A man for the ages By: Garrett podell

He’s an unassuming connoisseur of baseball. Most TCU home games, he’s seated just a fraction to the left of home plate right behind the scouts with radar guns.

Some might assume, he’s just a retiree passing time. But Dr. Bobby Brown, 92, has a legacy in baseball, medicine and at TCU that sets him apart.

The long-time Fort Worth cardiologist is a four-time World Series Champion third baseman for the New York Yankees, former president of the American League and the namesake of an endowed scholarship that benefits TCU baseball players.

“Easiest money I have ever raised in this town,” said John V. Roach, former chair of the TCU Board of Trustees who solicited $600,000 to back the scholarship.

Brown’s son, Pete, and grandson Jeffrey, said the doctor is essentially a 20th and 21st century renaissance man.

“He’s done some things that people will never do again: no one will ever go to medical school and play for the Yankees again,” Pete Brown said. “He’s in the athletic hall of fame at Stanford, UCLA, and Tulane, no will ever do that again at this day in age.”

Jeffrey Brown cites his grandfather’s work ethic and generosity as his defining qualities.

“I think we will see an incredible work ethic on top of that incredible generosity, very caring, and very invested in people’s lives,” Jeffrey Brown said. “There are plenty of people who are in positions to help those in need, but don’t utilize those positions, there’s concrete pieces of evidence that showed he helped people who needed it.”

‘Something special’

Looking back, Brown said baseball has always been a part of his life - by first grade he was beating back pitchers.

“I hit left-handed and everyone else hit right-handed because my dad taught me that,” Brown said. “They couldn’t hit the ball and I could, that’s how I knew I was doing something special.”

A veteran of World War II, he was drafted into the Navy as a pre-medical student, but he played baseball at Stanford and UCLA.

When he enrolled at Tulane University for medical school in December of 1944, he knew he had to be on the university’s baseball team. The coach wasn’t so sure.

“I went out and introduced myself to the coach and he asked me if I was a student and I said I was in med school, the first year of med school."

“He said, ‘Aren’t you taking anatomy?’ I said ‘yes.’ ‘Physiology too right?’ I said ‘yes.’"

“Then he asked me if I was crazy, and then said it wouldn’t work because he had med students before and thought the timing was an issue and that it wouldn’t work.”

Brown wasn’t deterred.

“I went out and fielded about 10 or 15 baseballs, and then he asked me if I wanted to hit some balls, and I could hit pretty well,” Brown said. "After I hit about dozen of them, he came up to the plate, grabbed me by both shoulders and said, ‘We’re going to work something out,’ which he did.”

Games started at 4:30 and 5 p.m., but Tulane would tell its opponents there was no set time because its shortstop was in the Navy and medical school and that the game would start when Brown arrived.

“I played almost every game, even though I could never make it to practice,” he said.

One year later, Brown was with the New York Yankees.

He played on some of baseball’s best teams of all-times with some of the game’s biggest legends. The late Yogi Berra was his roommate in the minor leagues. When they got called up to the Yankees they roomed together on road games.

Brown said while he studied for medical school, Berra read Superman comic books.

“We both finished reading one day at the same time and I was reading Boyd’s Pathology textbook and he was reading Superman,” Brown said. “He finished a few seconds before I did, and when I finished he wanted to know how mine ended.”

Brown owns the second-highest batting average in World Series history at .439 among players who registered 45 or more at bats. His crowning moment in the pinstripes came in Game 7 of the 1947 World Series.

“We had a man on first and second with one out, and I hit a double down the left field line that scored the tying run,” he said. “We went on to win 5-2. I knew where my mother and dad were sitting and I could see this hat going up in the air, someone was throwing their hat up in the air and I knew it was my dad’s, that was a terrific thrill for me.”

Doctor Brown

Brown said a clutch hit in the final game of a World Series wasn’t the best moment in his professional life. That came the day he graduated from Tulane.

“There was nothing that could compare to that,” he said.

He continued playing baseball until he was drafted into the Korean War.

“In 1952, I was in the doctor’s draft and enlisted in the Army,” Brown said. “I was rotated to in the 45th Infantry Division in Korea where I was the doctor for an artillery battalion in the 45th division.

Eventually, he transferred to Japan where he was reunited with a former teammate: Joe DiMaggio.

DiMaggio, accompanied by his new bride Marilyn Monroe, came to Japan to give clinics that were started by fellow Californian and long-time manager of the San Francisco Seals, a Pacific Coast League team, Lefty O’Doul to the Japanese major league teams, Brown said.

“I left word for him to call me and he asked me to help him, so it ended up with me and my wife Sara joining Marilyn and Joe putting on the clinics,” Brown said. “The gals shopped all day and we all had a great time. That was Joe and Marilyn’s honeymoon.”

Brown returned to the Yankees at the beginning of the 1954 season, but left baseball for good at the halfway point of the season to pursue a career in medicine full-time, which led him to Fort Worth.

“I just played off and on because I hadn’t played in two years, and after I played a ball game at Fenway Park on the 30th of June,” Brown said. “I and got on the plane and flew all night to San Francisco to start my residency the next day.”

Brown finished his career batting .279 with 22 home runs and 237 RBI’s.

“He never talked about his baseball talent when he was a doctor, he worked really hard,” his son Pete said. “Now, he talks about it more and more, but when I was growing up, he was just a great cardiologist.”

He spent the next three years at the San Francisco County Hospital practicing internal medicine, before finding his passion in cardiology through a fellowship at Tulane.

“I was with an older guy, my resident at Tulane, and we became very close friends, and I joined him August 1, 1958 in Fort Worth,” Brown said. “His name was Albert Goggans, and I was with him for the next 25 years.”

Baseball called again in 1984, when Brown was elected president of the American League.

“The work for the American League, you’re just putting on the games, so I didn’t need training, which is true, so, I retired from medicine,” Brown said. “I did that for 10 years, and then I retired totally. I was going to be 60 when I joined the American League, and I was going to be 70 when I retired totally, so I quit. I’ve been retired since.”

His family, wife Sara and their three children, were a constant.

“He never missed a graduation, he has 10 grandchildren and he’s proud of all of them,” said Pete Brown. “They would never want to do anything to disappoint him.”

Jeffrey Brown, who works at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth, said his grandfather was always there for him.

“He stops by the control booth every week at Christ Chapel,” said Jeffrey Brown, who’s also a TCU alum.

He said his grandfather helped him through college.

“He always offered to do my laundry, make sure I was fed, and we always had Blue Bell ice cream, his favorite, while watching Rangers games,” Jeffrey Brown said.

Jeffrey Brown said he wasn’t into sports growing up, but he still had his grandfather’s support.

“We lived an hour and a half away growing up, and he made it out to a couple of my high school shows and he still remembers it today,” Jeffrey said. “We did “Little Shop of Horrors” my sophomore year with my older brother Robert as the lead, and I puppeteered the giant plant. He still brings it up.”

Brown is also involved in civic life in Fort Worth.

“He’s a part of the Amon Carter Foundation and helps direct where money goes,” Jeffrey Brown said. “He invests in both sports and the arts, which is exciting to me. He’s given to Christ Chapel. He’s fairly giving with his time, and he’s always willing to sign something.”

When it comes the Horned Frogs, Brown is fan and a teacher. He spoke at the team’s annual First Pitch Banquet in 2009.

“What an honor that we’re just able to have an audience with a gentleman like him and for him to share some of his wit and wisdom not only with these young ballplayers but all of us that are baseball fans,” said Ross Bailey, senior associate athletics director.

The Dr. Bobby Brown Endowed Scholarship is awarded to a student athlete on the TCU Baseball Team who exhibits the highest degree of leadership, integrity and sportsmanship, said Julie Whitt, Associate Vice Chancellor of Donor Relations.

Brown said his years of determination have paid off tenfold.

“I worked awful hard, I worked as much as you could humanely stand, I had class four days after the season ended, and I always showed up right before the season started and missed spring training,” Brown said. “I wanted to finish medical school, and I wanted to be a major league ball player.”

But, baseball never felt like work.

“Baseball wasn’t work or a job to me,” Brown said. “I enjoyed it.”


Photos courtesy of the Brown family and Garrett Podell 

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