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Negro Leagues
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Negro Leagues Legacy

Stars of the Negro Leagues

Forgotten arm
Brown just good as Paige on the mound
By Justice B. Hill/MLB.com


According to many, Ray Brown should be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Born: Feb. 23, 1908, Ashland Grove, Ohio
Died: 1968, Dayton, Ohio
Bats: Both
Throws: Right

Raymond Brown is one of the forgotten men. A star pitcher in the Negro Leagues, Brown has become little more than an afterthought in league lore.

"Here's a guy with a great curveball, with great control and a great fastball who was probably the key pitcher for the Homestead Grays, who from, what, '37 to 1945 or something won nine Negro League pennants in a row," said Robert Ruck, an authority on the Negro Leagues and a history professor at the University of Pittsburgh. "And he was their ace."

But who today remembers Raymond Brown?

Not many people. Most of them might confuse Raymond Brown with Buster Brown or Bobby Brown or the Brown Derby.

Raymond Brown deserves better.

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Born in Ashland Grove, Ohio, in 1908, he pitched in the Negro Leagues for 19 seasons. In his career with the Homestead Grays, the right-hander carved out a reputation, to use a contemporary term, as a "gamer." He had all the tools of the trade, and many who played in the Negro Leagues ranked him as one of its top pitchers ever.

"He was somebody you had to take notice of," said Wilmur Fields, a Negro League pitcher and a teammate of Brown's. "As far as rating him No. 1, 2, 3 or 4, where you might rate him, I don't know. But he was a great pitcher."

Few who saw Brown pitch would argue to the contrary.

"He was almost unbeatable," said Monte Irvin, a Negro League and Major League star who is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. "Raymond Brown, not only was he a great pitcher, he could hit. He could run and he'd play the outfield when he wasn't pitching."

How good was Brown?

In the early '70s, a group of Negro League players and owners got together and picked the players that they thought, hands down, should be inducted into Cooperstown. Their list had 25 names on it, and Brown's name was one of them.

It might have been impossible, though, to leave his name off such a list. He deserved his place there for talent alone, and his longevity simply strengthened his case for inclusion.

He was a year-round performer, barnstorming the country and pitching Winter Ball in Puerto Rico and elsewhere.

"He was like a national hero in Puerto Rico," said Todd Bolton, a Negro League historian for the Society for American Baseball Research. "They loved him down there."

They had good reasons for that because they watched a pitcher perform whose career never took a big dip in quality.

Brown, who married Grays owner Cum Posey's daughter, strung together season after season of performances that made him the cornerstone of one of the finest dynasties in the history of sports.

With the Grays, he had winning streaks of 28 and 27 games in a row, and he was also an accomplished outfielder who played there when he didn't pitch.

"He was the top pitcher on our roster," said Fields, who roomed with Brown on road trips. "You could find no greater competitor than he was, I'll tell you that. Yeah, he was something else."

Yet his career is lost in the bright glow of more celebrated teammates. As a member of the Grays, Brown played alongside a who's who of Negro League stars. He had teammates such as Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Cool Papa Bell and Leroy "Satchel" Paige.

Those men are all Hall of Famers. Brown is not, which Fields was quick to call an injustice.

"I think he should be there," Fields said. "But that's the set-up that they got at Cooperstown, so you don't know what to expect."

Bolton and Ruck echoed these sentiments about Brown and his fitness for induction into Cooperstown.

"I wouldn't be surprised if someday a guy like Raymond Brown is considered for induction," said Ruck, whose TV documentary "Kings of the Hill: Baseball's Forgotten Men" chronicled the Negro Leagues. "But there's going to have to be a greater statistical accounting of a guy like this.

"Some guys -- Satchel Paige, Smokey Joe Williams -- they had a legend. A guy like Raymond Brown just went out and won."

Justice B. Hill is a senior writer with MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.