June 26, 1915|
|Died: August 4, 1996
|Batted: Right||Threw: Right|
|July 19, 1947 for the St. Louis Browns|
|Last MLB appearance|
|August 17, 1947 for the St. Louis Browns|
|Runs batted in||6|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Election Method||Negro League Committee|
Willard Jessie Brown (26 June 1915 – 4 August 1996), nicknamed "Home Run" Brown, was an American baseball player who played outfielder in the Negro leagues and in Major League Baseball (MLB). He is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Brown was born in Shreveport, Louisiana on 26 June 1915. He grew up in Natchitoches, Louisiana and in Shreveport. Brown's father was a mill laborer who became the owner of a cabinetmaking shop. Brown was a batboy in spring training for the Kansas City Monarchs, as the Negro league team held its workouts in Shreveport.
Early Negro league experience
He began his professional baseball career in 1934 with the Monroe Monarchs, a minor Negro league team. In 1936, he signed with the Kansas City Monarchs, for which he played continuously until seeing action in World War II in 1944-45. During his pre-war baseball years, he established himself as having the most raw power in Negro League history, and possibly in the history of baseball. He hit home runs more often than the better known Josh Gibson, causing Gibson to give Brown his nickname. He also hit for a batting average of .374 in 1948 and regularly hitting over .350. Brown was one of the fastest players in baseball in the late 1930s and 1940s, as well as a solid outfielder. From 1937 to 1946 Brown helped lead the Monarchs to six pennants in ten seasons.
In the 1942 season the Monarchs met the Negro National League champion Homestead Grays in the first World Series between the Negro American League and the Negro National League. With Brown hitting .412 and a home run, the Monarchs won four straight games.
He played briefly in the major leagues in 1947, having signed with the floundering St. Louis Browns. On 20 July, Brown and Henry Thompson played against the Boston Red Sox. It was the first time that two black players appeared in an MLB game together. Throughout the season, he struggled because of the racism endemic in his new surroundings and his frustration with the lack of talent of his new teammates.
After batting .179 in 21 games, he left the major leagues, but not before becoming the first black player to hit a home run in the American League. That winter, he went to Puerto Rico and had one of his greatest seasons ever, batting .432 with 27 home runs and 86 RBI in just 60 games, winning the Triple Crown and earning the nickname Ese Hombre or "That Man". Brown won the Puerto Rican Winter League Triple Crown in the 1949-1950 season. He also hit for the cycle once in his career.
Returning to the Monarchs for the 1948 season and stayed with the team until his retirement from top-level baseball in 1950. Subsequently, he was a successful minor league player in the Texas League from 1953 through 1956. His career home run total is not known, but he is considered to be among the Negro league career leaders in homers despite a relatively brief career.
Later life and legacy
After he retired from baseball, he lived in Houston, Texas, and died there at age 81. He had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for several years. Brown was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. The same year, he gained induction into the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame as part of their first class.
- Costello, Rory. "Willard Brown". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved August 22, 2013.
- Negro league baseball players association -Retrieved 09 May 2011
- National league baseball emuseum
- Eig, Jonathan. Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007. p.188 ISBN 978-0-7432-9461-4
- Baseball Hall of Fame -Retrieved 09 May 2011; Permission to link policy
- Baseball Hall of Fame eball Reference Bullpen – Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference
- Negro league baseball statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference (Negro leagues)
- Willard Brown at the Baseball Hall of Fame