Winchester has lost another icon in its baseball community.
Longtime Winchester Baseball president and coach Bob Brown died at the age of 84 on Tuesday. In 1988, Brown began coaching with Winchester Baseball, a member of the Babe Ruth League that currently features more than 400 players age 4-15. He took over as president in 1993 and stayed in that role until a few months ago.
Brown’s death follows the passing of Jim Phillips, a fixture with the Winchester Royals Valley Baseball League franchise since its inception in 1979, on Nov. 11.
As a coach and president, Brown took Winchester Baseball to great heights. He was inducted into Babe Ruth’s Southeast Region Hall of Fame as an individual in 2010 and Winchester Baseball as a whole was inducted into the Southeast Region Hall of Fame in 2015, just the second league in the region’s history to receive that honor.
According to the people who knew him, the manner in which he developed the league’s players as people was just as notable as his baseball knowledge.
Beginning in 2008, Ivy Brown-Tyson worked with Brown as a Winchester Baseball team coordinator, director of registration and vice president of administration for 14 years.
“Bob was a leader. He was powerful, determined, and a fierce competitor,” Brown-Tyson said. “He was a mentor for the young boys and aided them into becoming young men. He loved the kids and he taught them absolutely everything he knew.”
Brown’s most recent accomplishment was his induction into the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival Sports Hall of Fame in April this year.
According to the biography produced by the SABF, Brown played on the first Little League team for Arlington near Washington, DC. After earning All-State honors in both baseball and basketball at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington — he was a Parade All-American in basketball — he received a baseball scholarship to Wake Forest University and lettered three years as a middle infielder for the Demon Deacons from 1958-60. Brown earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors in both 1959 and 1960 as a second baseman.
The SABF biography stated that Brown came to Winchester in 1972 to become the owner of Bauserman Oil Company. Sixteen years later, he started his successful run with Winchester Baseball.
Some of the organization’s other highlights include a fifth-place finish at the 11-12-year-old Bambino National Championship in 1991 in Pueblo, Colo. (Brown managed the team); a fifth-place finish in the 13-year-old Babe Ruth World Series in Jamestown, NY; and a ninth-place finish in this year’s 13-year-old World Series at Glen Allen.
Brown was also instrumental in helping Winchester Baseball host the Cal Ripken 10-year-old World Series in both 2011 and 2014 in Jim Barnett Park (players age 4-12 participate in the Cal Ripken division of the Babe Ruth League). Brown managed both teams, with the 2011 team placing second and the 2014 squad advancing to the quarterfinals.
Longtime Sherando baseball coach Pepper Martin has known Brown since the 1980s, and he coached third base on the Bambino team managed by Brown that qualified for the 1991 World Series.
Martin remembers Brown had the team ready to leave for a scheduled practice within 15 minutes of the team checking into its hotel that year. He took great pride in preparing his teams to be the best they could be.
“I’ve learned a lot from that man, and I have the utmost respect for him,” said Martin, who is entering his 29th year as Sherando’s baseball coach. “He was a heck of a coach, but an even better mentor and individual.
“[With Brown], the fundamentals of the game were never overlooked. We went through every different scenario as far as preparing those kids to compete at that level. He paid great attention to detail. He was kind of like my dad as far as coaching approach. He knew the game, and he was firm with the kids, but he was flexible as well.”
Martin said his father — also named Pepper — passed away earlier in 1990, and some other long-time coaches had left around that time. So Brown’s arrival was much needed for the success of Winchester Baseball.
“He basically took Winchester Baseball to the next level,” Martin said. “A lot of those 13-year-old All-Stars in 2000, even though he wasn’t directly involved with the team, a lot of those players played for him on All-Star teams in Bambino.”
Millbrook 12th-year baseball coach and Winchester Royals general manager Brian Burke was one of Brown’s coaches on the 2014 Cal Ripken World Series team that included his son Hayden.
Burke said Brown’s old-school approach took some time for the players on that team to get used to, but they appreciated it once they did.
“I feel like Coach Brown’s forgotten more baseball than I really know,” Burke said. “He expected discipline and had high expectations for those kids, so it was a little bit scary for the kids at the beginning just because of his coaching style. But there was no one else that worked harder as a coach than Coach Brown did in preparing our kids to be better baseball players and better kids. The kids over adapted time to him.
“[Brown] took this game we all love as little kids and made us love it even more. He had an infectious smile that when you’re doing well, you knew it. And when he wanted you to do right, he wasn’t afraid to put anyone in their place to make sure they were getting it right and they were listening to what he was saying. I loved [coaching with him] because he taught me how to be a better coach by showing me that it’s OK to be stern with kids these days and get results.”
One of the ways in which Brown tried to shape his players was by having them commit to memory the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling.
“There’s a strong message in there for young people becoming grown-ups, and how to adapt to change, and become better people,” Burke said.
Brown-Tyson — whose son Jalen Tyson played on the 2011 World Series team and later starred for Millbrook — said Brown made sure his players understood the significance of every line of “If.”
“A lot of the kids today use that poem in school for whatever essays or projects they might have to do,” Brown-Tyson said. “It’s a powerful poem about becoming a man. It wasn’t just baseball for him. He taught them the game, but he also taught them life lessons as well.
“Players would stay in touch with him and send him invitations for college graduations. A lot of the kids that Bob taught are back in the league themselves as coaches with their own children. He left a lasting impression. He was a true legend.”
And to the very end, that legend couldn’t get enough of baseball.
Burke said Brown made a point of contacting him so he could watch the Millbrook varsity team play. Five Pioneers players in the spring played on the 2014 World Series team.
“His walker had a little seat in it, and [last spring] he would be around the batting cage and give advice, talk to the kids,” Burke said. “He was close to the families from Sherando and Millbrook where a majority of those kids from the 2011 and 2014 teams wound up playing, and there weren’t too many games of theirs he missed. And I know he used to run around with Jimmy Dix and watch Handley when they were at home. He just wanted to be around baseball.”