Throughout his life, Bobby Brown was a jack of all trades, and as it turned out, he was a master of all. Baseball player? Check. Army doctor? Yep. Cardiologist? Yessir. American League president? Why not?
The humble infielder from the West Coast did it all during his long life on this earth, which ended on Thursday at age 96. Brown was one of the oldest-living Yankees, surpassed by only centenarian (and good friend) Eddie Robinson and swingman pitcher Art Schallock. However, neither of them played on championship teams as old as Brown’s.
Brown was born on October 25, 1924 in Seattle and moved all multiple times throughout his childhood, playing ball just about everywhere. He eventually ended up in San Francisco, where he eventually caught the eye of professional teams. However, Brown was also a brilliant student who wanted to go medical school.
The man was talented enough to do both, even in the middle of World War II. Brown took classes at Stanford, UCLA, and Tulane Medical, while also spending time with naval units and hospitals. Oh, and he also hit .444 from the left side with Tulane’s baseball team in 1945. That will play.
In February of 1946, the Yankees signed Brown to a three-year, $44,000 contract with a $10,000 signing bonus, and he promptly excelled for Triple-A Newark, hitting .341/.431/.439 and finishing just behind the incomparable Jackie Robinson for the International League batting title. He debuted in the majors that September and the next year, he was in the majors for good.
Brown won a World Series title in his rookie season of 1947, during which he batted .300 with a 114 OPS+ in 69 games at age 22. Although he wasn’t a starter in the seven-game World Series against the Dodgers, he reached base in all four of his pinch-hit at-bats, smacking a pair of doubles with three RBI.
Brown did well in an expanded role in 1948, but the Yankees finished behind Cleveland and Boston for the American League pennant that year, and the team replaced manager Bucky Harris with Casey Stengel. The “Ol’ Perfesser” loved Brown’s versatility, as he had spent time all around the infield prior to ‘49. However, he found a good home for Brown at third base, where he played almost all of the rest of his career, splitting time with the right-handed Billy Johnson and Gil McDougald.
From 1949-51, Brown hit .273/.363/.377 with a 97 OPS+ and 3.7 rWAR in 302 games for Stengel’s Bombers as they captured championships in three consecutive seasons. Now able to regularly take on more than mere pinch-hitting cameos, Brown saved his best play of the year for the Fall Classic. In 17 career World Series games, he hit .439/.500/.707 with eight extra-base hits and a 1.207 OPS.
In the middle of the Yankees’ fourth consecutive championship season in 1952, Brown was recalled to military service. The Korean War was afoot and he was eligible to return since he had not actually spent any time overseas in the previous global conflict. Brown spent the next 19 months in Korea and at the Tokyo Army Hospital. He never regretted his service, but he did miss the Yankees winning two more World Series. (If you’re looking for more on Brown’s dual career, Dan did a great write-up of it last year.)
By the time that Brown could return to the majors, his heart was no longer in the game, even though he was just 29. After 28 games in 1954, he hung up his spikes and fully embarked on his second career, beginning an internal medicine residency in San Francisco County. After a cardiology fellowship back at Tulane, Brown and his wife, Sara (who he married in 1951), moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where he opened a private practice in 1958.
Brown eventually returned to baseball in an executive role, briefly serving as interim president of the Texas Rangers in 1974 before accepting a job as president of the American League in 1984. He held that position for the next decade, stepping down shortly before the 1994 players’ strike.
Brown was also a constant presence at the Yankees’ Old Timers’ Day celebrations, attending as recently as 2019. He was such a long-lasting link to a different era of baseball. Not many men can say that they suited up alongside Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. Even fewer can say that they did so while also turning into a brilliant medical mind.
Rest in peace, Dr. Brown. You lived an unbelievable life.
The Yankees mourn the passing of Dr. Bobby Brown— a member of 5 Yankees championship teams, WWII & Korean War veteran, President of the American League from 1984-94, practicing cardiologist & fan favorite at Old Timers’ Day. We send our condolences to his family & loved ones. pic.twitter.com/iw8rPfyxeM— New York Yankees (@Yankees) March 25, 2021
We are saddened to hear of the loss of @Yankees four-time World Series champion, and former American League President, Dr. Bobby Brown.— MLBPAA (@MLBPAA) March 25, 2021
Today we remember and celebrate his special life. pic.twitter.com/1AtNvM5iFs