Louis Rogers "Pete" Browning (June 17, 1861 – September 10, 1905) was an American center and left fielder in Major League Baseball from 1882 to 1894 who played primarily for the Louisville Eclipse/Colonels, becoming one of the sport's most accomplished batters of the 1880s. A three-time batting champion, he finished among the top three hitters in the league in each of his first seven years; only twice in his eleven full seasons did he finish lower than sixth. During the era before 1893, when the pitching distance was lengthened from 50 feet to 60 feet 6 inches, Browning ranked third among all major league players in career batting average, and fifth in slugging average. His .341 lifetime batting average remains one of the highest in major league history, and among the top five by a right-handed batter; his .345 average over eight American Association seasons was the highest mark by any player during that league's 10-year existence. Nicknamed the "Louisville Slugger," he was enormously attentive to the bats he used, and was the first player to have them custom-made, establishing a practice among hitters which continues to the present.
Playing in spite of serious medical afflictions which rendered him virtually deaf and subjected him to massive headaches, he resorted to alcohol to subdue the pain, but continued to hit well even as his drinking increased. He was also known as "The Gladiator", though sources differ as to whether the nickname applied to his struggles with ownership, the press, his drinking problem, or particularly elusive fly balls. He was the uncle of noted film director Tod Browning.
By Dean Hanley
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