Monday, February 23, 2009

#39 & 40 -- Bob Barton & "In Action"

The only year Bob was a semi-regular player was 1971. His OPS+ was a lofty 94, by far the highest of any season in which he had more than 10 plate appearances. His .250 average for a team that hit .233 was 5th for players that had 300 at bats. It was by far his best year. His competition for the spot came from rookie Fred Kendall (.171) and Chris Cannizzaro (.190). The good times stopped rolling when Bob got off to a bad start in 1972 and the Padres put Fred Kendall in to catch regularly.

I never knew Bob had a place in baseball history, especially with these numbers. However, Bob had a profound place. Marvin Miller was negotiating with the owners over the reserve clause. The owners were arguing that the reserve clause, which kept a player from being a free agent, protected players. Miller responded with “What about Bob Barton?” Miller was wondering how the reserve system protected a player like Bob Barton who’d been a 3rd string catcher with the Giants for 5 years and was getting nowhere. The owners had no response. That helped convince Miller that the reserve clause was worth fighting over. So put Bob Barton up there (but quite a bit lower on the page) with Curt Flood, Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally as heroes of free agency.

Topps made 72 “in action” cards for 1972, 12 in each of the 6 series. If I were a Topps card executive as this was being considered, I would look at this as a way to get more cards in of players that baseball fans wanted to see. That’s why we had Carl Yastrzemski and we’ll see Willie Mays, Bobby Murcer and Johnny Bench. You also need to get in someone from every team. However, why in the world were there 5 Padre “in action” cards? This would average 4 cards per team and the Pads weren't exactly the team you'd think to go over the average.

We’ll see Clay Kirby, Clarence Gaston, Nate Colbert and Ollie Brown coming up to go with Bob. I understand Nate Colbert as he was unquestionably the star of the team. Gaston and Brown were solid and Kirby was their top starter. I do not know why they have an “in action” card of Bob Barton. I’ll have the same question when we get to Pat Corrales of the Reds. Johnny Bench’s backups rarely saw any “action.” The “action” on this card is certainly questionable as it looks like he’s just chased a foul ball to the screen and is lingering to look at the attractive young lady or a kid eating ice cream in the third row. The best part of the card is the security guard. How often do you see that guy in the picture? Based on how tough he looks, I don't think they're expecting Colonel Ike Dubaku to be perpetrating any hijinks in the stadium today.

About the only other comment about Bob is that 1/3 of his 9 career homers came off Hall of Famers (Gaylord Perry, Phil Niekro and Ferguson Jenkins).


  1. Barton did not make it into my Backup Catcher Hall of Fame. He didn't get to see enough action. Actually, he almost big-shotted himself out of contention by becoming a starter for a while. However, since the Pads were so bad and it didn't last long, that wouldn't be held against him.

  2. Another player in the 'how did he warrant an In Action card' category.

  3. So I guess Bob Barton is partially to blame for the high salaries of today, the expensive ballparks needed to pay the high salaries (and the resulting drain on municipal budgets) and the fact that Pittsburgh, Kansas City and other small market teams are nothing but farm teams for the Yankees. Mission accomplished, Marvin! I believe free agency is also partially responsible for the "steroid era," as players now have a much bigger incentive to jeopardize their bodies for a shot at a high salary.