Dan Brouthers — baseball’s first great slugger

IMG_0908Scoping out the village of Wappingers Falls the other day when I stumbled upon this plaque in the center of town, right near the waterfalls in front of a bicycle shop. Turns out Dan Brouthers, a native of Dutchess County, was quite a ballplayer.

Brouthers was born in Sylvan Lake, NY, in 1858. As a teen-ager he played for the semi-pro Actives in Wappingers Falls before making his professional debut  in 1879 with the Troy Trojans.

A big man by the standards of the time (6-2, 207), he  was known as the first great slugger in baseball history. “Big Dan” held the career record for home runs from 1887 to 1889 and hit 106 home runs, fourth highest total of any 19th Century player.

A left-hand hitting first baseman, he had a career slugging percentage of .519, which remained a major league record until Ty Cobb moved ahead in 1922. When Brouthers retired, he ranked second with 205 triples and third in RBIs (1,296) and hits (2,296).

Brouthers played for a variety of teams throughout a 19-year career that spanned four decades, including the Buffalo Bisons, Detroit Wolverines, Brooklyn Grooms and Boston Beaneaters, all of the National League.

He earned five batting titles, and his lifetime average of .342 ranks ninth on the all-time list, tied with another great slugger, guy named Babe Ruth.

John McGraw, the long-time manager of the New York Giants, once said: “Brouthers really was a great hitter, one of the most powerful batters of all time. ‘Big Dan’ in his prime, against the present-day pitching and the modern lively ball, would have hit as many home runs as anybody. I don’t think I ever saw a longer hitter.”

Brouthers retired in 1896, but returned eight years later in 1904 to play two games for the Giants. He is one of 29 players in MLB history whose career spanned four decades.

At the age of 46, he played for Poughkeepsie and led the Hudson River League in batting with a .373 average. He spent nearly 20 years working with the Giants, and was in charge of the Polo Grounds press gate.

Brouthers died in 1932, and is buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Wappingers Falls. Dan Brouthers was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1945. The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) ranks him as the ninth greatest player of the 19th Century.

Related blog: Be sure to read about another great Dutchess County baseball player, Hall of Famer Eddie Collins of Millerton.

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