At various times during Dan Brouthers’ career, he held the records for most RBI in a single season, most total bases in one game and highest career SLG% (which he held for over 20 years). He was 6’2″, over 200 lbs., and once had the unfortunate experience of colliding hard with a catcher at home plate, an event that resulted in the catcher’s death a few days later. He was a big, tough slugger, and by many standards the best hitter of the 19th century. Born in 1858 – the same year as Theodore Roosevelt, and of the first Lincoln-Douglas debate – baseball was part of his life from little league through 18 big league seasons, several more seasons dominating minor league ball up to the age of 46, and then serving in the Giants organization in various capacities for another twenty years.
The incident at home plate shouldn’t be taken as an indicator of Brouthers’ temperament. He was a tough guy, for sure, but he was a good teammate who never developed any particular reputation for drinking or fighting, though he did seem to have a penchant for mercenary type work, jumping teams for better pay multiple times during his prime. He eventually ended up being a significant figure in one of the first players’ unions to protect players from the insidious Owners’ rules then in place.
What made Brouthers remarkable though was his ability to hit. He had five batting titles and lead the league in SLG seven times between 1881 and 1892. At one time or another during that same time, he lead the league in BA, OBP, SLG, Hits, doubles, triples and home runs. In 1889, he struck out only six times in 565 PA, best in the league.
|Lead League In:|
|1882||wRC+, BA,OBP, SLG, Hits|
|1883||wRC+, BA,OBP, SLG, Hits, Triples, RBI|
|1886||wRC+, SLG, HR, Doubles|
|1887||wRC+, OBP, Runs, Doubles|
|1891||wRC+, BA, OBP, SLG|
|1892||wRC+, BA, Hits, RBI|
Due to his knack for jumping from team to team, Brouthers had the interesting distinction of winning pennants in three different leagues: the National League in 1887, the Players’ League in 1890 and the American Association in 1891. All told, he played on 8 different teams in three different leagues (nine teams, if you count a strange post-retirement two-game appearance for the Giants in 1904).
Among the 246 hitters with a minimum of 2000 PA in the 19th century (including all leagues), Brouthers’ numbers easily make the argument that he was, in fact, the best of his day.
|19th Century Totals (Rank)|