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Erich Barnes, Star Defensive Back for the Sixties Giants, Dies at 86


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Erich Barnes, the hard-hitting, speedy cornerback who helped propel the Giants to a few consecutive N.F.L. championship games within the early Sixties, died on Friday in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. He was 86.

His death, in a hospital, was announced by the Giants, who said it got here after an extended illness but didn’t provide additional details.

Playing for 14 seasons — three with the Chicago Bears, 4 with the Giants and 7 with the Cleveland Browns — Barnes was often matched against the league’s best wide receivers.

In his profession he intercepted 45 passes and ran seven back for touchdowns. He tied an N.F.L. record for the longest interception return for a touchdown when he picked off a pass by the Dallas Cowboys’ Eddie LeBaron in an October 1961 game and raced 102 yards for a rating.

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At 6 feet 2 inches and 200 kilos, Barnes had good size for a cornerback of his time.

“I used to be like a dictator or intimidator,” he told the web site scout.com in 2008. “I kept receivers off guard. I never allow them to get right into a rhythm. I all the time wanted the receiver to go where I wanted him to go.”

Barnes was voted to the Pro Bowl with the Bears in 1959, with the Giants each season from 1961 to 1964, and with the Browns in 1968. He was chosen as a first-team All-Pro in 1961, when he intercepted seven passes, returning two for scores.

“Barnes was tall and lean, and he had a bit mean streak in him,” the famously rugged Giants middle linebacker Sam Huff recalled in “Tough Stuff: The Man within the Middle” (1988), written with Leonard Shapiro. “In the event you caught a ball in front of Erich Barnes, he would make you pay for it. And if you caught something near the sideline, you’d higher get way out of bounds because Erich would come after you.”

Erich (pronounced EE-rich) Theodore Barnes was born on July 4, 1935, in Elkhart, Ind. His father, Sylvester, was an actual estate investor; his mother, Lura, was a homemaker.

Erich grew up a Browns fan. Recruited by Purdue, he played halfback on offense and defense and was a receiver as well. He was chosen by the Bears within the fourth round of the 1958 N.F.L. draft.

Barnes joined the Giants in 1961 via a three-way trade by which they sent cornerback Lindon Crow to the Los Angeles Rams.

Coached by Allie Sherman, the Giants won the Eastern Conference title from 1961 through 1963 but lost every yr within the N.F.L. championship game, twice to the Green Bay Packers after which to the Bears.

The Giants teams of that era, featuring Andy Robustelli, Dick Modzelewski, Roosevelt Grier and Jim Katcavage on the road, Huff at linebacker, Barnes and Dick Lynch at cornerback and Jim Patton at safety, turned defensive play right into a glamorous part of professional football. Quarterback Y.A. Tittle, obtained from the San Francisco 49ers, became a Recent York celebrity together with his good passing.

Barnes intercepted 18 passes while playing for the Giants, and his block of a Packer punt within the 1962 N.F.L. championship game resulted in an end-zone recovery by Jim Collier, giving the Giants their only touchdown in a 16-7 loss.

Considered one of Barnes’s most spectacular plays got here when the Giants played the Philadelphia Eagles at Yankee Stadium in November 1961.

Pete Previte, a clubhouse attendant, suggested to the Giant coaches that, when the time was ripe for an extended pass, they put a number of the fastest players who weren’t normally used on offense right into a formation.

Late in the primary half, Sherman inserted Barnes and Patton as slot receivers, replacing two running backs, while keeping his regular pass-catchers, flanker Kyle Rote and ends Del Shofner and Joe Walton, in the sport. All five headed downfield, and Tittle threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to Barnes. The Giants won the sport, 38-21.

After the Giants’ three conference championship seasons, the core of the team began to depart through trades or retirement. After going 2-10-2 in 1964, the Giants traded Barnes to the Browns in August 1965.

Barnes retired after the 1971 season and have become a planner of special events for businesses within the Recent York area.

He’s survived by his wife, Violet Ward Barnes; his daughters, Charissa Barnes-Johnson, Djuna Barnes and Tessa Robinson; his sisters, Joan Murkey and Linda Turner; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. He had homes in Yonkers, N.Y., and Joliet, In poor health.

Barnes was a heady player, notwithstanding his popularity for hits that sometimes went over the sting. Sports Illustrated once quoted him as saying that “once I was with the Giants and I might come into Cleveland, they used to call me dirty,” but that after he was traded to the Browns, “the Giants would call me dirty and Cleveland would call me aggressive.”

As he put it, “All of it is determined by where you were playing.”

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