Man considered ‘father of Colorado baseball’ honored with new monument

Brother who played in big leagues, later lived in Colorado also honored

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 11/17/20

Long before the Rockies held court at 20th and Blake, the Denver Grizzlies hit balls at Sixth and Acoma in the late 1880s as one of Colorado’s first professional baseball teams. It was a ragtag …

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Man considered ‘father of Colorado baseball’ honored with new monument

Brother who played in big leagues, later lived in Colorado also honored

Posted

Long before the Rockies held court at 20th and Blake, the Denver Grizzlies hit balls at Sixth and Acoma in the late 1880s as one of Colorado’s first professional baseball teams.

It was a ragtag operation led by owner, manager and (yes, seriously) player Dave Rowe, a man who had already made a name for himself during a six-year big league career that included stints with teams in Baltimore, Cleveland and Kansas City and even a championship in St. Louis.

But it was Rowe’s contributions to establishing professional baseball in Colorado, which once led the Rockies to honor Rowe with the title “Colorado father of baseball,” that are perhaps his most lasting legacy.

Now, those contributions are enshrined in stone on a new monument honoring Dave and his brother, fellow 19th century major leaguer Jack Rowe, that was unveiled last month at the Golden Cemetery.

The effort to bring the monument to Golden began when Jim Lenarz, a lover of baseball history who also happens to be the Rowe brothers’ great-great nephew, read about an effort to raise money to construct a monument in honor of baseball hall of famer Deacon White. White and Jack had been teammates and part-owners of four different teams, including the Detroit Wolverines that won the 1987 World Series.

“We started talking and we decided it would be a good idea to do a memorial for Jack and Dave,” said Lenarz, who lives in Sacramento, California. “And it’s been a lot of fun.”

Falling into place

Lenarz and Dave Stalker, the man behind the memorial effort, originally thought of putting the memorial in Pennsylvania, where both the brothers were born.

But it was when they were unable to pin down their exact birth city in Pennsylvania that Lenarz began to look toward Golden, where Lenarz’s mother, grandparents and uncle are buried (although Dave and Jack are buried separately in California and St. Louis respectively).

The site would be fitting not only because of Dave’s influence in Colorado but also because Jack made his home here for five years as well after the Rowe’s parents moved to Golden from St. Louis in the 1880s. Pieces really fell into place when Lenarz contacted the cemetery and learned his family had title to one more grave site as part of the family plot.

The monument, which honors Dave on one side and Jack on the other, was installed in early October. COVID-19 has forced Lenarz and Stalker to put off holding a formal dedication for now, although Lenarz is now considering holding one in the spring.

The unofficial unveilingof the Rowe and White monuments on Oct. 10 was announced on the David Stalker’s Baseball Monuments Facebook page, which chronicles the monuments he has worked to install around the country.

For Stalker, the Rowes are natural additions to his goal to honor important players whose contributions have been mostly forgotten.

“Most people don’t think about these players,” said Stalker. “Some of them ended up with a career batting average that was 10 points too low to get them in the Hall of Fame but they still had outstanding careers and, in the case of the Rowes owned teams, and just did a lot for baseball so they are very deserving of this.”

Few can appreciate the addition of the Rowe monument more than Jay Sanford, a baseball historian who lives in Arvada and spent years tracking down old newspaper stories to research the Rowes. In 2001 Sanford worked with the Rockies to honor Dave with their Pioneer Award.

According to Sanford, Rowe was also one of the first to bring professional baseball teams to Colorado when they would barnstorm from city to city to play in the offseason.

“These are just two guys lost to history so it’s nice to see them get their due,” said Sanford. “And it’s even nicer when they have the history with Golden with their entire family being buried out there.”

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