Louis Rogers Browning
(Old Pete, The Gladiator)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 180 lb.
- Debut May 2, 1882
- Final Game September 30, 1894
- Born June 17, 1861 in Louisville, KY USA
- Died September 10, 1905 in Louisville, KY USA
"Browning was one of the best hitters the profession has seen. He was a natural hitter, and a hard one, a good base runner and a fair fielder. In appearance he was singularly tall and slender, slightly stooped and possessed a peculiar forward pointing pair of ears... Ball players declared him to be the best judge of a bat in the country, and... he would speak of his bats much as a trainer would of his stable of race horses... Browning never could be persuaded to sell a bat... but often when a player looked longingly at some particular stick... Browning surprised the man by making him a present of it." - from the Sporting Life obituary of Pete Browning, appearing September 16, 1905
"I can't hit the ball until I hit the bottle." - Pete Browning
Pete Browning, the original Louisville Slugger, had an impressive 163 lifetime Adjusted OPS, tied for 11th on the all-time list with a couple of A's sluggers, Jimmie Foxx and Mark McGwire. Browning is not in the Hall of Fame largely because none of the electorate had likely seen him play (Browning's career ended in 1894, over 40 years before the Hall of Fame got started) and partly because his performances in the American Association were better than his performances later in his career in the National League.
Browning's hitting from 1882-1888 was uniformly excellent. He was in the top three in batting average each year, recognized as the batting champion in 1882 (.378), 1885 (.362) and 1886 (.340), and was in the top five in slugging each year as well, leading the AA in 1882 (.510). In 1882 and 1885, he also lead the loop in OBP, with a .430 and .393 mark respectively. In 1887, he stole 103 bases, good for fourth in the league. Browning came to the Players League in 1890, giving him a chance to test his abilities against players who had come from the National League. He won the 1890 batting title (the 2nd best batter was also a refugee from the American Association, Dave Orr), and also led the league in doubles. He had the highest Adjusted OPS in the league. Browning came to the National League in 1891 for the first time as a veteran of 30. The first three of his four seasons were good, although not up to his earlier standards. In 1891, he was third in the league in batting average. He was finished on a big league level after 3 games in 1894.
The SABR biography of Browning says that he was a talented semipro ballplayer in Louisville for four years before coming to the majors. He pitched a shutout against the National League Louisville Grays in 1877. Browning became deaf due to mastoiditis, and the discomfort from that condition may have caused him to become a heavy drinker and an eccentric; he was eventually committed to an insane asylum (it's possible that syphilis contributed to the problem). He is remembered as a terrible defensive player, but that image may be overblown since his fielding percentages were around the averages for the day.
After baseball, he owned a bar and then worked as a cigar salesman before his mental breakdown. His Sporting Life obituary said his nicknames were "Line 'em out, Pete" and "The Old Gladiator". It stated that Browning came from a fairly wealthy family but had interest only in baseball as a child. He and Fred Pfeffer played ball locally in Louisville as youngsters. The article said that Browning was pretty much always "delicate of health" in spite of being a slugger.
He is remembered in a 1907 newspaper article as follows: "Louisville's cemetery holds the body of "Pete" Browning, one of the unique characters of the national game's history. He was one of the greatest batters who ever stepped before a pitcher and a player so simple minded that no one thought to take advantage of him. One of his performances, when he was in his prime, while the Louisville team was in Kansas City, was to rig up a fishpole after a rain and calmly sit in front of the hotel and fish in the deep pools of water in the street." See .
"I'm not a bunter. It's my place to hit 'em out." - Pete Browning, upon being asked to lay down a bunt
- 3-time League Batting Average Leader (1882/AA, 1885/AA & 1890/PL)
- 2-time AA On-Base Percentage Leader (1882 & 1885)
- AA Slugging Percentage Leader (1882)
- 2-time AA OPS Leader (1882 & 1885)
- AA Hits Leader (1885)
- AA Total Bases Leader (1885)
- 2-time AA Singles Leader (1885 & 1887)
- PL Doubles Leader (1890)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 1 (1887)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 3 (1884, 1887 & 1890)
- 200 Hits Seasons: 1 (1887)
- 50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 1 (1887)
- 100 Stolen Bases Seasons: 1 (1887)