MOUNT MORRIS — A contemporary of the great Albert Spalding is having a hard time getting his mark on the Baseball Hall of Fame.
It is like something you would see out of a great sports film — a local baseball hero being overlooked by the ones who keep legacies alive, because he is a shade under the required laws of the trade. A system that was birthed long after the legend himself passed away into history's time capsule; visited only by those who know the pioneers of the day.
One man is putting in the ultimate struggle to get the local born baseball hero where he belongs.
Mount Morris resident and Ross Barnes fan, Gary Passamonte is trying with all of his might to make this happen.
Barnes was born Roscoe Conkling "Ross" Barnes, and was a national phenomenon of his day in the mid to late 1800s. Passamonte feels he has a rather impressive resume, and a story earning him the honor of joining the other great sports heroes of his day in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“This goes back about 20 years ago,” Passamonte said. “I am a baseball collector, and he (Barnes) was born in Mount Morris, which is where I live.”
Passamonte points to an article written by John Duxbury on the subject of Barnes in 1976 stating the case as to why he should be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Barnes is the only major league player to hit .400 in four seasons, the National League's first batting champion in 1876 could throw with both hands, he finished more than 60 points ahead of his nearest rival and also led runs, hits, doubles, and triples. Barnes also hit the new league's first home run, connecting in the fifth inning off William “Cherokee” Fisher at Cincinnati on May 2, 1876.
Barnes began his career in Rockford, Ill, on a youth team called the Pioneers. His teammate was Albert Spalding, who died in 1915 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939. He was a second baseman and a shortstop, but best known for his sporting goods company which outfitted Major League baseball and Spalding was the official baseball until 1976, according to the Hall of Fame.
Barnes was only a teen through most of his first season playing with adults, since he was born May 8, 1850 and spearheaded his fame in 1866. He played in Chicago for the Forest City, Boston for the Red Stockings, and was largely responsible for why we even have a National League in the first place.
There are many statistics around Ross Barnes and Duxbury's in-depth article told his story in hopes of getting him at least considered for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
There is only one thing keeping this baseball legend from being among all the other greats, and that is that Barnes' record only records nine seasons recognized by the Hall of Fame as major league seasons. Barnes played five in the National Association (1871- 1875) and four in the National League (1876, 1877, 1879, and 1881). The rule states he needs to be recognized for playing 10 seasons.
Passamonte explained there are three categories in the Hall of Fame; the ones from 1871 to 1947, 1947 to 1970, and 1970 to present. Each category is considered once a year, so every three years Barnes has a chance to win. Passamonte said he was not considered this year, so that means with some help from passionate fans he may get in the books on 2018.
“In his day he played professional prior to the national league, and played after that,” he said. “He played five years prior to 1871 professionally. The competitive league was in its infancy at the time, so it is not fair that he be judged like the others.”
The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) voted Barnes as the most overlooked baseball legend of the 19th century in 2013, Passamonte said.
There have been countless letters mailed to the Hall of Fame, a Facebook page set up to bring awareness, petitions signed, and baseball cards made up to honor the local hero.
“He played the best quality of baseball,” Passamonte said. “He pioneered the game. He changed the way we play baseball.”
Passamonte has a lot of experience with the game himself; he has played it, coached it, and umpired it.
“He was the best player of his team,” he said. “He died almost 25 years before the Hall of Fame was created.”
It is more than just the sum total of his stats, Ross Barnes spent most of his life living and playing the game, and Passamonte believes he has more than earned his place on the wall.
To join Passamonte's fight to bring Ross Barnes to the Baseball Hall of Fame, or you are interested in knowing more about story, visit the Facebook page at Get Ross Barnes In The Baseball Hall Of Fame. You will find a sample letter to send to the Hall of Fame there as well. You can contact Passamonte at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions, or you want to know more about how you can help.