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At 57, Still Firing Away

Nothing Stops Walpole’s Ageless Pitcher

Walpole, n.h. — There’s a little kid in all of us, but not many of us can still play kids games at 57 — unless, of course, you are Frank Brown.

Brown first started pitching as a Little Leaguer in Bellows Falls nearly 50 years ago. Today, he carries a 0.95 ERA pitching for the Walpole men’s team in the Connecticut River Valley Baseball League. Along the wa,y he got his jaw busted when it was hit by a classmate’s swinging bat at Fall Mountain Regional High, had hip replacement surgery in 2008, and last year broke his left arm sliding into second. The break was so bad surgery was required, leaving a nasty foot-long scar on his left arm.

His jaw is still held together with metal clips as it was broken in five places. “I’ve got so much metal in me, I’m a walking junk yard,” Brown said from the dugout of the resplendent baseball facility constructed for the youth of Walpole.

Brown is the head football and baseball coach at Fall Mountain, as well as the coach of the Walpole Senior Babe Ruth team. While those jobs are enough to keep a man busy, he can be found every day, from early morning to late in the evening, managing the yet-to-be-named multimillion dollar baseball facility that features three lighted fields just off Route 12.

And the Connecticut River Valley Baseball League is not a cream-puff operation. While the pitchers have to be over 30, there is no age limit for the rest of the team. Yet last year, at 56, Brown threw back-to-back nine-inning games.

“I just keep on throwing until I get tired,” Brown said. “And don’t talk to me about pitch counts.”

Brown does not use pitch counts when he pitches or coaches his pitchers. He was not shocked when he found out that the winning pitcher in Stevens High’s 3-2 loss to Newfound in the NHIAA Division III tournament last month threw 180 pitches.

“That’s OK,” he said. “As long as you keep checking with the player and asking him how he feels.”

As a high school pitcher at Fall Mountain, Brown was undefeated (12-0) until his last game as a senior in 1974, when he lost 1-0 to Exeter in the state quarterfinals. The game he remembers best, however, was in 1972, when he sat on the bench as a sophomore and watched Fall Mountain beat Littleton in a tourney game. Rich Gale, who went on to pitch for the Kansas City Royals in the World Series, was the losing pitcher that day.

As a junior in 1973, Brown was outside in gym class playing baseball the day before the semifinals when he got hit in the jaw by a classmate who didn’t know he was standing so close. Consequently, he was not able to pitch the next day.

There have been a long line of great pitchers to hurl at Fall Mountain. Scott Willis pitched the Wildcats to the state title in 1968 and Conrad Fisk (brother of Carlton Fisk, Hall of Fame catcher) was on the hill for all three tourney games when Fall Mountain repeated in 1969.

But many observers think the best of them all was Mark Brown, Frank’s brother, who left after his sophomore year to attend The Loomis School in Connecticut. Mark Brown went on to a professional baseball career, spending six years in the Orioles organization and two with the Twins. He pitched in 15 major league games for the O’s and Twins in 1984 and ’85.

His only major league win came on the last day of the 1984 season, when he was a Baltimore late-season call-up, and he beat the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

“He struck out Jim Rice and Wade Boggs,” said Frank Brown.

Mark Brown is now an ordained minister in Blue Springs, Mo.

Frank Brown pitched collegiately at Buffalo State, where he was the team’s No. 1 pitcher his junior and senior seasons. Next was a stint with Niagara Falls in the New York-Penn League.

“I was making $300 a month and ,it cost $200 a month to live where the players were housed,” said Brown. “We were getting $3 a day for meal money, so it was easy for me to figure this was not going to work. Besides, it was time to settle down.”

He returned to his North Walpole home in which he grew up, got married and raised two daughters. But he never stopped playing baseball, playing in the Northern League from 1976-84 as pitcher-catcher for the Saxtons River Pirates.

“We had some great teams at Saxtons River,” Brown said as he listed off a pitching staff some years that consisted of both Brown brothers, Skip Lisle of Bellows Falls and Terry Williams from Springfield.

“We had an awful lot of fun and won a lot of games,” added Brown.

Brown, who threw in the ’80s as a high school and college pitcher, said he probably still gets it up there in the 70 mile-per-hour range. His strength remains the command of the strike zone.

“I’ve pitched batting practice forever,” he said. “Throwing strikes is easy.”

While he still can get the ball to the plate in good fashion, hitting is another story.

“I just can’t seem to drive the ball anymore,” he said. “I guess its my legs. I never was a long ball hitter, lots of line drives, but now I can still put the ball in play, but not with a lot of authority.”

A look at the calendar may be an explanation for that.