The big topic of discussion not just in the baseball world but the world at large lately is baseball's decision to include Negro League stats in the official record book. Some people love the decision. Some people hate it. There's a lot of discussion about why it's good, why it's bad or why it's whatever.

Personally, as a life long baseball fan, I have no problem with it. The argument of "well, they weren't facing top competition" to me is just nonsense. Up until 1997 when interleague play started, the National League and American League were run separately. So, by the same logic, you could say those guys didn't face top competition either because outside of the World Series, the two leagues never played each other. Sandy Koufax never had to regularly face Mickey Mantle, for example. Those are two great players that never faced off during the regular season for the entirety of the career.

Plus, it wasn't the Negro League players fault they weren't allowed to play in the Majors - that blame belongs mostly to Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Whether you read Babe Ruth's battle over barnstorming or listen to Ted Williams Hall of Fame Speech, most players from the time frame wanted Negro League Players in the majors and they wanted to play those players because they wanted to play the best.

However, none of that is the point of this particular post. The point is, that with the new stats, I was looking over the new look record books and one name popped off the page - Willard Brown. Due to the new record keeping, Brown's eight times leading a league in hits is tied with Ty Cobb for most in baseball history. Not only is Brown a baseball Hall of Famer who had a fantastic professional career, but he also happens to be from Shreveport, LA.

Did You Know Baseball Hall of Famer Willard Brown was from Shreveport?

Photo by the Baseball Hall of Fame
Photo by the Baseball Hall of Fame

Willard Brown's history is a fascinating one. He was born in Shreveport, LA on June 26th, 1915. He got interested in baseball while serving as a bat boy for the Kansas City Monarchs (back in the day, the Monarchs regularly held spring training in Shreveport. Did you know that?).

Brown started out in the Negro League Minors in 1934 - playing for the Monroe Monarchs. He made his debut for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1937 and quickly became a top star playing Center Field. In his first 3 seasons in the Negro League, he led the league in runs batted in. He led the League in RBIs a total of 7 times. His eight times leading a league in hits is tied with Ty Cobb for most in baseball history. Oh, and he had some pretty good pop in his bat too. He was given the nickname 'Home Run' Brown by fellow Hall of Famer and Negro League Legend Josh Gibson.

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Brown, a Baseball Hall of Famer, was the second black player to sign to an American League team when he joined St. Louis Browns in 1947 (Larry Doby was the first black player in the American League and the 2nd black player in the majors, getting the call to Cleveland a couple weeks after Jackie Robinson made his debut for the Dodgers). He also became the first black player to hit a home run in the American League when he took (future) Hall of Fame Pitcher Hal Newhouser deep.

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On top of his power hitting, he was a heck of a fielder & base runner. Buck O'Neil called him the most naturally talented player he had ever seen play. Due to his extraordinary ability and talent, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in the Class of 2006.

Aside from his baseball acumen, he was also a soldier who served in World War II. According to his Baseball Hall of Fame page, he was on one of the 5,000 ships that crossed the English Channel during the D-Day Invasion of 1944.

In short - the man was a legend on and off the baseball diamond.

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