It was in doubt where Pete “The Gladiator” Browning would play in 1892.
There is no record of exactly how he parted ways with the Cincinnati Reds—Released by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Browning hit .343 for the Reds in 55 games in 1891 after signing with the club on June 29—but, by January of 1892 there were a steady stream of rumors about where he would sign.
Speculation included the Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Browns, but Browning opted to return home to Louisville, and signed with the Colonels—he was released again after an early spring salary dispute, but signed a new contract with the team a week into the season.
Browning returned Louisville with much fanfare. The Courier-Journal said, after he contributed two singles and two sacrifice hits in a 7 to 2 victory over the Chicago Colts:
“Prodigal Pete…walked out—‘Prods’ do not return in carriages—to his old home in left field at Eclipse Park yesterday afternoon, where he had spent a happy, happy youth before the false adulation of the outer world called the Gladiator away.”
After am 11-3 start, the Colonels were returning to form, and were beginning to look like the ninth place team with a 63-89 record they would be at season’s end.
To make matters worse, “Prodigal Pete” struggled after his first game, hitting just .247—94 points less than his career average—in 21 games.
Browning explained his sump to Harry Weldon of The Cincinnati Enquirer:
“’I guess I am rotten. I guess I ought to be out of the business,’ said Pietro Gladiator Browning, as he walked on the field. ‘Old Gladdy ain’t to his speed yet, but he’s hitting ‘em, and hitting ‘em good, but not as good as he will hit ‘em though, cause he’s got the catarrh, and is stopped up in the head. When you’re stopped up your ‘lamps’ ain’t right. Wait until the sun gets hot and the catarrh leaves the old hoss. Then the pitchers will have to look out. Will I lead the league in hitting? Why not? Look out for me. None of ‘em are getting away from me in the outfield. Did you read about me going up in the seats and pulling down a fly that saved the game? I can do it right along. None of them big stars, Jim) McAleer, Curt Welch or any of the rest of them fellows have the best of old Pete on fly balls. The old boy is still ready money, and worth one hundred cents on the dollar.”
Within days the Colonels gave up on the Gladiator and handed him his release on May 18.
For a time Browning got his “lamps’ right again. After signing with the Reds again, he hit .303 the rest of 1892. He returned to Louisville in 1893 and hit .355 in part-time role.