Willard Brown: Hall of Fame Career from Santurce Crabbers to Cooperstown (Part IV)  

Willard Brown (June 26, 1915, to August 4, 1996) landed in Cooperstown, in 2006. His Kansas City Monarchs stats are now embedded as Major League ones, thanks to rulings by Commissioner Manfred. Moreover, his stellar Puerto Rico Winter League (PRWL) career and Caribbean Series (CS) performances got him inducted into the initial PR Professional Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991, and the first-ever CS Hall of Fame Class of 1996. Part I focused on Cuba, Mexico, PR, and Venezuela, and his 1950 CS. Part II covered 1950-54 with Santurce, two seasons in the Dominican Republic (DR) Summer League (1951 and 1952), 1951 CS, his MVP 1953 CS in Havana, and the 1956 Santurce swan song. Part III transitioned to the Monarchs, and part of 1947 with the St. Louis Browns. Part IV concludes with Brown’s minor-league and independent-league career, plus the 2006 Cooperstown Induction. It also features testimonials from Ellis “Cot” Deal, Luis Rodríguez Mayoral, Rubén Gómez, Bill Greason, and Jos Brown, in the PRWL, was “Ese Hombre” (That Man) for his prodigious homers. He played at 5-11, 200 pounds.

Kansas City Monarchs (KCM), 1949-1951

Brown played for the 1949-1951 KCM when their statistics were not readily available. Buck O’Neil did state that “The 1949 KCM were the best club I ever managed,” per Rory Costello’s SABR bio of Brown. Costello noted that Brown’s 1948 monthly KCM salary was $600 and that he had a .417 BA for the 1951 Monarchs, in a “much weaker Negro American League (NAL).”

Continued Success with Ottawa and the Dallas Eagles (1950 and 1953)

In the summer of 1950, the Ottawa Senators (aka Nationals) purchased Brown’s contract from KCM. He went 45-for-152, a .352 BA, in 30 games. Ottawa (75-53) won the Class C Border League pennant by one game over the Ogsdenburg Maples (74-54) but the Maples bested Ottawa, four games to two, in the finals. Ottawa won their semi-finals, four games to one, over the Kingston Ponies.

Brown helped the 1953 Texas League Class-AA Dallas Eagles (88-66) win the regular season title by five games, with the Tulsa Oilers finishing 83-71. Dallas then topped the Oklahoma City Indians, four games to three, followed by defeating the Oilers, four games to one, in the finals. Dallas teammate John “Red” Murff had a league-leading 17 wins. Murff later was the New York Mets scout who signed Nolan Ryan out of Alvin, Texas. (Murff also managed the 1966-67 Caguas Criollos, in the PRWL, for two months, a team with Ron Swoboda, instrumental in the Mets’ 1969 World Series title; plus, Félix Millán and Jim Beauchamp, who helped the 1973 Mets reach the World Series.) Table I shows selected hitting-pitching stats for 1953 Dallas. Buster Clarkson, age 38 like Brown, played third. José “Pantalones” Santiago, from Coamo, PR, was part of Dallas’s five-man rotation. Pantalones faced Brown in the PRWL, 1946-1954, when his Ponce Lions played Santurce. “I was a [1946-47] rookie with Ponce when Brown was the batting champ,” noted Santiago. “He was the most dangerous hitter I faced in PR and spring training, except for Willie Mays.”

Table I: Selected 1953 Dallas Eagles Hitting and Pitching Statistics

Jodie Beeler378421032237653.273.324.402.726
Willard Brown52291162362231083.310.357.519.876
Buster Clarkson44591147321188711.330.459.528.987
Ed Knoblauch592981802370446.304.410.367.776
Phil Masi29947802216354.268.388.408.796
Wilcy Moore543601472786697.271.332.383.715
Al Stringer521761251845730.240.315.319.634
Ben Taylor4766913230316702.277.356.454.810
Frank Tornay445551303726514.292.373.425.797
Red Murff372916117132392291231163.431.44
Wayne McLeland3333143159231232122913.581.40
Howard Anderson3727105139188159981043.351.40
Pantalones Santiago31241041311184170161773.471.34
Joe Kotrany33228212918118266713.531.40
Pete Mazar48210639411863305.361.57
Homer Gibson4500077807333341.911.39
Vic Stryska2431010626026213.051.31

#All position players/pitchers. ^Incomplete data for four pitchers. Source: Baseball-Reference.

Dallas Eagles and Houston Buffaloes (1954-55)

Brown spent three-fourths of the 1954 season with last-place Dallas (64-97) before Houston (89-72) acquired him. The Buffaloes, managed by Dixie Walker, finished second to the Shreveport Sports (90-71), before winning their semi-finals versus Oklahoma City, and finals against the Ft. Worth Cats, both four games to one. Records via Rory Costello indicate that Brown homered 35 times and drove in 120 runs between Dallas and Houston. Buster Clarkson’s 42 round-trippers with Dallas led the Texas League as did Frank Kellert’s 146 RBIs for the San Antonio Missions. Kellert hit 11 more for the 1954-55 San Juan (SJ) Senators, whose 84 team homers remain a PRWL single-season record. Clarkson’s 18 for arch-rival Santurce led that loop.

Bob Boyd and Luis “Tite” Arroyo with 1954 Houston knew Brown from the PRWL when Ponce played Santurce. “I was also Willard’s [1952] Escogido teammate,” recalled Arroyo. “He was something else idolized in PR.” Boyd was familiar with Brown from the NAL when Boyd’s Memphis Red Sox faced the KCM. “I hit line drives and had some pop,” reflected Boyd. “It was nice to have him as a teammate part of 1954, all of 1955…he was a few years older than me.” In 1955, Boyd’s 197 hits led the Texas League with 86-75 Houston, who finished fourth and made it to the finals, losing a seven-game series to Shreveport. Brown turned 40 and mostly played RF, with Boyd at first and Russ Rac in LF. The 1955 hitting stats for Boyd, Brown, and Rac are in Table II.

Table II: Willard Brown, Bob Boyd, and Russ Rac’s 1955 Houston Hitting Stats


Source: Baseball-Reference.

Bill Greason went 17-11 for 1955 Houston, leading them in wins, starts (33), CG (17), IP (240), and K’s (160). “Willard was the Monarchs’ best hitter in the 1940s and tough out in the 1948 playoffs against our Birmingham Black Barons,” said Greason. “I was honored to be his 1955 Houston teammate and his [1953-54] Santurce teammate.”

End of the Line in 1956 and 1957

Brown bounced around in 1956, playing for four clubs, before retiring after 150 AB with 1957 Minoit, in the Man-Dak League. Table III includes his career minor-league stats, along with those of the 1935 and 1936 KCM. Table IV lists his complete—as of June 24, 2024—hitting statistics from 1935-1957, throughout the States, Canada (1950 and 1957), Mexico (1940), the DR (1951 and 1952), PR (1941-42, 1946-1954, 1956-57), Venezuela (1950), three Caribbean Series (CS)—1950, 1951, and 1953—plus the 1951 LIDOM finals.

Table III: Willard Brown’s Black Baseball & Minors Hitting Stats, 1935-36, 1950, 1953-57

Totals 941934426235.362.400.638
19564 Teams4366113019017872.298NA.459

#Black Baseball. Some Minor League statistics are incomplete. Sources: Baseball-Reference and https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/willard-brown/

Table IV: Willard Brown’s Majors, Minors, and Caribbean Hitting Stats, 1935-1957

Totals 691411842298433923031505151.332.553

#KCM in Black Baseball. !KCM and St. Louis Browns Major League stats. ^Liga Occidental in Maracaibo, Venezuela. CS: Caribbean Series. >Dominican Summer League. <Finals in LIDOM. Sources: Jorge Figueredo, Cuban Baseball (2003); Pedro Treto Cisneros, Enciclopedia del Béisbol Mexicano (2011); Luis Verde, Historia del Béisbol de Zulia, Tomo 1; Jorge Colón Delgado, https://beisbol101.com/jugador/willard-brown/ Winterball Data; Baseball-Reference.

Willard Brown’s Career Major League BA versus Other Legends

Baseball-Reference’s current criteria for the highest Major League career BA is 3,000 plate appearances (PA). Brown’s 1,785 PA in 11 big-league seasons exclude him from Baseball-Reference’s Top 24 career BA list when MLB Commissioner Manfred authorized certain Negro Leagues stats to be part of the record. Brown’s .3511 BA—580 hits in 1,652 AB—falls between Shoeless Joe Jackson’s .3558 (5,697 PA) and Jud Wilson’s .3504 BA (3,563 PA), per Table V. Joshua Gibson’s .3727 BA—which surpasses Ty Cobb’s .3662 BA—is excluded in Table V since he had 2,568 PA. Further research may uncover additional information.

Table V: Major Leaguers Highest Career BA—3,000 plus PA—Per Baseball-Reference

Ty Cobb2413103.3662Babe Ruth2210628.3421
Oscar Charleston173885.3648Dave Orr83411.3420
Rogers Hornsby239481.3585Harry Heilmann178972.3416
Joe Jackson135697.3558Pete Browning135315.3415
Jud Wilson213563.3504Willie Keeler199619.3413
Lefty O’Doul113660.3493Bill Terry147111.3412
Turkey Stearnes184279.3483Lou Gehrig179665.3401
Ed Delahanty168402.3458George Sisler159018.3401
Tris Speaker2212020.3447Mule Suttles213623.3394
Billy Hamilton147609.3444Jesse Burkett169629.3382
Ted Williams199792.3444Tony Gwynn2010232.3382
Dan Brouthers197691.3424Nap Lajoie2110471.3382

Source: Baseball-Reference.

Appreciation Towards PR

The San Juan Star published Brown’s letter to sportswriter Peter Anderson on October 28, 1961, including: “I received the article you [Anderson] wrote about me. God bless you…also the Puerto Rican people. I will never forget them as long as I live. They helped me when I could not help myself. So, God go with all of them. Mr. Anderson, you can thank all PR for me.” Anderson replied: “There is nothing I can do for this man who is unknown in his land, yet famous on the Island.” In mid-December 1979, Brown returned to PR for an Old-Timer’s Day contest between ex-SJ and Santurce players, In the clubhouse, pre-game, he told Luis Rodríguez Mayoral that this Island “was where I was treated best.” Brown was seated by himself, without much fanfare, and appreciated Luis’s interest. He also gave Luis a cap.


Cot Deal, SJ Senators, 1950-55 P-OF. Deal coached the 1983-85 Houston Astros, and saw Brown during those three seasons, since “Ese Hombre” lived in Houston. “Willard Brown was one of the best hitters I ever saw, and that includes Ted Williams and DiMaggio. As a player, he gave the appearance of loafing, but he was not. He would shuffle from the outfield to the dugout and dugout to the outfield. In PR, he was loved by everybody—visited hospitals, able to do the things the locals appreciated, unlike the situation in the U.S.”

Norma Candal, actress/comedian. “I remember with great nostalgia the day I waited with my friends for four hours in the hot sun off Ponce de León Avenue [in Santurce] to touch Willard Brown. We were like fried chicken rinds but in a euphoria that lasted for weeks because Mr. Brown’s car stopped, and [he] touched us with such a beautiful look and his strong hand of a great athlete.”

Rubén Gómez, Brown’s Santurce teammate, 1947-1954 and November 1956. “Other than Willie Mays, my [1954-55] Santurce and [1954-58] New York/San Francisco Giants teammate, Willard Brown was the most dominant hitter on my teams. He hit 27 HR for us [Crabbers] in a 60-game season!”

Bob Thurman—120 PRWL career HR—part of the Brown-Thurman HR duo, 1947-1954, and November 1956. “We had a healthy competition going and respected each other. Pedrín [Zorrilla] was a great owner, and we loved the Santurce fans.”


Brown was one of 17 former Negro Leaguers (12 players and five executives) inducted in Cooperstown—2006. It was a well-deserved honor, albeit late in coming.

Thanks to Peter Anderson, Tite Arroyo, Bob Boyd, Norma Candal, Rory Costello, Adam Darowski, Cot Deal, Rubén Gómez, Bill Greason, Luis R. Mayoral, and Bob Thurman. Jorge Colón Delgado did the editing and photo placements.

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