The first time Jim Palmer had the chance to watch Steve Barber pitch in person, during an exhibition game in Aberdeen, S.D., in 1964, the future Hall of Famer held one recurring thought in his head.
Toiling at the Single-A level, which seemed worlds away from where Barber made his living with the Orioles, Palmer said he kept thinking, "Gee, how am I ever going to get to the big leagues?"
Palmer made it a few years later, won three Cy Young Awards and became the only pitcher to earn a World Series victory in three different decades. But he'll never forget being in awe of Barber, who died Sunday night in Henderson, Nev., from complications from pneumonia. Barber was 67.
"He was one of the `Baby Birds,' " Palmer said. "He had some elbow problems, but he was a very accomplished pitcher. And he was a good guy, and a pretty simplistic guy."
Barber went 121-106 with a 3.36 ERA in 15 major league seasons. The left-hander was 95-75 with a 3.12 ERA in 253 games with the Orioles over 7 1/2 seasons after signing as an 18-year-old amateur free agent.
A native of Takoma Park, Barber became the first Orioles pitcher to win 20 games in a season in 1963 -- he also made the All-Star team -- and was 10-5 three years later when the franchise captured its first World Series championship by sweeping the heavily favored Los Angeles Dodgers.
Barber didn't pitch in the World Series after developing tendinitis in his left elbow. He made only seven appearances after the break.
"Even though he wasn't an integral part of that '66 team, he certainly was a great pitcher for us early on," Palmer said. "He always battled with his control a little bit, but he worked very hard at trying to be better every day he played."
Barber and Stu Miller combined to no-hit the Detroit Tigers on April 30, 1967, but the Orioles lost the game, 2-1. It was only the second time that a team had lost a nine-inning no-hitter.
The Orioles traded Barber to the New York Yankees in 1967, and the Seattle Pilots claimed him the next year in the expansion draft. Barber also pitched for the Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, California Angels and San Francisco Giants before retiring in 1974.
"He was a perfect teammate," former Orioles center fielder Paul Blair said. "He didn't bother anybody, he did his job, he was a professional. And he was a great pitcher. He had a good fastball. It was like a brick. He was heavy to catch. He was excellent."
Barber debuted with the Orioles on April 21, 1960, and was elected to their Hall of Fame in 1988. He spent the past six years working as a driver for children with disabilities for the Clarke County school system in Henderson.
Barber is the second former Orioles pitcher to die in less than three months. Pat Dobson, one of the club's four 20-game winners in 1971, died Nov. 22.
"It just seems like it's part of the cycle," Palmer said. "You play with guys, their careers are winding down when you get there, and sooner or later, you start losing friends and acquaintances, guys who helped you. It's just part of getting older."
Barber is survived by his wife, Patricia; a son, Steve Jr., of Ellicott City; three daughters, Kelly McCarthy of North Carolina, Danielle Ehlert of Wisconsin and Tracy Barber of South Carolina; 10 grandchildren; a brother, Richard Barber, of Ellicott City; and two nieces.
Services will be private. Plans for a memorial service are incomplete at this time.