Note: This page links to Hall of Fame outfielder Willard Brown. For the former major league first baseman and catcher who played from 1887 to 1894, click here.
Willard Jessie Brown
(Ese Hombre or Home Run)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 200 lb.
- Debut 1937
- American League Debut July 19, 1947
- American League Final Game August 17, 1947
- Final Game 1948
- Born June 26, 1915 in Shreveport, LA USA
- Died August 4, 1996 in Houston, TX USA
“Brown is what we called a Sunday player... Willard liked to play on Sundays when we had a full house. If the stands were full you couldn’t get him out. He could play baseball as good as he wanted to. If the stands were half empty, you might find Brown loafing that day. In fact, he didn’t play on rainy or cloudy days. That’s why we called him Sonny. He loved to play on sunny days and before big crowds. And he was a real crowd pleaser.” - Sammie Haynes, to Larry Lester and Sammy Miller, Black Baseball in Kansas City
Brown began his career with the Kansas City Monarchs in 1935 and played with them for more than a decade, missing time while serving in the Army during World War II. At age 32, he was signed by the Browns in July 1947, along with Hank Thompson. He made his big league debut on July 19th and, four days later, he went 4-for-5 against the New York Yankees. His home run on August 13th was the first hit by a black player in the history of the American League; it was an inside-the-park shot off future Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser of the Detroit Tigers. Brown hit just .179 in 21 games and was let go by St. Louis.
An article in the 1948 Sporting News Guide (page 341) reported that he lead the Puerto Rican League in 1947 in batting average, .432; home runs, 27; RBI, 86; and runs scored, 79. He returned to the Negro Leagues and later found success in the minors in the Texas League. When playing baseball in Puerto Rico, Brown was known as "Ese Hombre" which, translated to English, would be "That Man".
- 4-time NAL All-Star (1937, 1942, 1943 & 1948)
- NAL Batting Average Leader (1947)
- NAL On-Base Percentage Leader (1937)
- 4-time NAL Slugging Percentage Leader (1939, 1943, 1947 & 1948)
- 4-time NAL OPS Leader (1937, 1943, 1947 & 1948)
- 2-time NAL Runs Scored Leader (1941 & 1943)
- 8-time NAL Hits Leader (1937-1939, 1941-1943, 1946 & 1948)
- 8-time NAL Total Bases Leader (1937-1939, 1941, 1943 & 1946-1948)
- 2-time NAL Singles Leader (1942 & 1943)
- 6-time NAL Doubles Leader (1938, 1939, 1941 & 1946-1948)
- 4-time NAL Triples Leader (1937, 1939, 1946 & 1947)
- 5-time NAL Home Runs Leader (1937, 1938, 1943, 1946 & 1948)
- 7-time NAL RBIs Leader (1937-1939, 1941, 1943, 1947 & 1948)
- 2-time NAL Stolen Bases Leader (1941 & 1942)
- Won one Negro World Series with the Kansas City Monarchs in 1942
- Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 2006