Dave Brown (baseball)

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Dave Brown
Brown, c. 1923-24
Born: (1895-06-09)June 9, 1895
Leon County, Texas, U.S.[1]
Died: May 24, 1985(1985-05-24) (aged 89)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Batted: Left
Threw: Left
1917, for the Dallas Black Giants
Last appearance
1926, for the Gilkerson's Union Giants
Negro league statistics
Win–loss record45–22
Earned run average3.23

David Brown (June 9, 1895 – disappeared April 27, 1925)[2][1] was an American left-handed pitcher in Negro league baseball. Considered one of the better pitchers in Negro league history, he was also known for serious off-the-field problems. His career came to a premature end when he became a fugitive after allegedly killing a man in 1925.

Early career[edit]

Brown was born in Leon County, Texas.[2] He had a good curveball and excellent control. He was also a good fielder and had outstanding speed, but was a weak hitter. Brown played with the Dallas Black Giants in 1917 and 1918.[3] He was regarded as a "timid nice guy" who did not cause trouble, but during his time with the Dallas Black Giants he was involved in a highway robbery.[4] Although Brown was reported to have become a fugitive, Rube Foster agreed to pay $20,000 for Brown's parole and he became a member of Foster's Chicago American Giants.[4][5] However, this story may have been placed by Foster after Brown jumped to the Eastern Colored League, and conflated certain activities of Dave's older brother, Webster, with Dave to smear his reputation.[6]

Chicago American Giants Seasons[edit]

1919 Chicago American Giants

Brown became the ace of the American Giants as they dominated negro league baseball in the early 1920s. From 1920 through 1922, he posted a 29–8 record in league games.[4] His 11–3 record led them to a pennant win in 1921 including three victories in a playoff with the Bacharach Giants.[4][7] His 8–3 record contributed to another pennant in 1922.[8] In the winter following the 1922 season, Brown joined Oscar Charleston for the first season of the Cuban League's Santa Clara Leopardos.[9]

League change and abrupt career end[edit]

For the 1923 season, Brown left Rube Foster's American Giants for the brand new Eastern Colored League. Foster voiced his displeasure, pointing out that Brown had been paroled to him and that he had promised Brown's mother to take care of him. He pointed out that the public would vilify him if he revoked.[5] Brown posted a losing record in his first season with the New York Lincoln Giants but he and Charleston returned to Cuba the following winter and helped Santa Clara compile one of the best records in Cuban baseball history.[10][11] His second season with the Lincoln Giants improved on the first and he defeated "Cannonball" Dick Redding and the Brooklyn Royal Giants to win the New York City championship.[4]

Brown's career came to an abrupt end in 1925. He went to a bar on the night of April 27, 1925[12] with Frank Wickware and Oliver Marcelle.[10][13] Marcelle was a third baseman with a reputation for trouble off the field.[13] The story at the time was that a fight erupted at the bar, possibly involving cocaine, and Brown killed one of the participants, Benjamin Adair.[14] Wickware and Marcelle were questioned the next day at the ballpark, but Brown had disappeared.[10] Later research indicates that he may have only been a witness, not the perpetrator.[6]

Rumors and legacy[edit]

The FBI searched for Brown, but he was never officially seen again. Rumors abounded that he continued playing baseball under the alias "Lefty Wilson" with semi-professional teams through the Midwestern United States. Lefty Wilson toured with Gilkerson's Union Giants in 1926,[15] a white team in Bertha, Minnesota in 1927 and 1928, and he was rumored to have played in Sioux City, Iowa in 1929 and Little Falls, Minnesota in 1930. More unsubstantiated rumors claimed that Brown died in mysterious circumstances in Denver, Colorado in 1930.[10] However, Lefty Wilson shows up again pitching for the Gilkerson's Union Giants again in 1932. Reportedly, he was alive in 1938.[16] After extensive research, including contact with his descendants, his SABR biographer confirmed that he lived out his life quietly on the West Coast under the name Alfred Brown, dying in 1985 in Los Angeles.[6]

In 1927, a Pittsburgh Courier column solicited opinions for the best black baseball player of all time. On April 2, John Henry Lloyd announced his list which included Dave Brown.[17] When the Pittsburgh Courier announced a similar list in 1952, they included Brown on their second team.[18]

Assuming that the Negro Leagues are considered to be major leagues, Brown has the highest Adjusted ERA+ for a starting pitcher in major league history (169), and the second highest pitcher's winning percentage after Al Spalding (.738, 62–22).[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Dave Brown's WWI Draft Registration, City Secretary, Dallas, Texas, June 4, 1917"
  2. ^ a b "Dave Brown Negro League Statistics & History". baseball-reference.com. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  3. ^ "Plenty of Baseball Provided for Fans of Dallas Today" Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, Sunday, August 11, 1918, Page 8, Column 2
  4. ^ a b c d e Riley, p. 117.
  5. ^ a b Cottrell, p. 165.
  6. ^ a b c Bush, Frederick (June 9, 2023). "Dave Brown Biography". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved June 17, 2023.
  7. ^ Cottrell, p. 160.
  8. ^ Cottrell, p. 163.
  9. ^ Heaphy, pp. 173-174.
  10. ^ a b c d Riley, p. 118.
  11. ^ Heaphy, p. 174.
  12. ^ [The League of Outsider Baseball: An Illustrated History of Baseball's ...By Gary Cieradkowski pp. 128-129]
  13. ^ a b James, p. 184.
  14. ^ Cards that never were
  15. ^ "Gilkerson Union Giants Swamp Knights of Columbus Nine 11 to 4" Davenport Democrat and Leader, Davenport, IA, Monday Evening, June 21, 1926, Page 7, Columns 1 and 2
  16. ^ [See The League of Outsider Baseball: An Illustrated History of Baseball's ...By Gary Cieradkowski p.129 for a 1938 report of Brown]
  17. ^ Cottrell, p. 175.
  18. ^ Cottrell, p. 182.
  19. ^ Starting Pitcher JAWS Leaders at Baseball Reference


External links[edit]