7/13/2010 – Daily News Record
By Matthew Stoss Daily News Record HARRISONBURG – Bob Wease once traveled the approximately 2,200 miles from Harrisonburg to Tombstone, Ariz., to see the sight of the famous O.K. Corral gunfight and sit in Doc Holliday’s chair. If Wease – a history buff who has a sepia-colored poster of noted Wild West figures in his office – had waited for Bobby Brown to play for the Harrisonburg Turks, he could have saved the money and just shook Brown’s hand.
It would have been almost as good.
Brown, a Turks’ outfielder in his second summer with the Valley League team, is believed to be a descendent of Burt Alvord, an Arizona lawman turned outlaw who witnessed the O.K. Corral gunfight at about age 15 before embarking on a career that involved robbing banks and trains and ended with a mysterious disappearance.
Alvord, according to numerous websites, was last seen working on the Panama Canal in 1910. It is unclear what happened to him after that.
“It’s just amazing to talk to someone who’s a direct descendant of someone like that,” Wease said.
Brown said he found out Alvord was his ancestor about two years ago from his maternal grandfather, Rod Alvord, who, through genealogical research, confirmed all Alvords in the United States are related (he said they immigrated to America in the 17th century). Rod Alvord said Burt Alvord – reportedly born 1866 – is probably his great uncle and Brown’s great, great, great uncle.
“We thought for a long time that he was my grandfather,” Rod Alvord, 65, said by phone from Sun City, Ariz. “… The only problem is, my grandfather was about 10 years younger than Burt Alvord.”
Though not a household name, Burt Alvord isn’t a completely obscure historical figure either.
His picture can be found on multiple websites. Brown keeps a picture of his grandfather on his laptop and the resemblance is clear.
Burt Alvord has his own Wikipedia page and there is at least one book on him: “The Odyssey of Burt Alvord: Lawman, Train Robber and Fugitive” by Don Chaput, which Rod Alvord said he has read. And according to IMDB, there was an episode of “Stories of the Century” – a short-lived Western television show in the 1950s – dedicated to Alvord in the 1955.
“It’s kind of cool actually,” Brown said of the relation. “I’ve always been interested in my family history. I’ve always wanted to research and see how far back I can go and just kind of see what everyone’s occupations were. And just knowing that some guy was an outlaw – how neat is that? Your relative is an outlaw and he escaped from jail.”
Brown, who is a history major at the University of Arizona, is a better baseball player than outlaw. The left-handed hitting rising redshirt junior, batted .280 (21-for-75) last season with five RBIs, six doubles and two triples in 26 games while playing primarily against right-handed pitchers. He played only seven games his freshman year after redshirting.
Brown was a recruited walk-on, and Arizona coach Andy Lopez – who was unaware of Brown’s criminal ancestry – said Brown worked his way toward more playing time, eventually becoming a “big factor” late in the season during the Wildcats’ run to the Fort Worth Regionals.
“He’s such a simple guy to coach,” Lopez said. “If you told him to do A, he does A, B and C.”
For the Turks, Brown has struggled, batting only .211 with one home run and five RBIs in 16 games after being named a VBL all-star and batting .341 (43-for-126) with three home runs and 21 RBIs last season.
He and Wease both said he’d hit balls hard, they just haven’t found any holes.
“My stats should be a little better because I’ve hit so many balls right at people,” Brown said. “… Baseball’s kind of like that. You can hit four line drives right at people and not get a hit. Then you can get four little bloop hits the next day. It’s just baseball’s really weird like that. I’m not worried.”
Lopez said he thought the 20-year-old Brown – a rangy 6-foot-3, 200 pounder with a strong arm and good foot speed – would have a shot to play professional baseball when he’s draft eligible the next two seasons.
“He’ll definitely get a chance,” said Lopez, who just finished his ninth season at Arizona. “He’ll get a chance. He’s left-handed and he runs well.”
That’s a good thing for Brown, who downplayed any atavistic abilities he may have inherited from his great, great, great uncle: Burt Alvord, the outlaw.
“I’m too much of a goody goody,” he said with a laugh.