Changing Pirates History Part Two: Frank Barrett

A month ago today, I found a discrepancy in the stats for Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Harry Gardner. He was credited with three extra runs and two less outs during his only game in 1912, a game that happened to be his last career game. Today, while writing the bio for Frank Barrett, a pitcher for the 1950 Pirates, I came across more stats that didn’t line up right.

Barrett pitched five September games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1950, his only season with the team and his last season in the majors. He pitched a total of 4.1 innings, allowing three runs, two were earned, leaving his with a 4.15 ERA. At least that is what the record books have said for a long time(credit to Sam Goodman for checking a 1976 encyclopedia to confirm this fact).

His actual stats can be found in the October 1,1950 Pittsburgh Press and they show 3.2 innings with one earned run, which translates to a 2.45 ERA during his brief Pirates career. His game-by-game stats can be found on baseball-reference.com here(note the earned runs and IP in each game, which are correct). The Pirates finished their season on October 1st with a doubleheader against the Reds, and Barrett didn’t pitch in either game. He actually didn’t pitch after September 15th. An interesting side note to his first two outings, he threw just one pitch in each of them, retiring the only batter he faced both times.

Sometime between the end of the 1950 season and the printing of the 1976 baseball encyclopedia, someone added on two outs and one earned run to the record of Frank Barrett, an odd combo of numbers, since he didn’t have an outing that matches up to those numbers. Numerous times in the past, records have been changed due to record keepers in the past, adding the stats from the same game twice. A famous example of that would be Ty Cobb, who was credited with two extra hits, something that wasn’t uncovered until after Pete Rose broke his record. If you didn’t know that already, Eric Show actually wasn’t the pitcher to give up Rose’s record-breaking hit. That dubious distinction goes to Reggie Patterson of the Cubs, three days earlier.

With the new numbers in mind, not only does Barrett’s Pirates ERA drop 1.70, his career mark of 3.51 should be corrected to 3.48(84 ER in 217IP).

  • RandyLinville
    July 3, 2012 11:56 am

    So, how does this work functionally to actually get the official record book changed? This is interesting stuff. Is there someone you contact to make officially set the record straight?

    • The official statkeeper for baseball is Elias but I believe the Society for American Baseball Research(SABR) would be the ones to go through for changes to old stats. Any time I brought stuff to the attention of baseball-reference, they have said something to the effect that they will bring it up to SABR to see if any changes should be made. In the past, I’ve sent them articles for reference. No idea how long Barrett’s stats have been wrong but I can tell you it’s been at least 36 years.

      It was probably just a paperwork mix up somewhere along the lines in the days before computers. I went through all the game stories for his five appearances and everything checks out with their game-by-game recaps, so basically it is just a clerical error made along the way somewhere.

      I posted it here first before contacting them because in the past I’ve found some errors, or happened upon some upcoming milestones, alerted Elias through other sources and they took full credit for it. Last time I checked, I don’t work for Elias but I do support baseball-reference by sponsoring pages, mentioning them from time to time and pointing out errors, because I use the site often.

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