Pete Browning- 19th Century Star
I have taken a keen interest in old time baseball. The time frame I am referring to is from 1860-1900. The more I look, the more I find what I think is good stuff. I will be writing about The Stars of the 19th Century. These are players that did very well in their time but most of them are rarely mentioned and maybe even forgotten. My plan is to write about 20 different stars.
Pete Browning Career
Pete Browning was a baseball player in the major leagues from 1882-1894 and primarily has suited up for the Louisville Colonels as an outfielder. Also, Browning was noted as one of the best hitters of the decade. Pete Browning was a three-time batting champion and in his first seven season he was among the top three. He hit .341 for a lifetime batting average and that is one of the highest in major league history.
He was one of the first to use a bat made in Louisville and one of the first to have them custom made. Several years before the bats were made for him. he got the name “Louisville Slugger” as a nickname, since he was born and raised in Louisville ,and that was before the popularity of the bat company. Browning had several medical issues including massive headaches and he was deaf for the most part. He resorted to drinking alcohol to help the pain go away. One of his nicknames is “The Gladiator” but no one is sure what it meant.
Many felt Pete Browning was eccentric. He never would slide and he played defense on one foot. He also stared into the sun to improve eyes, according to Pete. He favored bats that were 37 inches in length and 48 iounces in weight; maintained a warehouse of “retired” bats in his home — all of them named, many after Biblical figures; kept his batting statistics on his shirt cuffs; and when traveling over the circuit, frequently alighted from trains and introduced himself as the champion batter of the American Association.
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He had surgery for mastoiditis which plagued his entire life and as a kid he refused to go to school and was mainly an illiterate. He had bouts of loneliness and led to being committed to an insane asylum.
In the spring of 1884 John Andrew “Bud” Hillerich custom-made a bat for Browning, who was in a slump. “The Gladiator” then went out and got three hits the next day, and, as they say, the rest is history. The incident forged modern batmaking, birthing two American icons — the Louisville Slugger bat and its equally renowned manufacturer, Hillerich & Bradsby.
Pete Browning Death
Pete Browning died on September 10,1905. The cause of death is asthenia, which is a general weakening of the body. His bad habits and his medical issues surely contributed to that cause. The medical examiner listed many issues he had at death and they included heavy drinking gave him cirrhosis of the liver, cancer; and most likely paresis, the third and final stage of syphilis from his frequent visits to prostitutes.
Funeral services were held on September 12, at 2:30 at the home of Browning’s mother. From there, Browning was taken to Cave Hill Cemetery, the final resting place for many of Louisville’s major league ballplayers, as well numerous nationally prominent local and state figures.
Look for more 19th Century Stars articles that will include:
- Deacon White
- Harry Stover
- Bill Dahlen
- Ross Barnes
- Tony Mullane
- Jack Glasscock
- Bob Caruthers
- William Hoyt
- Jim Creighton
- Charlie Bennett
- Bobby Mathews
- Tommy Bond
- Grant”Home Run” Johnson
- Paul Hines
- Charlie Ferguson
- John Clarkson
… and several others that are yet to be identified for this series.