Posts Tagged ‘Willard Brown’

Buff Biographies: Willard Brown

July 14, 2013
KC's Willard Brown completes his HR trot as Grays catcher Josh Gibson looks the other way. On the record, Gibson was a big fan of Brown's power. He just didn't enjoy being on the stinger side of it..

KC’s Willard Brown completes his HR trot as Grays catcher Josh Gibson looks the other way. On the record, Gibson was a big fan of Brown’s power. He just didn’t enjoy being on the stinger side of it..

Willard Brown 03 Bob Boyd triumphantly “broke the color line” as the first black member of the Houston Buffs on May 27, 1954. Later that same year, and to much less fanfare, but to quite a bit of baseball interest, the Buffs acquired the second black player in their history. the former great slugging star of the Kansas City Monarchs and future member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the great Willard Brown. They got him in a deal with Dallas, where he had been playing out the dregs of his baseball career as a steady .300 hitting outfielder on his way to 30 plus home runs for the season.

By the time he joined the Buffs, the 39-year old Brown was no longer the svelte-bodied and speedy base runner of his youthful Negro League days, but he still held the edge of being one of the best batting eyes and power-pounding hitters in the higher class minors in 1954. In 108 game for Dallas and 36 for Houston, Willard Brown batted .314 with 36 HR and 120 RBI.

Not bad for an old man.Willard Brown arrived in time to make his own late season contribution the late 1954 Texas League championship of the Houston Buffs. He also returned to Houston for the entire 1955 season, batting .301 with 19 HR and 104 RBI.

After 1955, Willard Brown (BR/TR) (5’11”, 200-240 lb.) finished up his four season minor league career (1953-56) with four clubs, retiring after 1956 with a career minor league average of .309 with 95 HR and 405 RBI. His earlier prime years played out as an incredible H hitter and high average batter and base running fool for the Kansas City Monarchs and several clubs in the Latin winter leagues. Although records for those times (1936-51) are spotty, Brown is credited by most with having hit more home runs than the great Josh Gibson. From 1937 to 1946, Brown helped lead the Monarchs to six pennants in ten seasons

Willard Brown also got a brief stopover in the majors with the St. Louis Browns in 1947, the Year of Jackie Robinson, when he and black third baseman Hank Thompson broke into the lineup together on July 20th for a game against the Boston Red Sox. It was also the first time for two black players to appear in a major league lineup together.

Hank Thompson and Willard Brown were the fist blacks to play for the St. Louis Browns on June 20, 1947. Brown would be the first black player to hit an American League home run.

Hank Thompson and Willard Brown were the fist blacks to play for the St. Louis Browns on July 20, 1947. Brown would be the first black player to hit an American League home run.

Things didn’t go well for Brown and Thompson with St. Louis. The impression is that some of the southern white boys on the Browns team didn’t exactly welcome the two new guys with open arms. Regardless, things became a little academic when Brown hit only .179 with one HR in 21 games. Brown and Thompson both left the team before season’s end. Thompson, of course, would make a later return with the New York Giants, but it was a closing door on Willard Brown’s only shot.

Willard Brown didn’t leave the St. Louis Browns with a empty hand. His solo home run, an inside-the-park job, was the first American League home run by a black ballplayer.

How good was Willard Brown? Well, he is respected as one of the great hitters in Negro League history and, in 2006, he was deemed good enough during his prime years for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame,

Willard Brown acquired the Spanish nickname, Ese Hombre (“That Man”) during his playing time in the Puerto Rico Winter League. Fortunately for Houston, Ese Hombre still had some gas left in the tank during his twilight seasons with the Buffs.

Willard Brown liked Houston enough to make it his home after his playing days were done. Born in Shreveport, Louisiana on July 26, 1915, Willard Brown died in Houston at the age of 81 on August 4, 1996.