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On August 7, 1968, Brown made history. He wasn't in the starting lineup, so he decided to grab two hot dogs from the clubhouse. He was ordered by manager Mayo Smith to pinch hit. He stuffed the hot dogs in his jersey to hide them from his manager.
"I always wanted to get a hit every time I went to the plate. But this was one time I didn't want to get a hit. I'll be damned if I didn't smack one in the gap and I had to slide into second—head first, no less. I was safe with a double. But when I stood up, I had mustard and ketchup and smashed hot dogs and buns all over me.
"The fielders took one look at me, turned their backs and damned near busted a gut laughing at me. My teammates in the dugout went crazy." After fining Brown $100, Smith said, "What the hell were you doing eating on the bench in the first place?" Brown: "I decided to tell him the truth. I said, 'I was hungry. Besides, where else can you eat a hot dog and have the best seat in the house'"
Brown served time at Mansfield State Reformatory after being convicted of robbery at age 18. A prison guard encouraged him to play catcher and the Tigers signed him to a $7,000 contract after he turned down offers from the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians.
In Earl Weaver's book on managing he mentions when managing against Billy Martin's Tigers, that Billy would always try to arrange that Gates would be able to pinch hit with the game on the line. Nice tribute.
Thanks to Gates for giving us the go-to season for comparing a closer to a hitter ;-)
(Him or Dusty Rhodes 1954, I suppose.)
William James Brown was born on May 2, 1939, in Crestline, Ohio. He was signed by the Tigers after a robbery conviction landed him in prison, where a member of the staff noticed his baseball ability.
In high school, according to the Baseball Almanac, Brown said, “I took a little English, a little math, some science, a few hubcaps and some wheel covers.”
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