The Willard Brown Award, honoring the tournament’s most outstanding imported player, was officially introduced by the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League. Widely regarded as the greatest hitter in baseball history, Brown achieved the remarkable feat of winning two batting triple crowns in 1947-48 and 1949-50, along with three batting championships in 1946-47 (.390), 1947-48 (.432), and 1949-50 (.353), among numerous other accolades.
Willard Brown received induction into the Puerto Rico Professional Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Caribbean Series Hall of Fame in 1996, recognizing his extraordinary contributions to the sport.
A decade later, he received the prestigious honor of being inducted into Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame. Career records mark Brown’s legacy in hitting with a batting average of .350 and slugging at an impressive .604. Additionally, he holds annual records for home runs with 27 and runs scored with 97.
Let’s take a look at the responses from notable figures in the baseball world.
«It’s fitting that the Puerto Rico Professional Baseball League has named its Imported Player of the Year award after Willard Brown, the only player in league history to win two batting Triple Crowns. One of the game’s greatest hitters on ANY land, «Esa Hombre» played 19 seasons in the Negro Leagues and was the first African American player to hit a home run in American League history in 1947. The tribute the league has bestowed upon «Home Run» Brown is well-deserved, given his inclusion in three Halls of Fame: Puerto Rico Professional, Caribbean Series, and Cooperstown.»
Former president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, and co-founder of the non-profit organization Grassroots Baseball
«Slam is the verb. Brown is the noun. And now we honor this superb clutch-power hitter from Shreveport, Louisiana. I applaud the Puerto Rico Professional Baseball League for bestowing this award in memory of this legendary athlete. Batter Up!»
Negro Leagues historian and author
«The history of the Puerto Rico Professional Baseball League is rich with high-quality imported players from outside the island, including Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Cal Ripken, Johnny Bench, and Sandy Koufax. Some of the very first imports were players from the Negro Leagues. It is wonderful to see the deep historical connection between the Negro Leagues and Puerto Rico’s top baseball league honored by naming the awards for the best-imported player after the great Hall of Famer Willard Brown. He is a shining example of an imported player’s impact, both on and off the field».
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Photo colorization: Joe Torres