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Opinion A wonderful life: Fort Worth’s Dr. Bobby Brown

A wonderful life: Fort Worth’s Dr. Bobby Brown

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Robert Francis
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

Fort Worth’s Dr. Bobby Brown didn’t smell the rat when he was tricked into appearing at a May 16 TCU baseball game, but he did have his wits about him. After all, he’s known around Fort Worth as being smart, funny, charming, and of impeccable character. There was no way he was going to throw out the game’s first pitch as he had been asked. He certainly knows his way around the diamond but he also knows that athletic skills diminish with age. Brown, 88, played third base for the New York Yankees on four World Series championship teams: 1947,’49,’50 and ’51. “I’d seen too many of those old baseball stars throw grounders bouncing along to the plate,” he said. “I figured if I did that there would be people at the game saying, ‘that guy never played …’” So, he declined the chance to throw out the pitch but said he’d attend the game in order to show his support for Texas Christian University and for baseball, the game he loves. The rat he didn’t smell was the real reason he had been invited. It was to tell him that $600,000 had been raised to endow a TCU scholarship in his name. “Easiest money I have ever raised in this town,” said friend John V. Roach, former Tandy and Radio Shack chairman and CEO. And Roach knows something about raising money. He’s raised a ton over the years. “All I did was send out a letter presenting people with the proposal,” Roach said a few days after the event. “The money rolled in. In fact, I just received a new check for $25,000 today.” The original idea for the scholarship came from Mark Yamagata, who suggested that Roach spearhead the campaign. A total of $300,000 was raised from individuals and another $300,000 came from the Burnett Foundation, where you can be certain Anne Marion weighed in mightily. “I was completely flabbergasted,” said Brown. “I still am.” He shouldn’t be. Everyone loves Bobby Brown. My guess is that if anyone exists who does not like Bobby Brown it would be kids who grew up in his old neighborhood. You can imagine parents saying over and over again to their children: “Why can’t you be like Bobby Brown?” When he was with the Yankees, his nickname was “Golden Boy.” After finishing medical school and completing a cardiology fellowship at Tulane, Brown moved to Fort Worth to practice cardiology with a friend and mentor, Dr. Albert Goggins, in 1958. His impact on the community and the lives of his patients and friends in Fort Worth has been immeasurable. He’s known not only for his wit, charm and character but also for his great storytelling, especially tales about his former Yankee roommate Yogi Berra. You could say he’s too good to be true but everything you hear about him is true. When he was attending classes at Stanford he rescued a Coast Guardsman and received a national award for his heroism. When the Yankees signed him he received the highest signing bonus at the time, $45,000. Other highlights of his legendary lifetime: spent off-seasons studying medicine while playing for the Yankees; served in the Korean War; took a couple of sabbaticals to help run the Texas Rangers; spent 10 years as president of the American League. As a player he compiled one of the all-time highest career World Series batting averages .439. You need to look at that record and realize he played with Joe DiMaggio. And that’s not the only place where he outshone Joltin’ Joe, who was married to Marilyn Monroe. Brown, the star athlete and student who also does not drink or smoke, was the person who really won the girl – his late wife Sara, a beauty of understated elegance who was the epitome of grace, charm and humility. Her husband, on the other hand, is not understated and is never shy about being the center of attention, although John Roach believes Brown might have discouraged the idea of a scholarship in his name. Willing or not, he richly deserves the recognition because he is one of a kind. Fort Worth is one of a kind as well. Where else would a group of people, almost on a whim, pool $300,000 to create a scholarship named for a friend? And where else but Fort Worth and with Anne Marion’s Burnett Foundation would another $300,000 get thrown into the pot? These things happen almost casually here, so much so that hardly anyone takes notice. The word is that when the scholarship was announced, Brown was speechless. That won’t last long. And that is a blessing. He is a raconteur of the first order. We never tire of his stories most often laced with wit and immense humor. Another blessing is that he has lived among us, setting the standard for being great and humble all in one. It’s reassuring when the good guys get the recognition they deserve. If one TCU student comes close to becoming another Bobby Brown, the scholarship will be well worth the investment.

Contact Connor at rconnor@bizpress.net  

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