In Raymond Brown’s SABR bio by Chris Rainey, fellow pitcher and Cooperstown Hall of Famer Hilton Smith ranked Brown—a 2006 Cooperstown Inductee—at Satchel Paige and Bob Feller’s level. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/raymond-brown/ Raymond Brown, in Puerto Rico, beat the 1936 Cincinnati Reds with his hitting, and the 1947 New York Yankees with his pitching. The focus of this blog is Ponce’s 12-8 win over the New York Yankees, February 24, 1947. It includes details on the 1946-47 Ponce Lions, 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers, 1947 New York Yankees, and players’ Yogi Berra, Dr. Bobby Brown, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, and Johnny Wright.
Brown’s Success in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, Canada and MLB
Brown went 3-0 for the 1946-47 Santurce Crabbers but was released at age 38. He had a 40-20 W-L regular-season mark in Puerto Rico, with 539 IP, 334 strikeouts (excluding 1944-45, 1946-47), 156 walks, and a 2.32 ERA. https://www.beisbol101.com/raymond-brown-4/ Ponce manager George Scales brought him in as a coach, and he imparted wisdom to Lions starters Tomás “Planchardón” Quiñones, Juan Guilbe, rookie José “Pantalones” Santiago and import Johnny Wright, a 1946 Montreal Royals teammate of Jackie Robinson. These starters were a combined 33-15, .688 PCT. Ponce’s other pitchers (Luis “Tite” Arroyo, Pat Scantlebury, and Gilberto “Foca” Valentín) had a 5-7 mark between them. Ponce’s four starters all had 20-win seasons, prorated to 162 games—Quiñones (9-4), Guilbe (8-2), Santiago (8-4), and Wright (8-5), in a 60-game regular season. Math is 2.7 x 8 or 9 wins.
Tite Arroyo recalled Brown as a “low-key, calm individual,” who accepted his role as Scales’s “de facto pitching coach.” “It would have been nice if Brown pitched for us [regular season] but our three imports were: Howard Easterling, Fernando Díaz Pedroso, and Johnny Wright.” (Scantlebury, from Panamá, was another import.) Arroyo got his wish, albeit in the February 24, 1947 spring training game at San Juan’s Sixto Escobar Stadium between the New York Yankees—who he later pitched for [1960-63]—and Ponce. Scales was more concerned with getting his pitching staff ready to face the Caguas Criollos, in a best-of-seven final series, when he summoned Brown to start against the Bronx Bombers.
Table I: Raymond Brown’s Pro Pitching Record
#Brown’s 1931-1946 Negro Leagues seasons are now MLB status.
Sources: https://www.beisbol101.com/raymond-brown-4/ https://www.seamheads.com/NegroLgs/player.php?playerID=brown01ray Jorge S. Figueredo, Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, McFarland, 2003; Enciclopedia del Béisbol Mexicano; Editor Pedro Treto Cisneros (Undécima Edición, 2011); http://www.pelotabinaria.com.ve/beisbol/mostrar.php?ID=browray001.
The 1947 New York Yankees Enjoy San Juan
Jon Pessah’s article on Yogi Berra can be accessed at https://lithub.com/the-early-career-of-a-new-york-yankee-icon/ Pessah noted that U.S. President Harry S Truman gave the first televised State of the Union address, January 6, 1947. (January 6 is Three Kings throughout the Spanish-speaking world, a special holiday.) Berra was one of 33 New York Yankees to make the plane trip from LaGuardia Field to San Juan’s Isla Grande Airport, in a chartered, twin-engine plane. Berra was happy but teammate Joe DiMaggio was not.
Per Passah, the off-season operation to remove a bone spur in DiMaggio’s left heel showed no signs of healing. DiMaggio spent the first few days in San Juan’s Normandie Hotel locked up in his room, while his teammates practiced at Sixto Escobar Stadium. DiMaggio was “livid with team President Larry MacPhail for forcing him to make this trip just five weeks after doctors removed a three-inch bone spur from his heel.” Apparently, MacPhail needed extra cash to help pay off loans from his two millionaire co-owners, per Passah.
Fred Down, writing for the Los Angeles Times, February 24, 1985, mentioned details about the Yankee’s trip to San Juan, on the 38th anniversary of their loss to the Ponce Lions. In https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1985-02-24-sp-24765-story-html, Down noted Larry MacPhail had a corporate sponsor for this trip: A rum distillery (Ponce-based Destilería Serrallés). MacPhail was a pioneer of sorts, establishing night baseball for the 1938 Cincinnati Reds when most other owners disapproved of this. His son, Lee MacPhail, was a high school and college classmate of Paula Van Hyning, the author’s mother.
The Yankees manager was 50-year old Bucky Harris, the ex “Boy Wonder” who led the 1924 Washington Senators to their first (and only) World Series crown, as a 27-year old player-manager. (The author’s father recalled his happiness, as a 10-year old when Walter Johnson won Game Seven of the 1924 World Series over the New York Giants.) Bucky Harris was a gentleman who had married the daughter of a U.S. Senator—he was “smooth and articulate,” per Down, but “could be tough in the clutch.”
Each Yankees player received a case of rum in their hotel room, upon arrival, mid-February 1947. One of them tried a midnight dive into the hotel swimming pool—100 feet long, 60 feet wide, 12 feet deep. The bet was could he “make the dive successfully from the third story balcony”? Manager Harris heard a loud noise at 12:01 a.m. to see bet winners cheering, and the losers groaning. Harris called a 9 a.m. meeting to inform players that the “cases of rum must go.” Otherwise, Harris would take his Yankees “back to the mainland.” On a side note, 36 rum distillery salesmen were assigned to 12 sportswriters from New York and New Jersey, for three salesmen per writer, around the clock.
Five Games at Sixto Escobar Stadium, Yogi Berra-Bobby Brown
On Saturday, February 22, 1947, the Yankees routed the San Juan Senators, 16-3, behind the pitching of Floyd Bevens, Allie Reynolds, and Spec Shea. Barney Brown took the loss. New York bested Caguas, 6-4, the next day. Dan Bankhead was the losing pitcher. Bin Torres pitched well in relief for Caguas. Ponce made the February 24 trip to San Juan.
Clarence Marshall started for New York that Monday (February 24) and was one of four Yankees pitchers. Raymond Brown scattered a bunch of hits (opponents’ line score was 8-16-2) and tired somewhat in the eighth. In the home sixth, Fernando Díaz Pedroso enriched himself by at least $70 when rabid fans made sure he was rewarded with bills and coins, after his three-run HR off Joe Page. Ponce mayor Andrés Grillasca ran to home plate to shake Pedroso’s hand. Brown pitched effectively until the eighth frame when New York tallied four runs with the help of three errors. Scales summoned Pantalones Santiago, who fanned two Yankees to end the inning before retiring the side in the ninth for the save. A five-column heading in the sports section of February 25, 1947, New York Times said: “To the consternation of manager Bucky Harris and the frenzied delight of 5,000 onlookers, the bombers came down with a terrific crash as they blew their game with the Ponce Club of the Puerto Rican League by a score of 12-8.”
On Tuesday, February 25, 1947, Larry MacPhail announced that DiMaggio would depart from San Juan on a flight to Baltimore, where “they’ll try skin graft surgery in hopes of closing the wound in his heel” in hopes of saving his  season,” according to Pessah. The Yankee Clipper was age 32; Tommy Henrich turned 34 and Charlie “King Kong” Keller would turn 31 in September 1947.
Yogi Berra and Bobby Brown were having a good spring training. The author met Berra just once, after a Houston Astros March 1992 spring training game, when he (Berra) was an Astros consultant. Berra had to “wait his turn” while the author interviewed Houston manager Art Howe. Berra (briefly) noted he “once played for the Yankees in Puerto Rico and it was a good experience.” Conversely, Bobby Brown, preparing for his first full season with the New York Yankees, felt the Yankee’s “journey through the Caribbean was helpful, pre-1947 AL season.” Brown retired from baseball on June 30, 1954, before turning 30. He was Yogi Berra’s road roommate; a cardiologist with a medical degree from Tulane; AL President, 1984-94. The author conversed with Dr. Brown by phone several times, when working on Atley Donald’s 2010 SABR bio. Dr. Brown was Atley Donald’s cardiologist.
The Yankees split their remaining two games against a Puerto Rico All-Star team. Canena Márquez got the game-winning hit in the bottom of the 12th, on February 25, a 7-6 All-Star win. On February 26, the All-Stars led the Yankees, 6-4, going into the ninth. New York scored four times, in the ninth, to win it, 8-6, with both teams getting 11 hits. The Yankees made five errors compared to three All-Star team miscues. A sixth game (February 27) between New York and the Santurce Crabbers was rained out. The Yankees flew to Caracas, Venezuela, for six more games.
Yankees in Venezuela and Cuba
Manager Harris used Berra in RF during spring training games in Caracas. Joe Medwick, 35-year old veteran, was Berra’s “OF guide.” Berra homered in his first game in Caracas, March 1, 1947, versus Sabios de Vargas—same team Raymond Brown pitched for, 1949-50. Vargas prevailed, 4-3. New York bested Magallanes, 5-4, the next day, on a Ralph Houk game-winning single, followed by a 9-2 win over the Caracas All-Stars. New York then won two of three games against the Brooklyn Cuban Manuel “Cocaína” García pitched well for Magallanes. https://triangulodeportivo.com/2021/03/02/los-lujos-que-tenia-venezuela-juegos-de-mlb-con-sede-en-suelo-tricolor/ Dodgers, 17-6 and 4-0, with Brooklyn winning the middle contest, 8-7.
On March 8-9, 1947, the Yankees split two more games with the Dodgers. Brooklyn took the opener, 1-0, in 10 innings. New York bounced back with a 4-1 victory the next day. The Dodgers flew to the Panamá Canal Zone, on March 10, instead of playing the Yankees. So, the Yankees faced a team of Cuban All-Stars and lost, 2-1. The Bronx Bombers were 8-6 overall in the Caribbean, before returning to St. Petersburg, Florida, to resume spring training.
Pantalones Santiago’s Thoughts
Pantalones Santiago opined that “Raymond Brown was a good influence on the Ponce team,” and “capable of replacing Johnny Wright in the rotation.” Pantalones downplayed his own pitching performance versus the 1947 Yankees. Instead, he complimented Tomás “Planchardón” Quiñones (2-0) and Juan Guilbe (2-1), who picked up the slack during Ponce’s Final Series win over Caguas, aka “Series of the Roasted Pigs.” (Pantalones was 0-2 versus Caguas.) Caguas fans began roasting pigs after the Criollos won the first three games but it was for naught when the Lions roared back to win four straight!
Jackie Robinson and 1946-47 Ponce Lions
Ponce Lions owner Martiniano García thought Jackie Robinson would reinforce his 1946-47 team. Instead, he scrambled to sign 3B switch-hitter Howard Easterling#, when García was informed “Robinson could not play for Ponce.” There is speculation the Brooklyn Dodgers wanted to “protect” him from possible injury? #My next blog is on Howard Easterling.
Raymond Brown’s Legacy
Brown, born February 23, 1908, in Alger (McDonald Township), Ohio, passed away in Dayton, Ohio, on February 8, 1965. On October 20, 1996, in Aguadilla, eight ex-players, a manager, and an owner were inducted into Puerto Rico’s Professional Baseball Hall of Fame, including Raymond Brown, Buster Clarkson, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, and George Scales. Forty-four were inducted in these four ceremonies: 1991-93 and 1996. Efforts are being made to revive this Hall of Fame for the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League, its name as of 2012. Raymond Brown is one of 16 Negro Leaguers—inducted in Cooperstown—who played or umpired (Oscar Charleston was the umpire) in Puerto Rico’s Winter League. The complete list is at:
With gratitude to Eduardo B. Almada, Luis “Tite” Arroyo, Yogi Berra, Dr. Bobby Brown, Miguel Dupouy Gómez, Jorge Figueredo and José “Pantalones” Santiago, Jorge Colón Delgado, Official Historian, Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League, furnished special photos and articles.