May 2, 1939|
|Died: September 27, 2013
|June 19, 1963 for the Detroit Tigers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 26, 1975 for the Detroit Tigers|
|Runs batted in||322|
|Career highlights and awards|
William James "Gates" Brown (May 2, 1939 – September 27, 2013) was an American Major League Baseball player who spent his entire career with the Detroit Tigers (1963–1975). He batted left-handed and threw right-handed.
Born in Crestline, Ohio, he served time at the Ohio State Reformatory for burglary from 1958 to 1959. He was encouraged by a prison guard who also coached the reformatory's baseball team to join the squad as a catcher. The coach contacted several major-league teams after being impressed by Brown's batting ability. Tigers scouts Frank Skaff and Pat Mullin convinced their ballclub to help Brown get paroled a year early and sign him for US $7,000. He chose to join the Tigers despite interest from other teams such as the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians. He explained, "The primary reasons I signed with Detroit is because they didn't have any black players and eventually I figured they would, plus, I had been told about the short right porch at Tiger Stadium."
Brown divided his major league career as an outfielder, first baseman, pinch hitter and designated hitter. He is best remembered for his contribution to the 1968 World Series champion Detroit Tigers. In his pinch hitting at bats in the 1968 season, Brown hit for a .450 batting average, the eighth highest single season batting average for a pinch hitter (minimum 30 at bats) in major league history. Brown holds the American League record for the most pinch-hit at bats in a career, with 414.
On June 19, 1963, coming off the bench, Brown became the American League's 11th player to hit a home run in his first at bat. A popular figure among Tigers fans, Brown may not have had the defensive skills to make the everyday lineup but he has been considered one of the premier pinch hitters in MLB history.
In his career, Brown collected 107 pinch hits, including 16 pinch homers, and also led twice the AL in pinch hits (1968 and 1974). His most productive season came in 1964, when he posted career-highs in home runs (15), RBIs (54), runs (65), hits (116), doubles (22), triples (6), stolen bases (11) and at bats (426) in 123 games.
While 1968 was called the year of the pitcher for most of baseball, overall batting being only .230 for the year, the potent Tigers attack scored 671 runs. That year was the batting high-water mark for Gates Brown who, with remarkable regularity, came off the bench with clutch hits to spark dramatic ninth inning comeback victories. Brown's timely hitting was crucial in sealing the Tigers' trip to the World Championship. Starting in only 17 games that season, but Brown appeared in 49 more as a pinch hitter, banging out a torrid .370 (34 for 92) with a .442 on-base percentage and a .685 slugging average.
On August 7, 1968, Brown made history. He wasn't in the starting lineup, so he decided to grab two hot dogs from the clubhouse. He was ordered by manager Mayo Smith to pinch hit. He stuffed the hot dogs in his jersey to hide them from his manager.
"I always wanted to get a hit every time I went to the plate. But this was one time I didn't want to get a hit. I'll be damned if I didn't smack one in the gap and I had to slide into second—head first, no less. I was safe with a double. But when I stood up, I had mustard and ketchup and smashed hot dogs and buns all over me.
"The fielders took one look at me, turned their backs and damned near busted a gut laughing at me. My teammates in the dugout went crazy." After fining Brown $100, Smith said, "What the hell were you doing eating on the bench in the first place?" Brown: "I decided to tell him the truth. I said, 'I was hungry. Besides, where else can you eat a hot dog and have the best seat in the house'"
From 1971 to 1973 Brown hit 33 home runs with 110 RBIs in 571 at-bats, including a .338 average in 1971 (66 for 195). He retired at the end of the 1975 season.
In 1978, Brown returned to the Tigers as their hitting coach, a position he would hold through the championship season of 1984, before giving way to Vada Pinson.
- List of Major League Baseball players with a home run in their first major league at bat
- List of Major League Baseball players who spent their entire career with one franchise
- Futty, John (December 9, 1990). "Tale of Two Cities The Journey from OSR to ManCI". Mansfield News Journal. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
- Gagnon, Dave (2008). "Sock It To 'Em Tigers: The Incredible Story of the 1968 Detroit Tigers". Hanover, MA Maple Street Press.
- Dow, Bill (July 14, 2009). "Remembering Detroit Tigers Legend Gates Brown". Detroit Athletic Co.
- "Pinch Hitter Career Records". baseball-almanac.com. Retrieved April 4, 2012.
- "Baseball's comic relief". The Sporting News. 1994.[dead link]
- Foster, Terry (September 27, 2013). "Tigers family mourns pinch-hitting legend Gates Brown". Detroit News. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
- Sipple, George (September 27, 2013). "Gates Brown, Detroit Tigers' pinch-hitting great, dies at 74". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved June 30, 2014. (subscription required (. ))
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Baseball Library