Legends: Barry was an all-around athlete
CALUMET — He might not have been the biggest or fastest athlete who ever competed in sports locally. But Calumet’s Fred Barry was talented enough to star in just about any sport he tried.
The late Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Famer was a standout in football, hockey, track and baseball, despite his 5-foot-7, 165 pound stature.
“I would say that Freddy Barry, pound-for-pound, was as good an athlete as we produced in the northend,” longtime sports figure Bruce “Cukie” Coppo said a few years ago. “He was a real competitor.”
Barry first started attracting attention while attending Calumet High School.
In 1953, he set two football records that would stand for a long time.
One was a record for most points in a single game (33) in a game versus Ashland, Wisconsin. The second was a 308-yard rushing effort in a game against Negaunee.
In those days, the Copper Kings played in the Michigan-Wisconsin Conference, which consisted of Ironwood, Hurley, Wakefield, Bessemer and Ashland, Wisconsin.
Non-conference games came against Negaunee, Ishpeming and Stambaugh.
“It was a very tough schedule,” said late Mining Gazette sportswriter Dick Loranager. “Those were mostly Class B schools.”
His more than 1,700 yards of total offense in his senior season also stood for some time. He missed one game because of sickness that year.
Those exploits earned him a chance to play at Michigan Tech where he started at running back, and led the team in punt returns for the only season he was there.
He was a sprinter in track, setting several school records.
But it was in hockey where Fred really stood out.
Between 1953 and 1975, he competed for the CLK Radars and CLK Wolverines.
Coppo, who has played in more local senior games than anyone else, said Barry had the unique talent of anticipating plays before they took place.
“He was a student of the game,” Coppo said. “He could see plays developing on the ice …. and adjusted to them.”
While he played primarily for Calumet teams, Fred also put in stints with the Des Moines Oak Leafs, Marquette Iron Rangers and Copper Country Chiefs.
His final appearance in a hockey uniform was in a 1975 with the Chiefs.
While playing for the Wolverines, he had the chance to play one season with Mike Usitalo, who would later star for Michigan Tech.
Paul Lehto, who was Barry’s coach for a few years, said that Usitalo (a senior in high school) benefitted from playing on the same line.
“He (Barry) taught Mike a lot about the game,” Lehto said. “And set him up for some nice scoring chances.”
On the baseball and softball diamonds, Barry had a long and productive career.
He was on the same Mohawk American Legion baseball team that made it to the state finals. One of his teammates was George Brunet, who went on to a long major league career.
Barry was a good enough player to be invited to tryout camps by the New York Giants and Kansas City Athletics.
Coppo remembers Barry as someone who rose to the occasion against good teams.
“That was his main calling card,” Coppo said. “He was always big in the big games.”