Baseball’s James W. H. “Jim” Brown

James W. H. Brown, Highland Cemetery, Lock Haven

I was in Lock Haven’s Highland Cemetery to visit the graves of some of the notable people resting on the hillside overlooking the community. Accompanied by Mike, I set out to pay my respects to some of the notable people buried within the sacred grounds of the historic cemetery. We left the graves of the two baseball players buried near the entrance of the cemetery and made our way carefully toward the top of the cemetery. Note: More about those baseball players can be found here: John Shaffer and Tom Poorman.

I drove slowly up the narrow roadways, making my way toward the top of the historic cemetery grounds. In the years since I had last visited Highland Cemetery, there had been a lot of changes. Most notably, signs marked the roadways as being one-way and the sections within the cemetery were clearly marked, making vehicular travel safer and finding the resting places of those buried here easier.

Despite my eagerness to reach the top of the sacred hillside to visit those resting there, I wasn’t quite ready to visit the pinnacle quite yet. With the roadway I wanted now being marked one-way, coming from the direction opposite the way I wanted, I found a safe place to park and Mike and I followed the roadway as it wrapped around the hillside.

As we walked, I studied the stones that lined both sides of the roadway. Some of them I recognized as having regional importance, but the majority of them were local citizens whose stories have been lost in the mists of time.

“Yeah, I see it,” Mike spoke as the Brown family stone came into view. A couple minutes later, we stood before the Brown family monument – in front of the large stone was a smaller one that marked the resting place of James W. H. “Jim” Brown, an early baseball player whose two-year career involved playing with four different major league teams.

James W. H. Brown was born December 12, 1860 on a farm in Bald Eagle Township, Clinton County. When he was five, the family moved to Lock Haven, where he attended local schools before graduating from the Central State Normal School in 1880. From 1880 to 1884, he taught in the Clinton County school system.

At the age of twenty-three, Brown left teaching and made his debut in the Major Leagues. On April 17, 1884, he appeared in the Altoona Mountain City team of the Union League. While it was not recorded if he threw and batted left-handed or right, Brown played as a pitcher, outfielder, or pinch-hitter in his professional games.

He made twenty-one appearances with the Altoona Mountain City ball club, pitching in eleven of those games. His pitching record was one win, nine losses as he allowed ninety-nine hits and eighty runs in those games, with thirty-nine strikeouts. With Altoona, his batting faired slightly better than his pitching. Brown had twenty-two hits including, two doubles, two triples and a homerun.

That same year, he made his debut with the New York Gothams of the National League. He pitched one game for them, which was a loss. He pitched the complete game with giving up ten hits and nine runs, with two strike-outs in the game. He made three plate appearances during the game as a batter and managed no hits and a strike-out.

1884 was not over for Brown as after his one game with the New York Gothams, he returned to the Union League, where he played for the St. Paul White Caps, playing in six games. In those games, it is noted he was the starting pitcher in all six games before he was pulled to play either first base or outfield. His pitching record was one win, four losses in those six pitching appearances. Amazingly, his one win for St. Paul was a shut-out, but he allowed forty-three hits and thirty-four runs in his other five outings. His batting suffered during his games with St. Paul and he managed only five hits in those six games, but four of the five were doubles.

It does not appear that Brown made any appearances in baseball for the 1885 season in the Major or Minor Leagues. He reappears in 1886 in one game with the Philadelphia Athletics, when he pitched a losing game on July 28. It was a complete game with nine hits, five runs and four strike-outs.

The majority of the 1886 and 1887 seasons was spent in the Minor Leagues. He pitched in twenty-seven games – two of them as a relief pitcher – with a record of thirteen wins, twelve losses over the two seasons and four teams. As a member of the Augusta Browns of the Southern Association, Brown managed to pitch two shut-outs.

At the end of the 1887 season, Brown quit professional baseball and moved to Williamsport where he took a job as a bookkeeper for the Lycoming Rubber Company. In 1891, Brown suffered a major tragedy when he lost his first wife, Norah, and their infant son, in childbirth. He would marry M. Ella Hoffman, in 1903. Note: His first wife, Norah, was the daughter of Dr. Albert N. Raub, who was the first president of the Central State Normal School, which was later to become Lock Haven University. Nora’s name does not appear or the Brown family stone. Her stone, which is next to his reads: “Nora A. Raub / Wife of / J. W. H. Brown.”

Brown was forty-eight years old when he died on April 6, 1908 at his home in Williamsport. His body was returned to Lock Haven and buried in Highland Cemetery at a spot overlooking the university and his hometown. He was survived by his second wife.

Mike and I finished paying over respects to the former baseball player before we set out to search for other notables resting on the hillside.

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