Friday, February 22, 2013

Long Lost Brouthers

I've written about this story a couple times here in the past few years, but its origins actually go back about 25 years.

My second summer job during my high school and college years was always umpiring local baseball games. During one of those summers, I was working a Little League All-Star game in a neighboring town to mine, at a field I didn't even know existed.

It just so happens the field was called Brouthers Field, which didn't mean anything to me until I arrived and discovered a monument to 19th-century slugger and Hall of Famer Dan Brouthers (pronounced Brew-thers). Now, I'm quite sure I was only vaguely aware of Brouthers at the time, and I certainly had no idea he was born and raised in the county where I grew up.

But, I was pretty sure my good friend Joe knew of him. This is the same Joe who currently chairs SABR's Overlooked 19th Century Baseball Legends Project. But, Joe wasn't even aware of SABR's existence back then, I don't think. He was just a college kid like me, but one with an unusual interest in, and incredible knowledge of, baseball history.

Joe and I were just becoming really good friends around that time, so I was just becoming acquainted with his encyclopedic knowledge. [Years later, he would point out errors in individual players' counting stats, as displayed in the Baseball Hall of Fame.] We were friends through mutual friends for years, but it was during breaks from college that we discovered our shared obsession with baseball. As our friends would drink $1 Heinekens at happy hour at a place called Bertie's in Poughkeepsie, we would annoy said friends by challenging each other with obscure trivia questions...while drinking $1 Heinekens*, of course. I'd say Joe had about a 55-45 advantage in those days, but I held my own.

*A quarter century or so later, I suppose $3.50 would be about the equivalent price, but I still think paying $1 for a bottle of Heineken is not a good deal.

It was also during these years that our tradition of heading to Cooperstown for Hall of Fame Induction Weekend was born. There was a lot of cheap beer involved in that story as well, but I'm not going to get into it right now.

Anyway, after sharing my discovery of the Brouthers monument with Joe, I learned he didn't know of it either. So, of course, we headed together to Brouthers Field.

Brouthers Field [c. 1987]

Even if Dan Brouthers was hardly Babe Ruth (although by 19th century standards, you'd have to give that distinction to either him or Roger Connor), it was still pretty amazing that a monument to a Hall of Fame player existed less than 10 miles from where we grew up, and we might not have known about it if not for one random umpiring assignment.

Fast forward to the summer of 2009. KJ and I had been dating less than a year at that point, and on a weekend visit to my hometown, we decided I should take her to see the monument. But first, we swung by the cemetery where Brouthers is buried to view his gravestone.

I know what you're thinking. How romantic. Either that or it's amazing this woman actually agreed to marry me. But, she was just as interested in this little adventure to pay tribute to one of two no-doubt Hall of Famers—Eddie Collins is the other—who grew up close to where I did.

We found Brouthers' final resting place at St. Mary's Cemetery in Wappingers Falls, but the monument and the field were gone. Its whereabouts became a mystery that wasn't fully solved until this past weekend.

Brouthers Field [June 2009]

We later learned, thanks to Hudson Valley magazine, the statue had been restored and relocated, but the follow-up to that article was rather vague as to its exact location. During a previous visit, my dad, KJ, Little Chuck (he wasn't much help) and I went looking for it, unsuccessfully.

The aforementioned article referred to it being located on Main Street in the Village of Wappingers Falls, "just a stone's throw" from the cemetery where Brouthers is buried, but that's all. The photo in the magazine showed it near a tannish cinder block building with a central air conditioning unit nearby. Obviously a business, not a residence. Which, of course, makes sense, although if I was asked to allow a statue of a Hall of Famer to be located on my property, I'd say yes in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, though, most of the buildings near the cemetery are houses, and none came close to fitting that description.

This past weekend, we expanded our search, and discovered the statue located in a pretty obvious place: in front of a bike shop about a half mile from the cemetery. Seriously, though, it was in a fairly obvious part of town that we hadn't looked for no other reason than we were fixated on locations closer to St. Mary's.

Let's just say even Tim Keefe couldn't throw a stone that far.

Dan Brouthers monument [Feb. 2013]


  1. The first time I heard of SABR was the morning we were heading to the Field of Dreams. You had a paperback published by SABR and you pointed it out to me. I joined when we got back from our trip, which also included Old Comiskey and $2 pitchers of beer in Iowa. I remember learning about Dickey Pearce that day. How many people remember the day they discovered Dickey Pearce?

    1. I don't know the answer to that question, Joe. Thanks for commenting. :)

  2. As a Wappingers Falls native I really appreciate these posts. Thanks!

  3. Big dan lived in the village of wappingers. He grew up in the house just north of the ground hog cafe. I remember vets field. Great times. Opening day was awesome. You had games at vets, st marys and temple. I hit a double my last a bat at vets. Playing for vinces oil. The village was very different then. My parents still live there. I would love to start a bar blog from wappingers. Otooles, the arena, delainos, box seat, all gone. The once great village is gone. How bout the house in dead center field of temple. Fences came in about 70 feet around the yard. Good times