A special guest post today from the man, the myth, the legend Alexander “Jesse Barfield For Life” Yarwood, the very same man who predicted that Toronto would win 92 games in 2012 in 500 Level Fan’s readers poll.
Luckily, as you are about to see, his writing and his love for Mr. Barfield are much better than his prognostication skills.
As young men, we all dream of doing great things.
Some of us want to follow in our parents’ footsteps, or become movie stars, or doctors, or astronauts, or like the lawyers we watch on television.
For me, it was a little more complicated than that: I wanted to be like Jesse Barfield. In fact, I wanted to BE Jesse Barfield.
Over the course of my hit-and- miss (get it?) youth baseball career, I patterned my swing after his, I threatened physical violence upon teammates who refused the give up the cherished #29 (with the exception of those who were larger than I) and although I was more suited to catcher and third base, I’d often request to play right field. Why? Because that’s where Jesse plays, coach.
*Steps away from keyboard as single tear streams down cheek*
Right, enough about me: On to the man in question.
Jesse Lee Barfield was a 9th round pick in the 1977 amateur draft. Given his obvious talents (That arm, that power, that base running prowess, that arm!) and natural good looks, it is far beyond my understanding as to why he was not chosen 1st overall.
The teenaged Barfield excelled in the field but struggled with the bat in the minors until a breakout 1981 season whereupon he earned a call to the big club. By 1982 he had earned a regular spot in right field and quickly developed a reputation as a threat with both his arm and his bat. A home run title, gold gloves and an all-star selection followed. Soon enough, Barfield, Lloyd Moseby and George Bell formed what many at the time considered the best outfield in baseball. Sadly, despites some tremendous individual seasons between them during the years of 1983-1987, they would never see past the ALCS of 1985.
April 30th, 1989 was a sad day. I woke up to find that he had been traded to the Yankees for a man I had never heard of. His name was Al Leiter. Al Leiter? Who the fuck was Al Leiter? April fool’s had passed. Was I the victim of
a nation-wide media joke? Was Pat Gillick simply trying to be funny? It turned out none of the above was true. Jesse was gone and I was a broken young man.
While Al Leiter did nothing but aggravate with arm and blister problems for years, Jesse had a couple solid, if unspectacular years with the Yanks when his body began to betray him. Jesse’s major league career would wind down with the Yankees after an injury-plagued 1992 season. He was granted free agency and was reunited with Lloyd Moseby in 1993 as a member of the Yomiyuri Giants for a single underwhelming season. He attempted to return to the majors with Houston in 1994, but alas – his knees were shot and has bat had slowed to the point where he was a shadow of his former five-tool self.
Although it saddens me that Jesse wasn’t around when the Blue Jays won their first title, and saddens me even more so that his career ended via an outright release with Houston, I take solace in the fact that I witnessed him at his very best. The greatest outfield arm in baseball history. A powerful Bat. A fantastic Blue Jay.
We miss you, Jesse.