NOTE – The following passage comes from a draft of my book The Least Among Them which presents an original and unique history of the New York Yankees. The Least Among Them is currently in the research and editing stages. It is hoped that the final research for this text will be completed in 2017. I have targeted a 2018 publication date.
John Francis “Honey” Barnes began his professional baseball career after graduating from Colgate University in 1925. During his last two season at Colgate, Barnes displayed outstanding batting skills hitting .385 as a junior in 1924 and .350 as a senior in 1925. Barnes was usually the #4 batter in the Colgate lineup as well as serving as the team’s captain. After college, Barnes was signed by baseball scout Paul Krichell who certainly left his mark on Yankees history.
Paul Krichell is famous for being the scout who signed Lou Gehrig. What is less known is that Krichell was an integral part of the early success of the Yankees franchise. A host of legendary Yankees came to the team through Paul Krichell’s efforts. For example, three out of the four members of the starting infield on the 1927 Yankees (Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, and Mark Koenig) were signed by Krichell. During his many years as a Yankees scout, Krichell also discovered or signed a host of legendary baseball players that included Hinkey Haines, Leo Durocher, Charlie Keller, and future Hall-of-Famers Phil Rizzuto and Whitey Ford. Krichell also tried to sign the great Hank Greenberg to the Yankees, but Greenberg signed with the Detroit Tigers feeling that, as a first baseman, his path to the Major Leagues was blocked by Lou Gehrig. Honey Barnes was talented enough to be brought to the Yankees franchise by one it is most legendary scouts.
In 1926, the same year in which he arrived in the Major Leagues, Honey Barnes began playing for the Buffalo Bisons of the International League.
Honey Barnes’ only Major League experience came on April 20, 1926 in a game at Griffith Stadium against the Washington Senators. These, though, were not the typical Washington Senators, a team that was known for losing. The standard phrase, “First in war, first in peace, last in the American League” typified most of the Senators’ history. This squad was different. The Washington Senators that faced the Yankees on that April day in 1925 entered the stadium as the two-time American League champions having won the American League in 1925 and the World Series in 1924. This Washington team was a powerhouse.
If Honey Barnes’ lone baseball experience lasted of but one game, he was fortunate in that he was able to experience that game alongside a host of baseball legends. In the starting lineup for Washington that day were many future Hall-of-Famers, in fact they batted one after the next at the top of the order with Sam Rice (center field), batting leadoff, Bucky Harris (second base) batting second, and Goose Goslin (left field) batting third. The Senators’ pitcher that day may have been the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball, Walter “The Big Train” Johnson.
The Yankees, the eventual 1926, 1927, and 1928 pennant winners, were just beginning their Murders Row era. There was no shortage of starts on the Yankees’ side of the diamond. From manager Miller Huggins down through Earle Combs, Tony Lazzeri, Lou Gehrig, and Babe Ruth, the Yankees also had their fair share of future Hall-of-Fame enshrines. On the pitching staff, although they did not pitch in this particular game were eventual Hall-of-Famers Herb Pennock and Waite “Schoolboy” Hoyt.
There is no doubt that Walter Johnson, the Washington hurler, was one of baseball’s greatest pitchers, but on this day, he did not seem to bring his best stuff. The Yankees scored early and often. The great Babe Ruth homered in the first inning. By the time Johnson was removed, after the third inning, the Yankees had scored seven runs. They were not about to stop, knocking home three runs in the fourth inning, four runs in the fifth inning, and one more run in the sixth inning. In the eighth inning, they scored three more runs! Each of the top seven batters in the Yankees line-up had a multiple hit game. Mark Koenig, the shortstop, had three hits. Earle Combs, the center fielder, had four hits. Babe Ruth, the right fielder, totaled five hits with five runs scored and six runs batted in!
With the Yankees leading 18-3 heading into the top of the ninth inning, it seemed a perfect time to allow Honey Barnes to have his first taste of the big leagues. Barnes came to bat against Clarence Fletcher “Lefty” Thomas, a pitcher who played in a scant eight Major League games over two seasons. This would be Thomas’ first appearance during the 1926 season. In their lone big league match-up Barnes worked out a walk against Thomas.
Barnes then served as the catcher in the bottom of the ninth inning receiving the offerings from Yankees reliever Hank Johnson who surrendered two runs off two hits and two walks in his only inning of work. Johnson is actually credited with a save for his efforts as the Yankees won this game 18-5. As a catcher, Barnes did not record a putout nor make an assist. His lone inning behind the plate was unmemorable at least for the record books. The Yankees won the game 18-5.
Honey Barnes returned to the farm leagues where he played for the next five seasons, all but one for the Buffalo team. The 1930 season, Barnes’ last, was played with the Louisville Colonels. Barnes’ incomplete Minor League batting average stands at .300 proving that he was an adept hitter.
As a Major Leaguer, though, Honey Barnes was perfect. He reached base in his only plate appearance. Barnes’ One-Base Percentage stands at 1.000. In the history of Major League Baseball no one was able to get him out.
After his playing days, Honey Barnes became an investigator for the Niagara County Welfare Department.