Former Texas Rangers pitcher John Barfield was fatally shot on Christmas Eve in downtown Little Rock, according to police and family members.
Barfield, who was 52, played three seasons for the Rangers, beginning in 1989. He was drafted by the club in the 11th round in 1986.
Police said Barfield was fatally shot after an altercation with an acquaintance. William Goodman, 59, of Pine Bluff, is being held in the Pulaski County jail on preliminary charges of first-degree murder in connection with Barfield’s death, which has been classified as a homicide. Court records do not list an attorney for Goodman.
The Rangers expressed shock and sadness in a statement.
“[He] was a valuable contributor to the club’s bullpen and as a spot starter for the next two seasons [in 1990-91],” the statement read. “The thoughts and prayers of the Rangers’ organization are with Mr. Barfield’s family and friends at this very difficult time.”
Barfield was a native of Pine Bluff and led his high school team to a state championship, then played at a community college in Missouri and at Oklahoma City University. He was drafted in the 11th round by the Rangers in 1986.
He made his major league debut on Sept. 7, 1989, pitching a perfect inning of relief with two strikeouts against the Orioles. He was the sixth and final Rangers pitcher in an 8-3 loss, capping one of Nolan Ryan’s less successful outings. Barfield sturck out Phil Bradley and Bob Melvin, who is now the Oakland A’s manager. It was the first game of a double-header.
In Game 2, Barfield took over for Bobby Witt after only 1 2/3 innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits, two walks and one strikeout in 3 2/3 innings. The Rangers lost that game 9-6.
“The thing I remember about John is he was a solid member of our pitching staff but always upbeat, personable, always in a good mood and always greeted you with a smile on his face,” said Tom Grieve, the Rangers general manager during Barfield’s tenure. “To have something like that is shocking. You feel bad for everybody, his family, his friends, his ex-teammates, everybody who ever came in contact with him.”
Longtime Rangers broadcaster Eric Nadel called Barfield “a good guy,” and recalled the time in 1989 that Barfield and teammate Mike Jeffcoat were arrested in Port Charlotte, Fla., after being caught fishing in a private lake. They spent the night in the Sarasota County jail.
“We didn’t realize it was a private lake,” Jeffcoat recalled. “But we found out. We came to found out the sheriff was a member of this private fishing club.”
Jeffcoat, who has been head baseball coach at Texas Wesleyan for 16 years, also attended Pine Bluff High School. He remembers Barfield as an outgoing, fun-loving teammate.
“He was a very likeable guy, kind of a cut-up,” Jeffcoat said. “It’s a shame and a tragedy.”
Barfield was sent down to Triple A Oklahoma City in 1992 after pitching a career-high 83 1/3 innings for the Rangers in 1991 when he went 4-4 with one save and a 4.54 ERA. He finished his career with five seasons in the minors, including stints in the White Sox, Dodgers and Indians’ organizations. He pitched in the independent Atlantic League in 1998, his final season of baseball.
Barfield’s sister, Debra Hudson, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that she is devastated by her brother’s death, saying he was not an aggressive person and that he had a loving personality.
“He had the kindest heart of any human I had ever known,” Hudson said.
She said Barfield was a fierce competitor on the field but was always willing to sign autographs for young fans.
“We will always be proud of him,” she said.
This article includes material from The Associated Press.