Thursday, April 07, 2011

#19 Gates Brown

#19 Gates Brown
Oops, I forgot about Gates Brown when I was talking about my more well-loved 1965 Topps cards. This one is practically bisected! Should you be curious, "Gates" was born William James Brown, and is the only major leaguer to go by Gates.

Fun facts about Gates Brown:

-Gates was born in Crestline, OH and signed with the Tigers at age 20 in 1960.

-Though he wasn't considered a complete enough player to be an everyday starter, he established his credentials as a pinch hitter by homering in his first career at bat on June 19, 1963. He took Boston's Bob Heffner deep in the fifth inning while batting for pitcher Don Mossi.

-Brown started 101 games in left field in 1964, by far his highest total in any season. He hit .272 with 15 home runs and 54 RBI, and even stole 11 bases.

-He excelled in emergency duty in 1968, hitting .370 (34-for-92) with 15 extra-base hits, a .442 on-base percentage, and a .685 slugging percentage. In 48 pinch-hit appearances, he was 18-for-40 (.450) with 5 doubles, a triple, 3 home runs, 7 RBI, and 8 walks (.542 OBP, .850 SLG!). This was the third-best single-season average for a pinch hitter (35+ AB), and he played a significant role in Detroit's championship season.

-The most memorable anecdote of Gates' career came from a 1968 game. He wasn't in the starting lineup, so he slipped away to the clubhouse and returned with a couple of hot dogs covered in condiments. Before he could tuck in, manager Mayo Smith ordered him to pinch hit. Having no time to destroy the evidence, Brown stuffed the hot dogs into his jersey and went to bat hoping for once that he wouldn't get a hit. Sure enough, he found a gap between two outfielders and had to dive headfirst into second base to beat the throw. Supposedly he stood up with telltale ketchup and mustard stains - as well as bits of frank and bun - all over his uniform. The opposing fielders doubled over with laughter, and Smith fined his player $100.

-In a standout 1971 season, the pinch hitter and left fielder batted .338 (66-for-195) with 11 home runs and 29 RBI. He started 55 games and subbed in 31 times.

-Gates played in Detroit for all 13 of his big league seasons, retiring in 1975 with a .257 average, 84 home runs, and 322 RBI. His 16 pinch-hit home runs and 107 base hits as a pinch hitter are both American League records.

-Of his 16 pinch homers, 3 were walkoff shots. His solo shot off of Boston's Lee Stange ended a 14-inning affair on August 11, 1968.

-Brown served as the Tigers' hitting coach from 1978 through the championship season of 1984. In 1989, he managed the Orlando Juice of the Senior Professional Baseball League. For several years, he has been a coach at the Tiger Fantasy Camp in Lakeland, FL.
#19 Gates Brown (back)


  1. Gates Brown's 1968 Strat-O-Matic card was a thing of wonder.

  2. Bob - I bet it was! But I'm sure you didn't abuse it by running him out there in the starting lineup in every game...

  3. LOL, no we made a rule against that just because of Gates.

  4. Sometimes when Gates would start in a game (like in a second game of a double-header) he would play left field, Willie Horton would move to right, and Al Kaline moved to center. That was a power lineup.

  5. Random Fact - "Gates" was a nickname for jazz musicians and, associated with that, a somewhat obscure term for marijuana, back in the 40's and 50's. Perhaps his nickname had to do with one or both of those things? No idea, but I thought his was the coolest name in baseball when I was a kid!