Legendary "Peanuts" Davis (left) with his catcher on the Indian Head Rockets, Herb Barnhill
(Photo courtesy Ken McCabe, Indian Head Sports Hall of Fame and Museum and published on www.attheplate.com)
“A right thumb permanently bent back at a right angle was the result of catching some of the great pitchers of the Negro Leagues for more than fourteen years. He was the last [surviving member] of the Jacksonville Red Caps and the Dublin Athletics.”
--Laurens County African-American History Blog
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©Copyright 2012, Kyle McNary, McNary Publishing
Negro Leaguer of the Month
Herb “Barney” Barnhill
Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Height: 5’- 11 ", Weight: 175 lb.
Born: July 2, 1913 in Hazlehurst, GA
Died: July 25, 2005 in Jacksonville, Flordia
Teams: Jacksonville Red Caps, Cleveland Bears, Kansas City Monarchs, Chicago American Giants, Indian Head Rockets
Herb Barnhill was a light-hitting, fine defensive catcher who backed up some of the best catchers of the 1930s and 40s, including Henry Turner with the Jacksonville Red Caps, Frank Duncan with the Kansas City Monarchs and Tommy Dukes with the Chicago American Giants.
Like most defensive catchers, Barnhill usually batted in the eighth spot of the batting order, and he usually batted in the .250 range with only occasional power.
In 1933, 20-year-old Barnhill played for the semipro Dublin, Georgia Athletics, joining future Negro League pitcher Emory Davis. The best pitcher on the team, though, was a lefty known simply as “Chestnut.” Chestnut went 14-1 on the year, and usually struck out 10-20 men per game! It’s not clear what Chestnut’s name actually was, or where his career took him after he left Dublin.
While with the Jacksonville Red Caps, Barnhill worked as a railroad porter full time while playing baseball at night and on weekends, and he continue to work both jobs until joining the Kansas City Monarchs in 1943.
According to Barnhill, one of his biggest thrills as a player occurred while playing with the Chicago American Giants against the Kansas City Monarchs in 1945. Robinson attempted to steal home and Barnhill shoved the batter out of the way and tagged Robinson out on a bang-bang play.
In 1951, Barnhill left the Negro Leagues and played semipro ball with the Indian Head Rockets located in southeast Saskatchewan, Canada. With Indian Head, Barnhill was the regular catcher, and he had the luxury of catching legendary pitchers Chet Brewer, Pee Wee Jenkins and Peanuts Davis. The Rockets were one of the top teams on the road at the time, and usually made mincemeat of the competition. During the summer of ’51, the Rockets won a $1500 tournament in Price Albert, a tournament at Foam Lake in front of 13,000, and the Saskatchewan Semipro Championship played in Indian Head, winning the final game 23-1!
Though he was never a star, Barnhill had the honor of catching some of the greatest pitchers in history, including Satchel Paige, Preacher Henry, Hilton Smith, Chet Brewer, Connie Johnson, Henry Jessup and Peanuts Davis.