Robert T. “Bob” Barrows, a lifelong South Buffalo resident who became known as Orchard Park’s Mr. Baseball, died Tuesday under Hospice care at his home. He was 79.
Barrows won 643 games as head baseball coach at Orchard Park High over 39 years (1961-2000), which was the second most wins in New York State history. His teams won 24 ECIC division titles, seven Section VI championships and a state championship in 1988 and turned out numerous all-Western New York and all-league players. Twice he was named New York State Baseball Coach of the Year.
But that wasn’t all.
Barrows was involved with Orchard Park Quaker baseball for more than 50 years. After “retiring,” Barrows stayed on for 13 more seasons as an assistant to his successor, Jim Gibson, who himself had played and coached under Barrows. He stayed close to the team right to the end. Although unable to take usual place in the first-base coaching box, he was on the bench for most of the team’s games this past spring despite dealing with the effects of liver cancer, which had been diagnosed last October. Even in partial retirement, he remained involved as ECIC baseball chairman and active in other activities.
“He inspired so many people and dedicated his life to a lot of players and their families,” said former major league third baseman Dave Hollins, one of four brothers who played for Barrows. “He was a guy who didn’t seem to do much for himself but did a lot for everybody around him.
“He was a great coach, a combination of everything. He had a feel for the game — he had played at a high level himself — and he had a passion for the game. Guys responded to him. He had his own unique personality. When things went wrong, he addressed it, then let you play. He was no brow-beater. That wasn’t his style.”
“I first met him when I was 9 years old and he ran the baseball program at the Orchard Park Recreation Department,” Gibson recalled. “I was kind of hooked by him. He was such a captivating person. It was impossible to be in a bad mood when you were around him.”
Although associated with Orchard Park, Barrows never left his South Buffalo roots.
“He was a Seneca Street boy,” Pat Barrows, the oldest of his two sons, said proudly. “He lived his entire life on Narragansett Street.”
Barrows managed or played for championship teams in American Legion, AAABA, Suburban and Muny ball over the years and always seemed to be counting the days until it was time to break out the bats, balls and gloves again. He began coaching the junior varsity baseball team at Bishop Timon after graduating from Canisius College, where he batted .385 over four seasons as a third baseman.
In 1998, Barrows was elected to the Western New York Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2001, he was enshrined in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the Orchard Park High School and Bishop Timon-St. Jude High sports halls of fame. The baseball diamond at Orchard Park was named for him in 1993.
Barrows’ wife, Theresa (Coughlin), died nine years ago. In addition to Pat Barrows, he is survived by three daughters — Susan, Teresa (Lewandowski) and Mary Kate — another son, Jim, and one grandson.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete as of Tuesday night.