Rex Barney, 72,
Pitcher and Announcer
Rex Barney, whose no-hitter for the Brooklyn Dodgers against the New York Giants in 1948 was the crowning point of a baseball career shackled by his inability to get the ball over the plate consistently, died Tuesday at his home in Baltimore. He was 72.
Barney, the Baltimore Orioles' public-address announcer for the last 25 years, was found dead at his home by a friend, according to the Orioles' director of public relations, John Maroon. No cause of death was immediately available.
Barney had a heart attack in 1995, one year after he had a leg amputated because of circulation problems associated with diabetes. On Tuesday night the Orioles-Athletics game at Camden Yards was played without a PA announcer, in memory of Barney.
The baseball landscape has often been dotted with youngsters blessed with fastballs they can't control. Some -- like Bob Feller and Sandy Koufax -- find themselves and go on to the Hall of Fame. Others, like Barney, have their day, but never find the strike zone. "Barney pitched as though the plate was high and outside," Bob Cooke wrote in The Herald Tribune.
A right-hander from Omaha, Neb., Barney joined the Dodgers at 18 after Branch Rickey offered him a $5,000 bonus in 1943. He was promoted to Brooklyn just months after graduating from high school.
On his first pitch in the majors, Barney hit Eddie Stanky squarely in the back. That foreshadowed a career in which Barney had 410 walks and 336 strikeouts in 597 innings. Over six seasons with the Dodgers, Barney completed just one, 1948, with more strikeouts than walks, 138 to 122. And for one game that season, on Sept. 9, he looked worthy of every bit of Rickey's hefty bonus. Barney threw 75 strikes among his 116 pitches as he held the crosstown rival Giants hitless in a 2-0 victory on a rainy night at the Polo Grounds. He walked two and struck out four, and he had even the Giants' fans cheering. No other Brooklyn Dodger ever pitched a no-hitter there. That 1948 season was Barney's best, as he went 15-13 with a 3.10 ERA, as well as four shutouts and 12 complete games. Several weeks later, Barney broke a leg in two places sliding into second base. The injury healed, but his pitching rhythm was never the same, compounding his wildness and leading to a 9-8 record in 1949. By 1950, at age 25, Barney had bottomed out. He ended with a 35-31 record and a 4.34 ERA.
After several years as a broadcaster in New York, Barney joined the Baltimore organization in 1964 and soon became popular as the public-address announcer, renowned for the cry of "Give that fan a contract," whenever a spectator made a nice play on a ball in the stands. He also followed each announcement with a trademark "Thank yoouuu!"
Barney, divorced twice, is survived by a son, Kevin, and a daughter, Christy Lou, both of California. "I should have been up there with the greats," he wrote in his autobiography. "I should have gone right up the ladder in 1949, but too many rungs were missing."