a great deal of time roller skating.viii When Boston opened spring training in Macon, Georgia, Barry wasn’t there. In fact, the Globe reported, “Nothing has been heard from Barry since last fall. As the team is well fixed with box artists, Barry would never be missed and would no doubt be loaned anyway.”ix Although he’d been signed to a Boston contract since the fall of 1905, he had still not turned up a week later, and was “perhaps expecting that manager Collins would send an agent for him with transportation,” suggested a newspaper sarcastically.x Finally, on April 3, Collins received a letter saying the Barry had been ill but was now ready to join the team. Collins told him not to come south, but to join the team when it traveled north.xi He did join the team in Columbus, Georgia; Boston played its final game of the spring there on April 12.
The Houghton (Michigan) Giants secured Barry’s services for 1906 and he pitched in the Northern-Copper Country League. He was one of four pitchers tied for the league lead in wins, with 18. Barry – known as “Rube” Barry at times – was 18-9, and his teammate Roy Beecher was one of the other 18-game winners. Houghton finished in second place, just a game and a half behind the Calumet Aristocrats. One of the wins was a one-hit shutout of Winnipeg on August 11. Earlier in the season he threw a one-hitter against Grand Forks.
Barry was back with Boston by September 11 – now under manager Chick Stahl, after Collins had been replaced – and started the day’s game against the New York Highlanders, pitching a complete game in New York and losing, 11-3. It was a bizarre game that featured a near-steal of home plate (but one of Barry’s three strikeout victims swung at the pitch for the third out of the inning, so the run did not count) and a sixth-inning fight between two of Barry’s teammates, Jack Hayden and Hobe Ferris, which resulted in a dozen policeman rushing to the bench, 500 fans running onto the field, and the arrest of Ferris, while Hayden was taken to a dentist for a kick to the teeth administered by Ferris. In the end, Hayden refused to press charges. The team Barry had rejoined was not having a happy season. After his loss on September 11, Boston was 41-89 and deep in last place, 38½ games out of first. It only got worse.
His second start of ’06 was on the 15th in Philadelphia. The Athletics had won the first game of the chilly day, 7-1. Barry started the second game and allowed only two hits, but he lost the game, 2-0. An error by Freddy Parent was followed by a “fluke” home run by Harry Davis that bounced over the left-field bleacher fence provided the two runs. The game ended after 5½ innings, due to darkness.
Barry had one more appearance in Boston’s dismal 1906 season and he lost that one, too, a 9-2 road defeat in Detroit on September 19. Barry himself scored both of Boston’s runs. But he allowed nine hits, and committed one of Boston’s three errors; both Sam Crawford and Ty Cobb were 3-for-4, with two singles and a triple apiece.
The Providence Grays spent $750 in January to buy Barry’s contract for the 1907 season.xii He pitched in 22 games for the Grays, with a 7-10 record for manager Hugh Duffy. Providence finished in third place in the Eastern League. Barry finished with a flourish, pitching both games of a doubleheader against visiting Buffalo on September 22, with a 2-0 shutout in the first game and a 3-1 loss in the second. He was briefly loaned to Lynn at one point in July, though he doesn’t show up in surviving New England League statistics.xiii
Barry was brought back to Boston again; the 1907 team wasn’t as bad as the 1906 team, but when Barry took the mound on the last day of September, the team had lost 13 games in a row and hadn’t won since September 11. He pitched well, heading into the ninth inning with a 3-3 tie thanks to the pair of runs scored by Boston in the bottom of the eighth. With two Chicago men on base and one out in the top of the ninth, Stahl brought in Fred Burchell in relief. He struck out two and didn’t give up a hit through the 14th inning. The game ended in a 3-3 tie after 14. It wasn’t a win, but at least it wasn’t another loss.
The last decision of Barry’s major-league career came on October 4, his only other appearance in 1907. He pitched in New York against the Highlanders and lost the game on two runs New York scored in the fourth inning without benefit of a hit. He walked the first batter. The next batter laid down a bunt and Barry fielded it, but his throw struck the batter in the back. There was a double steal, and the throw to third base was muffed, allowing the lead runner to score and the other to take third base, from where he scored the second run on a hard-hit ball to third baseman Harry Lord, who threw out the batter at first base. New York won, 3-1, Barry finishing the game despite a sixth-inning line drive that struck him in the head and knocked him to the ground.
Barry was 0-1 for Boston despite a good 2.08 ERA. He never returned to the major leagues, finishing 1-6 with a 3.53 ERA.
In late February or early March of 1908, Barry’s contract was formally sold to Providence. He played two more years for Hugh Duffy in Providence, going 14-10 in 1908 and 11-13 in 1909. He was late to report to Providence in 1909, his arrival only noted in the May 30 Sporting Life. Despite posting a good record in ’08, he was suspended for a while in June by Duffy. The team finished only two games behind Baltimore for the Eastern League flag; one wonders whether if Barry had better toed the line, they might have won another game or two. He struck out 12 Orioles in the July 19 game. Late in the 1908 season the Pittsburgh Pirates purchased his contract.xiv Nothing came of the purchase. He was back with the Grays again in 1909, though he again reported late.
Barry turned up for the Grays’ spring training in 1910 and “surprised his teammates by the improved pitching form that he is showing,”according to Sporting Life.xv Two weeks later, however, on May 7, the paper reported his unconditional release.
Barry may have pitched briefly for Northampton in the Connecticut State League in 1911. A pitcher named Barry beat New Britain on April 23, 1911, and Barry’s handwritten record in Hall of Fame files shows him with Northampton (no record indicated) in 1911. There is no baseball activity reported in 1910, or after the brief indication for 1911, which says the club was dropped from the league due to financial difficulties. Indeed, both Holyoke and Northampton disbanded on June 26 that year.
Barry took up work as a stove salesman for the Otter River Stove Company, living in Massachusetts until his death in the Farren Hospital in Montague at the age of 37 from cerebro-spinal meningitis on June 19, 1920. He left behind his widow, the former Helen Pasyd, their daughter, Elizabeth, and his mother, Sarah, as well as three brothers and three sisters.
Researcher Bill Haber tried very hard to pin down more details of Barry’s life and death, but found it “one of the most fascinating and difficult searches” he’d ever encountered. He wrote in a long letter to the Madison Public Library that he had concluded Barry had been born on October 16, 1881, in Fitchburg, Wisconsin, and that his father, James, was living with him in Princeton, Maine, in May 1916. A niece and nephew provided Haber with sketchy details. His search seems to have never been completed, but the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Certificate of Death is the source of his birth and death dates, his parents’ names, and Helen Pasyd’s name. The June 20 Greenfield Recorder newspaper reported Barry as a resident of Wendell, Massachusetts, a town bordering Montague. Both towns were just east of Greenfield. Earlier in 1920, the US Census found Edward, Helen, and one-month-old Elizabeth living in Gardner, Massachusetts, along with a boarder from Canada, a house carpenter named Frank Meigs.
In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Barry’s player file and player questionnaire from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com.
i Boston Globe, July 31, 1905.
ii Chicago Tribune, August 4, 1905. The Boston Globe had almost the same language. Because it was several weeks before Barry first pitched for Boston, it is possible he had a winning record at the time of the purchase, and then lost several games in succession.
iii Sporting Life, September 9, 1905.
iv Boston Globe, August 28, 1905.
v Chicago Tribune, August 28, 1905.
vi Boston Globe, September 4, 1905.
vii Boston Globe, September 20, 1905.
viii Sporting Life, November 11, 1905.
ix Boston Globe, March 14, 1906.
x Boston Globe, March 23, 1906.
xi Boston Globe, April 4, 1906.
xii Sporting Life, February 2 and August 24, 1907.
xiii Sporting Life, July 20, 1907.
xiv Sporting Life, September 5 and November 25, 1908.
xv Sporting Life, April 23, 1910.