Brown’s lone big league homer made history
While playing in the Puerto Rican Winter League, the outfielder became known as Ese Hombre, or “That Man” for his exceptional offense, winning the Triple Crown twice on the island.
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On Aug. 13, down two runs and with a runner on second, Willard Brown “picked upon the first ball served by [Newhouser]” and connected on “a leaping line drive that caromed off the center-field wall at the 426-foot marker, the deepest spot in Sportsman’s Park.”
“It was a fastball about shoulder high,” recounted Brown to the St. Louis Star and Times after the game. “When I swung I knew I hit the ball hard. I just ducked my head and started running and when I came around second and (Browns third base coach and future Hall of Famer Earle) Combs waved me to keep on going past third, my legs seemed to sprout wings.”
It was a game-tying, inside-the-park home run that set the stage for St. Louis’ eventual 6-5 victory, and the first home run hit by a Black player in the American League. Brown would appear in just two more major league games before being released by the Browns, a move that Buck O’Neil alleged years later in his book was financially-motivated.
Just a few months after his stint with the Browns, “Home Run Brown” returned to Puerto Rico and made his mark on another bit of home run history by hitting 27 homers, the most a player has ever slugged in a single Puerto Rican Winter League season. Upon returning to the United States he rejoined the Monarchs for two seasons, then bounced around the international and minor league circuits until retiring in 1958.
Brown was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006.
Isabelle Minasian is the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum