Ed Barnowski, a local pitching legend who led Mont Pleasant to an undefeated season in 1960 and later hurled for the Baltimore Orioles, died Tuesday. The Naples, Florida, resident was 74.
His death was reported by Don Blaha, president of the Schenectady Ole Timers Baseball Club, to which Barnowski belonged, and childhood friend Tony Rossi, the Siena baseball coach.
"He was one of the best, if not the best, pitchers Schenectady ever produced," Blaha said.
Barnowski is a member of the Schenectady City School District Athletic Hall of Fame and Capital District Baseball Hall of Fame. His major league career spanned two seasons for the Orioles, 1965 and 1966 -- the year Baltimore won its first World Series title. He pitched a total of six games with a 2.45 earned run average, both striking out and walking eight in 7 1⁄3 innings.
“I think it’s every kid’s dream who plays baseball to someday play in the major leagues,” Barnowski said in a Daily Gazette interview in 2013, the year he was inducted into the Schenectady hall. “And, of course, it was always my dream, too. My favorite team was always the Brooklyn Dodgers, and I remember staying up late at night under the covers listening to the games on my transistor radio. They broke my heart when they went to L.A. I was never a New York Yankees fan. I was always a Yankees hater.”
Although his major league career was short, Barnowski was dominant in the minors. The hard-throwing 6-foot-2, 195-pound right-hander once led the minor leagues in strikeouts, when in 1964 he fanned 322 batters in just 222 innings for Class A Stockton of the California State League. Barnowski pitched a pair of no-hitters.
Barnowski was the star pitcher for Mont Pleasant from 1959 through 1961. He led the Red Raiders to an undefeated season in 1960 and was the All-County player of the year in both 1960 and 1961.
“I think being undefeated at the high school level was pretty incredible, especially at that time,” Barnowski said in 2013. “We had some very good teams in that league, like Albany and Amsterdam, back then. We had a heckuva team.”
“We were just with him last month at the [Schenectady] Hall of Fame. He looked like a million dollars," Joe Loudis, a member of the undefeated team and a Schenectady Hall of Famer himself, said Thursday. "He could throw hard. He had a heavy ball. ... He was a quiet guy, but wow, he threw a heavy ball. ... If you hit it, you didn't get much on it."
"He cracked a lot of bats," Blaha said
Barnowski credited the Schenectady youth baseball system for his career.
“You’ve got to realize that a lot of these guys were part of a concerted effort in the Schenectady area that was one of the best in organized baseball at the time,” he said in 2013. “We’re talking about a Schenectady team that had gone to the Little League World Series in Williamsport [Pennsylvania]. Anyone older than 50 knows that Schenectady was a big deal in Little League. We had great opportunities to play back then, and I went through some great times, from Little League, to Babe Ruth, to high school, to the Twilight League, to college and to the pros."
After starring for Mont Pleasant in both baseball and football, Barnowski honed his craft in the Twilight League. Barnowski pitched for Syracuse University before signing a pro contract after his sophomore season with the Orioles.
Blaha was a teammate of Barnowski's in the Twilight League.
"He had a great work ethic, and a great fastball, that got him to the major leagues," Blaha said. "He got up a before school and ran a couple of miles.
"I was so proud a Schenectady boy was pitching in the major leagues. He was a down-to-earth guy, a great guy."
Barnowski posted a 3.12 ERA in seven seasons and averaging 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings. His best year was in 1966, when he went a 17-8 record for the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings. He was a minor league all-star in 1964, 1965 and 1966. He was also the Class A Player of the Year in 1961.
Barnowski’s major league career was cut short when he blew out his shoulder at 27.
“At that time, pitchers with shoulder problems just didn’t come back. It would have taken me too long to recover, if I ever did,” he said in 2013. “I had gotten my masters degree and was teaching in Guilderland, making $11,000 a year. I was only making $7,000 playing for the Orioles. That was the era before free agency, and you just didn’t make that much money.”
Barnowski retired from pitching and became first an assistant general manager and then the general manager of the Rochester Red Wings in the 1970s. He got into the Yellow Page telephone book business as a salesman, and he remained there for 24 years. He retired in 2003.
“It took me a little while to get over the shoulder injury, but I still have great memories of my pro career,” he said. “It was fun all the way.”
Family information and funeral arrangements being handled by the Naples Funeral Home were not immediately available.