Those who collect cards of Baseball Hall of Famers struggle when it comes to Willard Brown but there’s a rare piece on the auction block this weekend. A potentially one-of-a-kind postcard originating in Latin America is up for auction.
Bidding has already topped $500 for the piece, which is dated to 1952. Brown is featured as a member of the Leones del Escogido team and pictured in full uniform. The sepia style Real Photo Postcard measures approximately 3 1/4″ wide x 5 1/4″ tall. It’s one of the few known cards of Brown, who played most of his baseball outside of the major leagues.
Despite playing only one major league season, Brown was elected to the Hall of Fame, primarily based on the merits of his career in the Negro Leagues and Mexican Leagues. Buck O’Neill once called him the “most natural ballplayer” he had ever seen.
Brown starred in the Negro Leagues, quickly becoming one of the top power hitters. Nicknamed ‘Home Run,’ by the legendary Josh Gibson, he led the Negro Leagues in round trippers several times. In between starring there, he also played in Mexico. Like many players, his career was interrupted by World War II, serving in the Army for two years. After returning to the Negro Leagues in 1946, he became one of the first black players to reach the majors, signing with the St. Louis Browns in 1947, shortly after Jackie Robinson integrated the game.
Brown’s lone major league season came that year when he was already 32 years old. In 21 games with the Browns that season, he batted only .179. While he struggled there, Brown still made history by becoming the first African American to hit a home run in the American League. The home run was also special as it came off of Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser and was an inside-the-park ‘blast.’ After he was released, the outfielder would go on to resume his career by playing in the Negro Leagues, the Mexican Leagues, and the minors, into the late 1950s. In all, he finished his career with a .351 batting average in the Negro Leagues.
Along with 16 other players, Brown was voted into Cooperstown by the Negro League Committee in 2006.
Bidding in the auction, which includes over 1,300 vintage photographs, ends this Saturday, November 10.