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Monday, June 11, 2001

Boston.com / Latest News / Sports / Ex-Detroit Tigers utility man, Negro Leaguer Ike Brown dies at 59

I don’t remember exactly why, but I took a liking to Ike Brown when I was around eight. Maybe I just liked the way he smiled on the ball field. I liked him so much that his baseball cards were almost as valuable to me as my Nolan Ryan cards were. It’s funny how things like this pop back into your memory when someone passes. My sympathy goes out to his family and friends.

Jim Furtado Posted: June 11, 2001 at 03:03 PM | 3 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Jay Jaffe Posted: June 11, 2001 at 06:49 PM (#69202)
I was too young to ever see him play, but I knew Ike Brown by his baseball card, and I liked Ike, too. My older cousin very generously passed down about 2,000 baseball cards from the 1965-1975 era when I took a serious interest in the hobby, including some of the greats-- Aaron, Mays, Frank Robinson, Rose, Gibson, etc. There were plenty of duplicates, especially of the lesser players, and I had multiple 1974 Ike Browns.

I didn't necessarily hold Ike's card in high value, but I can see it in my mind's eye: a right-hander, posed in his batting stance, cropped around the knees, wearing a road Detroit uniform. A fairly mundane baseball card, but I had a soft spot for utilitymen, and for anyone who tried to play baseball while wearing glasses. (If you don't believe me, check here.)
   2. Michael Posted: June 11, 2001 at 08:44 PM (#69203)
I became a lifelong Tiger and baseball fan during 1968 and collected a ton of baseball cards during the next offseason, memorizing plenty o' batting averages. I enjoyed watching Ike Brown too because I figured that Tom Matchick and Dick Tracewski must stink and figured that any black player able to break through management's prejudices must have really earned the right to play. The fact that he wore glasses also was cool!
   3. Bruce Markusen Posted: June 12, 2001 at 02:24 AM (#69204)
When I was growing up, I used to think that Gates Brown and Ike Brown were brothers. I figured that since they were both black and both played for the Tigers, they simply HAD to be related. Funny how your mind works when you're a kid.

Ike Brown was versatile enough to play second base, third base, or the outfield, but stuck with the Tigers primarily because he could swing the bat a little--at least for a utility player. When he played second base for Detroit, he might have been the biggest middle infielder of that era--about 6'2'' and 205 pounds. He actually looked more like a football player than a baseball player.

I never realized that Ike Brown had played in the Negro Leagues. He must have played during the last season of the Leagues' existence, which would have been around 1960. By the time that Brown was playing in the majors (1969-74), only a handful of Negro Leagues alumni remained active as players. The short list would have included Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, both of whom played in the Negro Leagues during the late forties/early fifties, when the black leagues were nearer their heyday. Frankly, I can't think of any other Negro Leagues players who would still have been playing in the majors by the early seventies. Minnie Minoso did come back for a brief spell in the latter part of the decade, but that was partly a publicity stunt.

Unfortunately, we are fast losing players like Ike Brown, who provide such interesting links to baseball's past. Although Brown was not a great player, he was a popular one, and one who played with and for the likes of Al Kaline, Denny McLain, and Billy Martin. I wish I would have had the chance to interview him.

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