Barnes, Junie

Primary Position: Relief pitcher
Birthplace: Linwood

First, Middle Names: Junie Shoaf      Nickname: Lefty
Date of Birth:  Dec. 1, 1911    Date and Place of Death: Dec. 31, 1963, Jacksonville, NC
Burial: Barnes Family Cemetery, Churchland, NC

High School: Churchland High School, Churchland, NC
College: Wake Forest University, Wake Forest, NC

Bats: L             Throws: L        Height and Weight: 5-11, 170
Debut Year: 1934       Final Year: 1934          Years Played: 1
Team and Year: Cincinnati Reds, 1934

Career Summary
G         W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
2          0          0          0          0.00     0.1       0          0.0

Though he was a collegiate star who set strike-out records in the minor leagues, Junie Barnes had only the most-fleeting of moments in the majors. He pitched to just two batters in two games. He walked the first and retired the other. That one-third of an inning is the shortest tenure in the majors of any North Carolina pitcher.

Barnes apparently had better luck preaching the Word than pitching a curve because he spent most of his life after baseball as a Baptist minister.

The third of Joseph and Carrie Barnes’ eight children, Junie was born on a farm in 1911 in Linwood, a small community in western Davidson County. He attended old Churchland High School, where he played baseball but was better known for his basketball prowess.[1]

Barnes had developed sidearm and underhanded deliveries by the time he entered Wake Forest College, then still in Wake County, North Carolina, in 1930. His quirky pitching motions combined with impeccable control to make him the guy the Deacons wanted on the mound for big games. He was out there in a cold drizzle in May 1932 and beat powerhouse Duke University 3-1 in Durham, North Carolina, for the championship of major North Carolina colleges. Duke, which had won three consecutive titles, suffered its first home loss in two years.[2]

After the college season that year, Barnes spent the summer pitching in the old, independent Bi-State League, where he won 16 of 20 starts. In a game in Fieldale, Virginia, he fanned the first seven. No one even got wood on the ball. When the eighth batter fouled off a two-strike pitch, someone in the stands yelled to take the pitcher out because he was tiring.

The Cincinnati Reds signed Barnes after he graduated and assigned him to their farm club in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he struck out 232 in 1934 to set a Piedmont League record. He struck out 18 in a game two years later to tie a Southern League mark.

Barnes recorded most of those strikeouts in Wilmington at night when the Pirates played most of its games. Night baseball was just starting to take hold in organized baseball.[3] Reds’ General Manager Larry McPhail planned to begin playing under the lights in Cincinnati’s Crosley Field in 1935. He hoped that Barnes’ deceptive motion would be particularly effective in the dim glow of those early lighting systems.

So, why Barnes was given such a short tryout in the big leagues in 1934, a year before night baseball debuted in Cincinnati, is a bit puzzling. He pitched two more seasons for Reds’ farm clubs, winning almost as many games as he lost while giving up about four runs a game, but it apparently wasn’t good enough for another call up. Barnes pitched in the minors for three more clubs before retiring in 1941.

Six years later he was in the pulpit of Pleasant View Baptist Church in Statesville, North Carolina. He and his wife, Mary, whom he married in 1937, would spend the next 20 or so years at Baptist churches across the state. They would raise three daughters along the way.

Barnes was the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Jacksonville, North Carolina, in 1963 when he died of colon cancer.

[1] The current site of Churchland Elementary School was originally Churchland High School until 1957 when West Davidson High School opened.
[2] The colleges that competed for what was called the Big Five title were: Davidson College, Duke University N.C. State College, the University of North Carolina, and Wake Forest College.
[3] Minor-league teams in Independence, Kansas, played the first night game in organized baseball in 1930. The Kansas City Monarchs, a Negro League team, played the first big-league game under the lights later that year. The first night game in the major leagues was played in Cincinnati on May 24, 1935.