William "Gates" Brown, one of the most prolific pinch-hitters and colorful characters in the history of baseball, died on Friday. He was 74.
Brown played his entire career with the Detroit Tigers, compiling a career average of .257 with 84 home runs and 322 RBIs.
"It's just a shame," Tigers manager Jim Leyland told the Detroit Free Press. "A lot of people still think to this day ... think Gates Brown is the best pinch-hitter of all time. I don't know if that's accurate or not."
Brown got his nickname after serving three years in the Ohio State Reformatory for burglary. It was in prison that Brown displayed the skills that would take him to the major leagues.
"He was really a piece of cake, the nicest guy in the world," said Tigers radio analyst Jim Price, a teammate in 1967-71. "You would have thought he would be real mean or something. He wasn't. He was just a fun-loving guy."
Price confirmed to the Free Press about how Brown would secretly eat hot dogs in the dugout. On one occasion, he had to stuff a hot dog in his jersey when he was told to pinch-hit.
"I went back to the bullpen and said, 'Boys, watch out.' He was mad about his hot dogs. He was a lot of fun. He really was."
Brown won a World Series title as a player in 1968 and as a coach with the Tigers in 1984.
- Detroit Tigers
- Gates Brown
- Detroit Free Press