When I say the name Jim Brown in the context of football, you know of whom I’m speaking. But if I bring up his name in the context of baseball, you probably scratch your head.
We’re here on this NFL Sunday to tell the tale of Jimmy Brown, baseball player, who was an infielder for the Cardinals from 1937 to 1943 before joining the Air Force to serve in World War II. Upon returning at age 36, he finished his career for the Pirates.
Brown was a good contact hitter, who hit .280 or better, though with minimal power in each season from 1938 to 1941. He struck out 22 times in 549 at-bats in 1941, when he slashed .306/.363/.406, the only season in which his adjusted OPS was better than league average. Nonetheless, he finished in the top six in the MVP voting twice, as players were statistically scrutinized different from how they are now.
In 1942, the Cardinals engaged in a great pennant race with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Cardinals, who trailed by 10 games in August took the lead for the NL pennant with two weeks left in the season while in the middle of a 16-game road trip and won a number of dramatic games down the stretch. On September 14, Brown’s 14th-inning double gave the Cardinals a 3-2 win over the Phillies.
The first home game after the road trip came on September 21 against the Pirates. The Cardinals were playing well, up 2 ½ games with six to play, though a pennant was no sure thing.
Brown did his best that day to make it possible. He was credited with an RBI in the fifth inning when his infield single scored aggressive baserunner Marty Marion from second base. Then in the bottom of the ninth, with a man on third and two outs, Brown singled in Marion again, this time with the winning run. This was how the Cardinals won 44 of their last 53 games.
“The chance are you are never going to see Jimmy Brown up there in the Hall of Fame. And you’d be willing to bet his chances of winning the most valuable player award any year are about as bright as one of those “solid gold” watches you can pick up for a dollar.
“But when it comes to handing out the posies to the guy who did as much – or more – than anyone else to bring the St. Louis Cardinals the National League pennant, don’t overlook James Roberson Brown of the Jamesville (S.C.) Browns, pals,” wrote Sid Feder of the Associated Press.
Brown did his part beyond that too. The Cardinals won 106 games to win the pennant by two games. He then went 6-for-20 with three walks, an RBI and two runs scored as the Cardinals topped the Yankees to win the World Series.
To learn more about Brown, I suggest reading his SABR Bioproject