Nickname: (Impo, Skinny, Tommy Bridges of the Negro Leagues)
- Bats Both, Throws Right
- Height 5' 7", Weight 145 lb.
- Born October 30, 1914 in Greenville, NC USA
- Died January 8, 1983 in Miami, FL USA
A small, fireballing strikeout artist, Barnhill was the ace of the New York Cubans' staff during the early 1940s, compiling an 18-3 record in 1941. He pitched in the 1941-43 East-West all-star games, defeating Satchel Paige in the 1942 contest. That year, the Pirates considered Barnhill for the role of breaking baseball's color line, but the opportunity did not materialize. In 1947, he shut out the Cleveland Buckeyes in the Negro World Series to help the Cubans to the championship. He was signed by the New York Giants in 1949, and in 1950 he compiled an 11-3 record for the AAA champion Minneapolis Millers (American Association). Since he was already 35, his age kept him from getting a shot at the majors. He continued to play in the Pacific Coast League and Florida International League until 1953.
Dave Barnhill was a four-time All-Star in the Negro Leagues.
Barnhill played on the sandlots of North Carolina against Ray Dandridge and Buck Leonard. He signed with the minor Miami Giants in 1937 then moved to the Zulu Clowns and Ethiopian Clowns. During this time, he picked up the nickname "Impo" while working for the less serious side of the Negro Leagues. Buck Leonard had asked the Homestead Grays to sign Barnhill, but they thought he was too small to succeed in real competition.
In the Puerto Rican League of 1940-1941, the North Carolina native went 11-9 with a league-best 193 strikeouts.
Dave signed with the New York Cubans for 1941. The 26-year-old immediately made his impact felt, going 13-8 with a 2.98 RA. He was third in the Negro National League in wins behind Bill Byrd and Ray Brown, second in RA behind Byrd and led with 93 strikeouts, while only walking 12. The rookie pitched in the 1941 East-West Game, relieving Terris McDuffie in the third with a 2-1 deficit. He tossed three shutout innings and went 2 for 2 at the plate with a run and a RBI as the East went on to win, 8-3.
Barnhill fell to 4-7 in 1942. He pitched in both East-West Games that year. In the first game, he relieved Jonas Gaines in the fourth with a 1-1 tie and allowed one run in the next three. He left with a 2-2 tie, replaced by Barney Brown. In the second game, he replaced Gaines in the sixth with a 7-2 lead and threw two shutout frames before Leon Day relieved.
Barnhill had a second big year in 1943, going 12-4. He was second in the NNL in wins behind Johnny Wright and his 3.52 RA ranked third behind Wright and Byrd. He started the 1943 East-West Game and allowed one run in three before Wright replaced him. The East lost a heartbreaker, 1-0.
Dave was 3-3 in 1944 missing much of the year due to a rumored illness. In reality, he had been stabbed by teammate Fred Wilson and the incident was being hushed up. The little right-hander was 0-1 in 1945 then rebounded to 9-3 in 1946. His 2.25 RA that year was second-best behind Lemuel Hooker.
In 1947 in the Negro Leagues, Barnhill went 4-0. He started game two of the 1947 Negro World Series but was knocked out in the second inning down 5-0 before Pat Scantlebury relieved. In game four, he tossed 9-0 shutout. The Cubans went on to take the title.
Dave pitched for Marianao in the 1947-1948 Cuban Winter League, going an excellent 10-8 with a 2.26 ERA. He struck out 122, leading the league by 23 over Connie Marrero. He concluded his Negro League career in 1948. In the second East-West Game of 1948, Barnhill relieved Max Manning in the fourth wit ha 3-1 lead and threw three shutout innings before Joe Black took his place. Overall, he had allowed only 2 runs in 14 innings in East-West Game play.
At some point in 1948 (unclear if this was the 47-48 season or 48-49), he fanned 15 in a game in Cuba, setting a 20th Century record which was not matched until Vinegar Bend Mizell also whiffed 15 in 1955-1956.
Barnhill had a 13-8, 2.76 record for Marianao in 1948-1949; the rest of the staff was just 16-34 on a weak team. He was their lone All-Star, joining Morrie Martin as the honored hurlers. He led the league with 13 complete games, 13 wins, 172 2/3 innings, 156 hits allowed and 79 strikeouts.
Barnhill then signed with the New York Giants. He was 7-10 with a 5.75 ERA and hit .213 for the 1949 Minneapolis Millers. He struggled that winter in Cuba as the 35-year-old veteran was 0-3 with a 4.87 ERA for Marianao. Back with the Millers in 1950, he improved to 11-3, 3.60. Opponents accused him of cutting the ball but were never able to prove this. Dave also hit .226 that year. He was third in the American Association with 128 strikeouts, 32 behind leader Harvey Haddix.
In '51, Barnhill hit .204 the little hurler went deep twice. He had a 6-5, 4.46 record on the hill, finishing in the middle of the staff in ERA. He joined with fellow Negro League star Dandridge in providing mentoring to a young Willie Mays.
Dave moved to the Miami Beach Flamingos in 1952 and went 13-8 with a 1.19 ERA, allowing 125 hits in 181 innings in an extreme pitchers' league. He finished third in the Florida International League in ERA behind Bill Harris and Gil Torres. In 1953, Barnhill ended his career by going 1-1 for the Fort Lauderdale Lions.
Overall, Barnhill was 38-27 in the minor leagues, 23-19 in Cuba (pitching for weak clubs), 11-9 in Puerto Rico and at least 45-26 for the New York Cubans in the Negro Leagues.
After his baseball career ended, Dave worked in the Miami recreation department for 30 years.
- The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley
- The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway
- Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History by Jorge Figueredo
- Black Baseball's National Showcase by Larry Lester
- 1951 and 1953 Baseball Guides