Friday, November 18, 2011

Mike Barrow: A Wildcat remembered

A Wildcat remembered
1963 Crook County graduate has study room in Nicholson Library named posthumously in his honor
By Lon Austin
Central Oregonian newspaper
Prineville, Oregon
Nov. 18, 2011

Mike Barrow is most remembered for his athletic prowess.

Barrow, a 1963 graduate of Crook County High School, played football, basketball, and baseball at CCHS before going to Linfield College on a baseball scholarship.

Once at Linfield, Barrow not only played baseball, he played football, and by his junior year was the starting quarterback.

Barrow graduated from college in 1968, with a degree in physical education, and planned to become a teacher and coach.

His plans were altered when in 1968 he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Then his life was tragically cut short when he was killed in action in Khanh Province, South Vietnam in June of 1969.

“He went over there and never came home,” said Jerry Bernard, who graduated from high school with Barrow. “Well, he came home — but not the way we wanted him to. As far as I know, he was the only person from our class who didn’t make it.”

“It brought a traumatic awareness of the war around town,” added long-time Prineville resident Von Thompson, who played baseball with Barrow.

“I was a freshman at Spokane Falls Community College when he was killed in Vietnam,” Huntley added. “With Mike growing up in Prineville and his dad being a minister in town, I’m sure that it made Vietnam a whole lot more real to people.”

Although Barrow is gone, he is not forgotten. Last Saturday, Barrow was remembered at Linfield. Not as an athlete, but as a student. The university honored Barrow by naming a room at the Nicholson Library the Mike Barrow Study Room.

The hour-long event took place following Linfield’s 47-14 victory over Lewis and Clark University. Taking part in the program, which was organized by his Linfield football teammates and fraternity brothers, was his sister, Mary Gail Barrow, the last surviving family member.
Barrow was an unlikely athletic star.

Although it wasn’t one of his finest moments, everyone seems to remember one incident from Barrow’s high school baseball career.

The Intermountain Conference was divided into an eastern and western division. Crook County had won the western division and Pendleton won the eastern division. The two teams met in Prineville for a best-two-out-of-three series with the winning team going to state.

The two teams had split the first two games of the series, so a lot was on the line in game three.

The game had become physical and there had already been a series of controversial plays and arguments when Barrow apparently decided that enough was enough. He hit a ball to deep center field and knocked down Pendleton’s first baseman as he rounded the bag. Then he slid into second base with his cleats high, hitting Pendleton’s second baseman, causing what witnesses describe as a rhubarb.

His father, Gene, was sitting in the stands and took exception to Barrow’s attitude on the play.

The next Cowboy to the plate singled and Barrow rounded third base headed for home.

“Mike was rounding third base and was looking to the outfield to pick up the ball,” Thompson said. “His dad just appeared out of nowhere and he reached out, I think to grab him, but he just kind of clotheslined him and shocked everyone in the crowd. It was so unexpected I’m not sure I remember the result. Whether he was out, or what happened after, that but it was definitely a big play in the playoff.”

Barrow returned to the dugout and according to accounts said ‘don’t say anything. I was wrong.’

Barrow didn’t play the remainder of the game, which the Cowboys lost. Then he apologized in front of the entire church congregation on Sunday.

He then wrote a letter of apology to the Central Oregonian stating “I would like to apologize for the unsportsmanlike manner in which I acted on the baseball field Saturday, May 19. I feel that my actions may have given our town a bad name and I wish to take the blame for it, if so.

I feel that my father was right in taking me from the game because I had been taught to, above all, be a good sport and to abide by the rules.”

His senior year of high school he was listed at 135 pounds on the football roster.

“I think they lied, as is tradition in football,” said Thompson. “He was a little guy, maybe 5-8 and 120 pounds.”

However, in spite of his size, Barrow never backed down from a challenge.

“He was a good student and a good athlete in everything that he did,” Bernard said.

“I was a bat boy when Barrow played baseball,” said retired Crook County High School teacher Tim Huntley. “I remember him as a fiery competitor. Every time he went out on the field he would give it his all and you could tell that he enjoyed it. He was the kind of kid that we really looked up to. You know, the really elite athletes at Crook County at the time. Barrow was even better in college from what I understand.”

Once in college, Barrow was an overachiever. He started much of his sophomore season when the starting quarterback was injured. Then, during his junior and senior seasons, he was in a battle for the starting quarterback job with Terry Durham, son of then Linfield head coach Paul Durham.

Barrow eventually won the starting position and was quarterback in 1967 when Linfield upset University of Hawaii 15-13 in front of a crowd of more than 20,000 — still the largest crowd to ever see a Linfield game.

“I had a lot of respect for him,” Thompson said. “He was a feisty little guy, and fiercely competitive. He didn’t back down from anybody, but he also had character.”

Huntley agreed that Barrow was a great athlete, but also believes that he was someone worth emulating.

“Those were the days when 400 or 500 people watched a baseball game and the gyms were packed when they were playing,” added Huntley. “I think there were several of us at my age group who probably really looked up to him as a role model.”

Barrow was an overachiever and a role model, and his teammates at Linfield have made sure that he will not be forgotten.