May 25 – Happy Birthday Bobby Brown
Bobby Brown started his Yankee career during the tumultuous 1979 season, when he was acquired from the Blue Jays in June of that year. At the same time New York traded for Brown, George Steinbrenner, replaced Manager Bob Lemon with Billy Martin. After winning two straight World Championships, New York was floundering in that year’s AL Pennant race. The “Boss” thought Lemon had lost control of the team and especially center-fielder Mickey Rivers. The Yankee owner felt Martin was the guy who could make the Yankees and “Mick the Quick” play hard again.
Instead, Rivers continued to drift and on August 1, 1979, the speedy outfielder was dealt to the Rangers. That same day, Thurman Munson crashed his plane and the rest of the 1979 baseball season suddenly didn’t matter to anybody.
In one of his best moves as Yankee owner, Steinbrenner then approved the hiring of long-time Yankee coach Dick Howser as the team’s new skipper. The Yankees also swung a deal for the young Mariner center-fielder, Rupert Jones. Everyone thought Jones would become the Yankees next great center fielder. Fortunately for Bobby Brown, that didn’t happen.
With Jones struggling to keep his average over .200, Dick Howser began playing Brown in the middle of his outfield during that 1980 season. Brown’s speed helped him cover the huge dimensions of center field in the old Yankee Stadium and it helped him steal 27 bases that season. Howser also liked the fact that Brown was a switch hitter. Bobby responded well, hitting .260 and poking 14 home runs in his official rookie season. But the Howser-Brown mutual admiration society was about to get disbanded.
Howser was fired by an irate Steinbrenner after the Yankees got knocked out of the 1980 playoffs in three-straight games by the Royals. Brown went hitless in that series, which did not go unnoticed in the Yankee front office. At the very end of New York’s 1981 spring training season, New York traded Jones to the Padres for San Diego’s talented center fielder, Jerry Mumphrey. That trade signaled the official end of Brown’s career as the Yankee’s starting center fielder.
Bobby began the 1981 season in Columbus and then got called back up to the parent club in late May. He remained in pinstripes during the rest of that strike-shortened 1981 season, but he hit only .226. Still, the Yankees kept him on their post-season roster, which ended up giving Brown one more opportunity to make Steinbrenner livid. It happened during the pivotal Game 4 of that year’s Fall Classic against the Dodgers. Yankee Manager, Bob Lemon had inserted Brown as a pinch runner for Oscar Gamble in the sixth inning with the Yankees ahead 6-3. But instead of putting Jerry Mumphrey in center the following inning, Lemon sent Brown out to play the field. Mumphrey was considered to be a much better defensive outfielder than Brown. Later in the game, with the score tied 6-6, Brown misplayed Rick Monday’s blooper into a double, which led to a two-run inning and a Dodger victory and a deadlocked Series. Los Angeles would go on to win the next two games and the World Championship. The following April, Brown was playing for the Mariners.
The Yankees actually traded for Bobby Brown two different times. They originally acquired him in 1978, when he was still a minor leaguer in the Phillies’ organization but then lost him to the Mets in the 1978 rule 5 Draft. In that trade with the Phillies, the Yankees got Brown and outfielder Jay Johnstone for reliever Rawley Eastwick. When New York traded Bobby Brown to the Mariners in 1982 they got starting pitcher Shane Rawley in return. This makes Brown the only Yankee in history who was traded to the team and from the team for guys who shared the name Rawley.
Bobby turns 58-years-old today. He shares his May 25th birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and minor league pitching instructor.