“Barnie’s Phenom”

10 Apr

The Baltimore Orioles needed pitching in 1889; Billy Barnie’s team had finished in 5th place in the American Association with a 57-80 record, and a 5.69 team ERA.

The Baltimore papers thought he had found a solution in April of 1889, The Sun said:

“Yesterday a big six-footer strolled up to the ball grounds while the Baltimore boys were at play.  He put on a suit and went in to pitch.  The ball-players laughed at first, but soon found that they could not hit the stranger.  He placed the ball in every conceivable position, and his curves and in-and-out shoots were remarkable.  When he picked up the bat he made the ball and the centre-field fence come together.  Mr. J.M. Ritter, a traveling salesman, had seen the young pitcher at play in Virginia and brought him to Baltimore.”

The Baltimore American was also enthusiastic:

“Great things are expected of Goetz, the Greencastle giant.”

His full name was George Burt Goetz, a 24-year-old house painter from Greencastle, Pennsylvania, who had played semi-pro ball in Virginia and Pennsylvania.

His first outing was against Pennsylvania University at Oriole Park; The Sun said Goetz “delighted 1,000 persons yesterday afternoon by his work in the box.” He pitched five shutout innings, giving up just two hits in a 20-1 victory; he also hit four singles, The Sun raved “He gives promise of becoming a great pitcher, batter and runner.”

The Sun said Goetz’ arrival was almost biblical:

“(He) has apparently created almost as much of a sensation among the local ball enthusiasts as David did when he strolled in among the embattled hosts of the Hebrews and offered to take the Philistine champion down a peg or two. ..Let us hope for the honor of the Baltimore Club that Mr. Goetz will prove a Baltimore David, and that the big champions of opposing teams may fall before his lightning delivery and Heaven-inspired curves.”

Within a week Goetz had been brought back to earth when he was pounded in an exhibition game against the National League’s Boston Beaneaters in Baltimore, he gave up 15 hits, 12 runs (6 earned), and committed three errors in a 12-5 loss.

The Sun conceded that “David met Goliath and came out second best this time,” but remained hopeful:

“(T)here’s life in him yet, which the season may develop into full growth.”

As quickly as he had arrived, it was reported that Goetz had returned to Pennsylvania to recover from an unknown illness; The Sporting Life simply said “Barnie’s Phenom Goetz is sick and recuperating in Greencastle.”

Oriole Manager Billy Barnie

Orioles Manager Billy Barnie

Goetz made it back to Baltimore and pitched in a June 6 game “Between two nines composed of Baltimore club players…for the benefit of the Johnstown (flood) sufferers.”  The Sun said “Goetz was too much for them,” allowing only four hits.

That outing appears to have earned him a shot for his professional debut; eleven days later Goetz started the first game of a double-header against the last place Louisville Colonels.  The Sun said:

“With a hard, steady work and a display of intelligence he may become a success.  At times he would fire the ball over the plate with a speed like a rifle shot, but when men were on bases he was nervous.  He was twelve times safely with a total of seventeen bases.”

Goetz gave up six runs (four earned); Baltimore tied the game with a three-run ninth inning, and won it with four in the tenth, earning Goetz the victory, Bert Cunningham pitched the tenth inning for the Orioles.

It would be his only appearance.

On July 4 the Orioles released Goetz. With little fanfare or explanation Barnie’s phenom was through.

Goetz signed with the York franchise in the Middle States League later in 1889.

He dropped out of sight until 1892 when The Sun reported that Goetz was “the sensation of the Wisconsin-Minnesota League,” pitching for Hayward, Wisconsin, and had recently struck out 19 in a game with the West Superior team.  The paper facetiously noted “It was reported Goetz had drowned in the Johnstown flood, but seems to have turned up again.”

Goetz’ catcher in Wisconsin was a Baltimore native named Milton K. Osborn; the two would play again the following season with a team in Little Falls, Minnesota and both joined the Lynchburg Hill Climbers of the Virginia League in 1894.  No statistics survive for any of Goetz’ post-Baltimore stops.

His trail goes cold after 1894.  There are many listings in city directories for George B. Goetz’ throughout the country for the next several decades, and there are reports that he was in California as late as 1912—but nothing else is known about “Barnie’s phenom”

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One Response to ““Barnie’s Phenom””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “There was probably none so Unique as Shreve” | Baseball History Daily - July 24, 2013

    […] with Savannah, then Chattanooga; he was a combined 12-9 with 1.52 ERA.  Shreve was signed by Billy Barnie to join his young pitching staff with the Baltimore Orioles in the American Association.  He came […]

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