James Leland Barr (born February 10, 1948) is a former right-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball who played for the San Francisco Giants (1971–1978, 1982–1983) and California Angels (1979–1980). He is perhaps best known for setting a record for consecutive batters retired (41, later tied by Bobby Jenks in 2007, and then broken by Mark Buehrle on July 28, 2009 and again by Yusmeiro Petit on August 28, 2014). Barr remains the only pitcher to retire as many as 41 consecutive batters in the course of only two games; his streak began in the third inning of a complete-game win and extended through the seventh inning of another complete-game win (Beurhle's streak included his perfect game and the starts before and after, while the streaks of Jenks and Petit included a number of relief appearances).
Barr attended the University of Southern California (USC), where his teammates included Dave Kingman, and helped lead their baseball team to a pair of NCAA championships in 1968 and 1970. He graduated from USC in 1970 with a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration. After previously being drafted five times (by the California Angels, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Minnesota Twins), he was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the third round of the 1970 amateur draft (Secondary Phase) and signed with the club that summer.
The Giants called Barr up from the minors midway through the 1971 season, and he posted a 1-1 record and a 3.57 ERA in 17 appearances out of the bullpen. He joined the team's rotation in the middle of 1972 and, despite never pitching a no-hitter or perfect game, that summer set the record for consecutive batters retired. Over the course of two starts, on August 23 and August 29, he retired 41 players in a row. On August 23 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he walked opposing pitcher Bob Moose to lead off the third inning and then retired the final 21 batters to end the game with a 2-hitter. In his next start, he retired the first 20 St. Louis Cardinals in order before Bernie Carbo earned a seventh-inning double. He won that game too, with a complete game 3-hitter.
Barr went on to win at least ten games for the Giants in five straight seasons, from 1973 to 1977. During that time, he finished in the National League's top ten three times for earned run average and shutouts, twice for complete games and innings pitched, and led the league in 1974 with 1.76 BB/9IP. Following the 1978 campaign, he became a free agent and signed with the California Angels.
After winning 10 games in his first year with the Angels, Barr struggled with arm injuries in 1980 and was released prior to the 1981 season. He then signed with the Chicago White Sox and played part of the year for their Edmonton Trappers farm club before being let go again. He made a big league comeback with the Giants in 1982 and appeared in 53 games in both that season and the next.
Since ending his playing days, Barr was the pitching coach at Sacramento State University for 16 years. He currently lives with his wife, Susie, in Granite Bay, California.
Barr's athletic predisposition has been passed on to his daughters, Betsy and Emmy. Both have played soccer collegiately and professionally. Betsy played soccer at the University of Portland and was a member of the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) after being drafted by the San Jose CyberRays in 2003. Emmy went to Santa Clara University and played three seasons with the Washington Freedom of the WUSA. Additionally, his brother, Mark Barr, pitched in the Boston Red Sox farm system for several years in the 1970s.
By Dean Hanley
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