Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Brown's bling tipped Senators' batters

The gold "bling" in Clint Brown's front teeth
provided Senators batters with a "tell" to
what pitch was coming.

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

In the “Scribbled by Scribes” digest column in the June 25, 1942, The Sporting News, Shirley Povich of the Washington Post was quoted from a recent feature he’d written about pitcher Clint Brown.

            Brown was in the American League for 15 years, with the Indians, the White Sox and thence back to the Indians, but he hasn’t started a ball game since 1936. These past six seasons he has been earning his keep as a relief pitching specialist. His record of putting in rush appearances in 81 ball games in 1939 stands as an all-time high.
            Brown used to be a starting pitcher. He had particular success against the Yankees and Athletics, the two toughest teams of a decade ago. But for some reason he couldn’t beat Washington. In fact, he was lucky to last out the first inning against the Nats. Finally, manager Roger Peckinpaugh bowed to the weight of evidence and refused to start him against the Washington club.
            It wasn’t until several years later, along about 1934, that Cleveland learned why Brown was so habitually ineffective against Washington. It was all explained in great detail by Sam Rice, who was traded to Cleveland by the Nats. Rice threw complete illumination of the great secret of the Washington club’s ability to beat Brown.
            ‘He helped to lick himself,’ said Rice. ‘Did you ever notice all those gold teeth in the front of Brown’s mouth? Well, all the hitters on the Washington club noticed ‘em too. When Brown was going to throw a curve ball, his lips curled up and the Washington hitters saw those gold teeth. We’d take a toe hold and bang the curve we knew was coming.’
            Fortified by that knowledge, Brown got sweet revenge on the Nats in successive years. He’d bare his golden array and then cross up the hitters completely by fogging a fast ball past their unwary bats. He enjoyed their confusion hugely, and rarely missed a turn against the Nats thereafter.

The "Rice Revelation," does seem to have had an effect in Brown's success against the Senators. From 1930-33, Brown had a 1-5 record versus Washington, appearing in eight games. (He didn't face the Senators in 1928-29 when he first came up to the American League.)

Rice came over to the Indians prior to the 1942 season, and from 1934-42, Brown was 8-5 in 31 games against Washington.

Povich also observed that when, following his release by Cleveland, Brown announced that he was retiring to his chicken farm, “he . . . became the envy of most ball players.”

The writer explained, “Just as retired prize fighters gravitate to the tavern and restaurant business, the old ball players yearns for a chicken farm all his own. Approach any ball player, suddenlike, and ask him what he’d like to do when he’s through playing ball, and it’s even money that he’ll blurt out ‘chicken farm.’

“Why this compelling attraction for incipient omelettes? We don’t know,” Povich confessed, “and we leave you to figure it out. We are simply reporting the facts. The nation’s country side is dotted with chicken farms bossed by old ball players who saved their dough to that end.”

Despite pitching his entire big league career in
the Golden Age of pre-war bubblegum cards,
Clint Brown appears only in the 1934-36
Batter-Up set.

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