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Bert Niehoff (Louisville Historian, Spring 2013)

by BSolek,

Louisville’s passion for the sport of baseball dates from early on in the mining town’s history and the town boasts a number of ball players who’ve gone on to pursue a career in professional baseball, following in the footsteps of Louisville native Bert Niehoff.

Bert Niehoff played for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1915 to 1918.

Like many young ballplayers in Louisville, who are inspired by their dreams of someday being called up to play in the big league, Bert Niehoff perfected his baseball skills as a boy playing in sandlot games and on the city’s historic Miners Field. With a combination of natural talent and gritty determination, Niehoff pursued his dream all the way to a six- season career in the majors, including starting second baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1915, when the Phillies won the National League Pennant before going on to lose the World Series to the heavily favored Boston Red Sox. Several years later, after an injury brought his major league playing career to an end, Niehoff found a way to continue his association with professional baseball for another nearly 50 years, serving as a manager, a coach and a talent scout for various major and minor league teams over that period.

Born on May 13, 1884, in the family home at what is now known as 717 Main St., in Louisville, John Albert “Bert” Niehoff was the youngest of six children of German immigrant Charles Niehoff and his wife Amelia. According to the city’s property history for 717 Main St., Charles and Amelia Niehoff came to Colorado from Missouri in 1876, with the couple’s eldest four children: Ben, Jessie, Kate and Annie. The family first settled in Denver where Charles initially worked driving a horse-drawn streetcar and then as an engineer for the Zang Brewery, which was owned by a fellow German immigrant, Philip Zang.

In 1877, when the discovery of coal on David Kerr’s land near Coal Creek led Charles C. Welch to open the Welch Mine near the future site of Louisville, Welch hired Charles Niehoff as a fireman for the mine. A few months later, Charles Niehoff was made a mining engineer for the Welch mine, later known as the Louisville Mine. The Niehoffs were among the first property owners in the newly established town of Louisville, according to Boulder County records, which show that a deed transferring Lot 17 from Louis Nawatny to Amelia Niehoff was recorded in 1878, the year Nawatny platted the town and named it after himself. A second deed, transferring part of Lot 18 to Charles Niehoff, was recorded in 1885. The family’s residence started as a dugout, about 15 by 20 feet, later subdivided into several tiny rooms, where the Niehoff family lived prior to Charles building a two-room house above the dugout. The house, today believed to be the oldest existing structure in Louisville, remained the home of descendants of the Niehoff family for more than 100 years and today it has been locally landmarked as the Austin-Niehoff House. The city purchased the property in 1993, and it today serves as the offices for Louisville’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Several years after settling in Louisville, Charles and Amelia added two more sons to their family – Eddie, born around 1880, and John Albert (Bert), born in 1884. As a youth growing up in Louisville, Bert enjoyed playing baseball with the town’s many teams and reportedly excelled in the sport from an early age. He attended local schools through his freshman year at Louisville High School, when he left school to take a job as a clerk in a grocery store owned by his brother-in-law William Austin, the husband of his sister, Jessie.

More of Niehoff story in Louisville Historian....

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