Imagine what it would be like to have someone called the Mickey Mantle of his era playing baseball for years right here in Buffalo. As it turns out, it happened but not recently.
Dan Brouthers, born in Sylvan Lake, was a baseball player starting in childhood -- no small task considering the game was just becoming popular. He was on a semipro team at the age of 19 when he collided with a catcher, who suffered a head injury and later died. Brouthers was cleared of responsibility.
The first baseman, who was big for his time at 6-foot-2, was signed by the Bisons of the National League in 1881, and it was here that he became a star. Brouthers won two batting titles in Buffalo, led the league in slugging percentage, and set an all-time record for runs batted in with 97 in 1883. He broke his own record the next year with 102 in 1884.
Buffalo's ownership had severe financial problems in 1885, and ended up selling the entire roster to Detroit. He passed through a number of teams after that, including two Boston franchises, Brooklyn, Baltimore, Louisville, Philadelphia and the New York Giants. He more or less hit for all of them.
Brouthers finished with a .342 career batting average, in the top 10 all-time in major league history. He died of a heart attack at the age of 74.
Historians ranked him as the sixth-greatest baseball player of the 19th century. Small wonder, then, that he went into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945.
-- Budd Bailey
Sports Ink blog at buffalonews.com/blogs