Dave Brown

From BR Bullpen

David Brown (Lefty)

  • Bats Left, Throws Left
  • Height 5' 10", Weight 170 lb.

Biographical Information[edit]

Dave Brown was a star Negro League pitcher in a short career.

Brown played for the minor Dallas Black Giants in 1917-1918. He was involved in a highway robbery in the winter of 1917-1918 [1] or 1919 [2] Rube Foster had to pay a $20,000 bond to get Brown parole before signing him for the Chicago American Giants. [3] He was 1-2 with a 4.40 ERA for Chicago in 1919. [4]

The southpaw helped the American Giants to the first Negro National League title in 1920, going 13-3 with a 1.82 ERA (198 ERA+). He won the league's first ERA title (.01 ahead of teammate Tom Williams), led in ERA+ (two ahead of Williams), tied Tom Johnson for 5th in wins, tied Bill Holland for 9th in complete games (13), tied for second in two shutouts, tied Reuben Curry for 4th with 101 strikeouts and was 8th with 3.8 Wins Above Replacement Player (between Bartolo Portuondo and Curry. [5]

Brown was 17-2 with two saves and a 2.50 ERA (138 ERA+) in 1921, completing 15 of 18 starts. He led the NNL in WHIP (1.00, .09 ahead of Curry), tied Bill Drake for the most wins, tied Ray Roberts for 3rd with 126 strikeouts, easily led in winning percentage (.895, .126 ahead of Jimmy Oldham), was 4th in ERA, tied Sam Crawford and José Suárez for 9th in complete games, tied Crawford and Holland for 3rd in saves and led in strikeout percentage. He did not make the top ten in Wins Above Replacement despite that strong performance. [6] In a four-game post-season series with the Brooklyn Royal Giants, he came up big; after Chicago started with a 0-1-1 record, he won game 3 over Cannonball Dick Redding, throwing a no-hitter for five before Julio Rojo homered. In game 4, he won in relief of Cristobal Torriente to give Chicago the series. They also faced the Hilldale Daisies in the postseason but he lost twice. [7]

He was 13-3 with a save and a 2.96 ERA (131 ERA+) for the American Giants during 1922. He ranked 5th in the NNL in strikeouts (103), 6th in ERA+ (between Jim Jeffries and Deacon Meyers), was 8th in WHIP (1.23, between Jeffries and Ed Rile), tied Holland for 3rd in wins, was 5th in ERA (between Holland and Rile), led in winning percentage again (.813, .063 ahead of Willie Gisentaner), tied Wayne Carr and Holland for second in games pitched (28) and ranked 3rd in shutouts (3, one behind Andy Cooper and Juan Padron). [8] In the postseason, he again faced Redding with Chicago in the hole, down 2-0 to the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants. He won a 3-2 game. Then, in the decisive game 5 with the series now tied at two, he relieved Rile in the 6th with a 0-0 score against Atlantic City's Harold Treadwell. He turned in a masterpiece, throwing shutout ball for 14 innings (6 H, all singles, 1 BB, 12 K) in a 20-inning, 1-0 win to give Chicago the title. He struck out George Shively with the bases loaded in the 18th. [9] It was one of the greatest postseason performances in Negro League annals.

Brown pitched in the Cuban Winter League in 1922-1923, going 5-4 with a 2.47 ERA (139 ERA+) for the Santa Clara Leopards. He ranked 5th in ERA+, between Eddie Lepard and Redding. [10] After his dominant 1920-1922 run in the NNL, he went over to the Eastern Colored League's New York Lincoln Giants for 1923 and had a 5-6, 3.28 record (126 ERA+) He was 8th in ERA (between Carr and Otis Starks) and ranked 10th in ERA+ (between John Harper and Sam Streeter). [11]

He returned to Santa Clara for the winter of 1923-1924 and the team would go down as one of the most famous in CWL history. He did his share at 6-3 with two saves and a 2.06 ERA (184 ERA+). He finished second in the league in ERA (.32 behind Dolf Luque) and ERA+ (184, 33 behind Luque), 5th in wins, second in WHIP (1.21, .20 behind Luque), tied Oscar Levis and Sammy Ross for 7th in games pitched (16), tied Jesse Petty and Lucas Boada for 4th with 7 complete games, tied for first in saves and tied Jack Ryan for second with 43 K (12 behind Holland). In the special Gran Premio season that followed, he was 4-2 with a 2.89 ERA (106 ERA+) for the Leopards, ranking 9th in ERA (between Nip Winters and Boada), 6th in WHIP (1.21, between Isidro Fabré and Levis), tied for 2nd in wins (with Holland and Emilio Palmero, one behind Ross), 2nd in complete games (6, one behind Holland) and 3rd in strikeouts (34, trailing Levis and Petty). [12]

The Texan wash is usual dominant self for New York in 1924 (13-8, 2.00 ERA, 229 ERA+) and even hit .296/.342/.296 (87 OPS+; he was at 181 OPS+ in 33 plate appearances the prior year, after hitting more like a typical pitcher from 1920-1922). He led the NNL in ERA+ (4 ahead of future Hall-of-Famer Martín Dihigo), tied Red Ryan for second in wins (7 behind Winters), was second in games pitched (27, two shy of Winters), completed 16 of 18 starts to finish second in complete games (again two behind Winters), was second with 107 K (7 behind Winters), led in ERA (.39 ahead of Dihigo) and was second in Wins Above Replacement (7.3, 1.5 shy of Winters). [13]

From 1920-1924, he was second in the Negro Leagues in ERA+ (161, 6 behind José Leblanc, who pitched in 1920-1921 only), second in wins (61, 10 behind Bullet Rogan), tied Padron for the most shutouts (11), was second in winning percentage (.735, .039 behind Cooperstown-bound José Méndez) and second with 484 strikeouts (112 behind Rogan). [14]

Brown was 2-4 for Santa Clara/Matanzas in 1924-1925. [15] He started 1925 with a win (despite 7 BB and 7 H, he allowed one run while striking out 8). [16] He then ended his career by killing a man in a barroom fight (fellow Negro League players Frank Wickware and Oliver Marcelle were present at the scene), fleeing law enforcement afterwards. [17] Living on the run, he played under the name Lefty Wilson, reportedly for an otherwise white team in Minnesota in 1927, in Sioux City, IA in 1929 and in Little Falls, MN in 1930. [18]

He was apparently arrested in Greensboro, NC and the FBI found that his fingerprints matched up (a different account has it that the police in Greensboro remembered his wanted poster and contacted the New York Police Department). Despite this, New York decided not to extradite and charge him. [19] Brown is rumored to have died in Denver. [20]

While his career was bookended by violent acts of crime, cutting short a magnificent pro career, his teammates described him as gentle, kind and jolly. [21]

Oddly, despite not having a long enough career to meet Hall of Fame standards and certainly falling short of Cooperstown's character guidelines, he made the preliminary ballot for the 2006 Special Committee on the Negro Leagues Election. [22]


  1. The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley, pg. 117
  2. The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway, pg. 142
  3. The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues, pg. 117
  4. Seamheads database
  5. Seamheads database
  6. Seamheads database
  7. The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues, pg. 160-161
  8. Seamheads database
  9. The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues, pg. 171
  10. Seamheads database
  11. Seamheads database
  12. Seamheads database
  13. Seamheads database
  14. Seamheads database
  15. Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History by Jorge Figueredo, pg. 160
  16. Seamheads database
  17. The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, pg. 118
  18. ibid.
  19. Agate Type blog by Gary Ashwill
  20. The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, pg. 118
  21. The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, pg. 117
  22. Negro League historian Larry Lester