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‘Home-Grown Hero’

Bemus Point Major Leaguer Honored Before Tarp Skunks Game

Tom Brown, son of former major leaguer Walter Brown throws out the ceremonial first-pitch of a Tarp Skunks home game held recently at Russell E. Diethrick, Jr. Park Walt Brown was born and raised in Bemus Point and was a baseball standout in high school. P-J photo by Christopher Blakeslee

Ted Williams. Stan Musial. Yogi Berra. Phil Rizzuto. Joe Dimaggio. Walter Brown?

Yep, if you take a look at baseballreference.com, there’s Walter Brown of Bemus Point listed along with some of the best baseball players ever to put on a pair of spikes. For one season in 1947, Brown made 19 appearances, pitching 46 innings with a 4.89 ERA while winning his only decision for a 1-0 major league record, according to his Baseball Reference page. Brown pitched his last major league game September 24, 1947.

Brown was remembered and honored at a recent Jamestown Tarp Skunks home game. Prior to the start of the game, a tent was set up, along the first baseline, just outside the ball field, and was loaded with memorabilia on display from Brown’s time playing major league ball. His only living son, Tom Brown, of Lakewood, was on hand to answer questions about his father, tell tales from the road and to talk baseball. Additionally, several significant baseball artifacts of historical value were on display, some almost 100 years old.

“My dad just loved the game,” said Tom Brown. “He was a simple man. He’d give you the shirt off his back if someone needed it.”

Walter Brown was born in 1915 and was a 1933 graduate of Bemus Point School where he lettered in basketball, cross country, track and field and baseball. He played semi-pro baseball around the Jamestown area with Sheppard Furniture and the Steel Partition Bombers; he broke into professional baseball when he was drafted by Ashville, N.C., of the Southern League in 1935. He then went to Albany, Georgia of the Georgia-Florida League and later to Huntington, W.V., before signing with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Pictured is Frances and Walt Brown, after they were married on a baseball field at home plate (circa) 1939. Submitted Photo

With the Cardinals’ Bentonville, Arkansas team, of Arkansas State League, he won 13 and lost 3 which earned him an invitation to the Cardinals’ spring training camp. He eventually pitched for Daytona Beach, Flas., Salina, Kansas, and Kilgore, Texas. It was in Kilgore where Brown would marry his high school sweetheart in 1939.

“My mom was on third base and my dad was on first,” said Tom Brown. “They walked and met at the home plate- where they were married with my dad in his baseball uniform.”

Brown was then signed with Clarksdale, Mississippi of the Cotton State League. His contract was then sold to Oklahoma City, and he was then sent to Memphis of the Class AA Southern Association league. After some time, Brown then moved to Toledo, Ohio and played for Class Triple A, International League with the Toledo Mud Hens. He pitched against baseball greats such as Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto and Joe DiMaggio.

According to Baseball Reference, Brown spent the balance of his pro baseball career in the minor leagues and won more than 10 games five times: 1936, 1937, 1939, 1940 and 1941. His 1937 season was 1937, when Brown went 15-10 with a 2.32 ERA, helping his club to the league title in his second year. From 1943 until his finale in 1951, his best minor league season came in 1946, when he went 9-8 with a 3.70 ERA while appearing in 34 games. He left the game with a career mark on the farm of 112-106 in 371 games while pitching 1,828 innings

After his retirement from professional baseball in 1954, Brown returned to Chautauqua County and managed the County League and passed away in 1991.

Tom Brown, son of Major League Baseball (MLB) player Walter Brown, spends a few minutes speaking with Jamestown Tarp Skunk’s ball player, DJ Stoianovich, prior to throwing out the ceremonial first pitch recently at Russell E. Diethrick, Jr. Park. P-J photo by Chirstopher Blakeslee

“My dad loved baseball,” said Tom Brown. “He was always a good man. He signed autographs and made time for the fans. He was a great father.”

After a Q-and-A session with baseball fans, Tom Brown threw out the ceremonial first pitch and talked to Jamestown Tarp Skunks players.

This historical significance of this event was highlighted by the mayor of Bemus Point.

“This is a home-grown hero,” said Jeff Molnar. “Just like all the men of Walt’s generation he also served in the military during World War II. He was simply a great man from our little town.”

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