James Kevin Brown (born March 14, 1965) is a former Major League Baseball right-handed pitcher. He played from 1986 to 2005, leading the American League in wins once and leading the National League in earned run average twice. He was also a six-time All-Star.
Brown attended Wilkinson County High School in Irwinton, Georgia and was a student and a letterman in football, baseball, and tennis. Brown played three years of collegiate baseball at Georgia Tech for their baseball team.
In 1986, Brown was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the first round (fourth pick overall). Starting in 1989, Brown was second in the Rangers' rotation behind ace Nolan Ryan and posted a 12–9 record with a 3.35 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 1989 and a 12–10 record with a 3.60 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 1990. By 1992, Brown had improved his record with the Rangers to a 21–11 with 173 strikeouts and a 3.32 ERA, was tied for the league lead in victories and was the first since Ferguson Jenkins in 1974 to win 20 games in a Ranger uniform.
Brown became a free agent following the strike settlement in 1994 and signed with the Baltimore Orioles for a season, posting a 10–9 record with 117 strikeouts and a 3.60 ERA.
Following the 1995 season, Brown again became a free agent, signing with the Florida Marlins. In his first season with the Marlins, Brown posted a 17–11 record with 159 strikeouts and an MLB best 1.89 ERA, finishing second in the Cy Young Award voting.
In 1997, Brown threw a one-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers in his first appearance and a no-hitter against the San Francisco Giants on June 10, 1997. The only baserunner in the game for the Giants came via a HBP with two outs and two strikes in the eighth inning.
In the 1997 National League Championship Series, Brown, riddled with the flu, proceeded to pitch a complete game in Game Six, defeating the Atlanta Braves and helping the Marlins reach the World Series, which they eventually won over the Cleveland Indians.
San Diego Padres
Following the disassembly of the Marlins' championship team, Brown was traded to the San Diego Padres for Derrek Lee and prospects, where he pitched one season. He posted an 18–7 record with a career-high 257 strikeouts and a 2.38 ERA, finishing third in the Cy Young Award voting.
Masterful during the National League Division Series against the Houston Astros, San Diego won both of Brown's starts by a 2–1 score. As the Game 1 starter opposing Randy Johnson, he allowed no runs in eight innings and struck out 16 Astros, a career-high, and second to that point in MLB playoff history only to Bob Gibson's 17-strikeout performance in the 1968 World Series.
He helped to lead the Padres to the World Series, but not before blowing a save in Game 5 of the NLCS during a rare relief appearance. The Padres would then lose to the New York Yankees in the 1998 World Series in a four-game sweep.
Kevin Brown's tenure with the Padres during the 1998 season was somewhat marred when the San Diego fans chose to cheer slugger Sammy Sosa during his home run chase along with Mark McGwire. Frustrated by the fact that the Padres were trying to win games during a pennant race, Kevin Brown insulted San Diego fans to the media.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Following the 1998 season, Brown again became a free agent. He signed a lucrative contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers for 7 years/$105 million USD, becoming the first $100 million man in baseball. Many fans, both in San Diego and nationally, were taken aback by the immensity of the contract given to a player in his mid 30's (almost $40 million more than the Padres offer, the next highest offer he received), and also the choice of team, given Brown expressed a desire to play in a city closer to his Georgia home than San Diego during the season. Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes called the contract "one of the worst deals ever from a team's point of view" because Brown averaged only nine wins per season and was frequently injured during the seven years of the deal. That contract is currently listed as the 82nd largest in the history of sports tied with NBA Star Juwan Howard.
His first season in Los Angeles, he posted an 18–9 record with 221 strikeouts and a 3.00 ERA. After leading the NL in ERA during an injury-plagued 2000 season, his performance began to dwindle as Brown was hampered by injuries and poor run support. In 2003, Brown rebounded, producing a respectable 14–9 record with 185 strikeouts and a 2.39 ERA, although LA Times sportswriter Bill Plaschke noted following the release of the Mitchell Report "(his numbers that year are) no longer believe(able)."
New York Yankees
On December 11, 2003, Brown was traded to the New York Yankees as part of a deal that sent Jeff Weaver, Yhency Brazobán, Brandon Weeden, and $2.6 million in cash to Los Angeles. He went on a 10–6 record with a 4.09 ERA, but experienced health problems during the season. Toward the end of the season, he punched a wall in frustration, injuring his hand. He did pitch well in the Division Series, but it was his performance in Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship Series that he is remembered for, lasting less than two innings while giving up five earned runs, including a two-run homer to David Ortiz.
Brown would attempt to come back in 2005, but missed several games during the season due to injury. He would go 4–7 with a 6.50 ERA. On February 20, 2006, Brown announced his retirement.
The Mitchell Report named Brown as one of a group of Los Angeles Dodgers implicated in steroid use. The report documents allegations by Kirk Radomski that he sold Brown human growth hormone and Deca-Durabolin over a period of two or three years beginning in either 2000 or 2001. Radomski claims he was introduced to Brown by Paul Lo Duca. Radomski's claims were supported by an Express Mail receipt dated June 7, 2004, addressed to Brown. The report also contains notes from a meeting of Dodgers executives in 2003 during which they question the medication Brown takes and include a note stating "Steroids speculated by GM". Brown declined to meet with the Mitchell investigators.
Plaschke states that by 2003 "it was obvious to me...(and) Dodger management that...(he was) probably on steroids. We would even talk about it while watching their bulging, straining bodies from the dugout during batting practice. But the players would admit nothing, so there was nothing I could write.". Brown's temper tantrums, he notes, may have in fact been "'roid rage."
Brown was a pitcher who had the rare talent of relying both on movement and velocity. His main pitch was a sinking fastball that averaged 91–96 mph, with tremendous tailing, downward movement. He could spot it to either side of the plate. Batters facing him generally pounded this pitch into the ground or missed it entirely. He complemented this pitch with a sharp slider in the high 80s, and a solid split fingered fastball he used against left-handed hitters or for another look.
Over his career, Brown won 211 games and finished his career with a 127 ERA+ (27% better than the league-wide earned run average). Only seven pitchers have won between 200 and 220 wins with an ERA+ between 120 and 135. Of those seven, Stan Coveleski (215 wins, 128 ERA+), John Smoltz (213/125), Don Drysdale (209/121), and Hal Newhouser (207/130) are in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and Curt Schilling is a probable future inductee. Only Eddie Cicotte (209/123) of Black Sox infamy has been excluded.
In 2006, a neighbor accused Brown of pulling a gun on him after Brown accused the neighbor of putting yard debris on his side of the yard. He is currently an assistant baseball coach at Tattnall Square academy.
In 16 major league seasons, Brown made over $130 million.
He currently resides in Macon, Georgia with his wife Candace, and four sons - Ridge, Grayson, Dawson, and Maclain