The list of players who missed action to World War II is a long one but of the many that served their country during the great conflict, few surrendered more baseball promise than McCosky. A proven .300 hitter and batting champion threat before the war, McCosky earned MVP votes every year of his career before his military induction.
Barney was called up by the Tigers in 1939 and was immediately inserted into the everyday lineup. The left-handed hitting and right-handed throwing Bengal led Major League middle gardeners with 120 runs scored as a rookie. The rookie McCosky was a notch above every other center fielder in the bigs, indicated by him pacing his position peers in hits, doubles and triples as well as runs scored. For an encore, McCosky raised his batting average from .311 in 1939 to .340 in 1940 as the Tigers took the American League flag. Barney was the only Major Leaguer to reach 200 hits in 1940 and also paced the junior circuit with 19 three-baggers. Among AL center fielders, McCosky was the top man in runs, doubles and walks. In the World Series, Barney hit .304 and had an amazing .467 on-base percentage (seven walks, no strikeouts) but the Tigers lost to the Reds.
McCosky posted back-to-back seasons of .400+ on-base percentages in 1941 when he fashioned an on-base mark of .401. His .324 batting average was second to Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio among AL center fielders. Never much of a power threat, McCosky slapped a career high seven long balls in 1942–his last year before the war. Inducted into the Navy after the 1942 season, McCosky lost the next three seasons to defending liberty.
When the war concluded, McCosky returned to the Tigers in 1946. But Barney’s batting stroke was rusty. He began the 1946 season with Detroit but after hitting .198 through 25 games, he was dealt to the Athletics for Hall of Fame third baseman George Kell. Although Detroit got a splendid performer for McCosky, Barney wasn’t quite done. The trade to Philadelphia jump started McCosky and he hit .354 the rest of the season for Connie Mack’s A’s.
Moved to left field in 1947, the slap-hitting McCosky finished second to Ted Williams in hits and batting average among American League left fielders. McCosky then topped the American League in sacrifices in 1948 while hitting at a .326 clip. All told, in seven Major League seasons to that point, Barney hit below .310 on just one occasion.
But McCosky’s career was essentially over. He missed the entire 1949 season to an injured vertebrae and when he returned to the A’s in 1950, his usual lofty batting average dipped to the mortal-like clip of .240. Early in the 1951 season the Reds purchased his contract and he served as a valuable reserve the rest of the season, which also included a stint with the Indians. Still in Cleveland during the 1952 season, Barney served as a bat off the bench and played briefly with the Tribe in 1953 before ending his career–one beset by injury and a three-year military hitch.
G1,170/R 664/H 1,301/2B 214/3B 71/HR 24/RBI 397/BB 497/SO 261/SB 58/BA .312/SA .414