Eastern League (1976)
Died: February 21, 1977 – The Brewers relocate to Holyoke, MA.
Stadium: Wahconah Park
Owner: Lynn “Spike” Herzig
The Berkshire Brewers were the last in a string of Class AA Eastern League baseball clubs that made their home at historic Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Massachusetts between 1965 and 1976. The Brewers followed the Pittsfield Red Sox (1965-1969), Pittsfield Senators (1970-1971) and Pittsfield Rangers (1972-1975).
As the name would indicate, the Brewers were a farm club of the Milwaukee Brewers. Ten Berkshire players eventually played in the Major Leagues, with infielder Jim Gantner and pitcher Lary Sorensen having the greatest success.
The tragic figure of the Berkshire Brewers was 25-year old outfielder Danny Thomas, AKA “The Sundown Kid”. Thomas was Milwaukee’s 1st round pick in the 1972 MLB draft and the 6th player chosen overall. Thomas exhibited erratic behavior and signs of mental illness throughout his brief career. He missed half of the 1975 season after receiving a suspension for hitting an umpire. But in 1976 he pulled it all together for a full season in Pittsfield, winning the Eastern League’s Triple Crown (.325, 29 HR, 83 RBI).
Thomas earned a promotion to Milwaukee late in the 1976 season. Soon afterwards he joined the Worldwide Church of God and decided he could no longer play baseball between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday. He also overdosed on pills and was treated in a Milwaukee psychiatric facility during this era. One year after winning the Eastern League triple crown with Berkshire, he was out of organized baseball at the end of the 1977 season. He played two seasons of independent baseball in 1978 and 1979, before retiring to Alabama where his young family fell into poverty.
In June 1980, Thomas was arrested for sexually assaulting a 12-year old girl in Alabama. He hanged himself in his jail cell on June 12, 1980.
In February 1977, Berkshire Brewers owner Spike Herzig announced the move of his club to nearby Holyoke, Massachusetts, owing to renovations at Pittsfield’s Wahconah Park. Pittsfield went without pro baseball for the next decade until the arrival of the Eastern League’s Pittsfield Cubs in 1985.
The franchise that once was the Berkshire Brewers still exists in the Eastern League today. After stops in Holyoke (1977-1982) and Nashua, New Hampshire (1983-1986), the ball club is now the Harrisburg (PA) Senators.