Calling Dr. Bobby Brown

Yesterday former New York Yankees star outfielder-turned cardiologist Bobby Brown died at 96.

I don’t usually write about mid-century Yankees but stick with me.

One day in the summer of 1984, my friend Jeff and I were playing Trivial Pursuit. More accurately: we were just reading the orange (Sports & Leisure) category questions and flipping over the cards to learn the answers.

We came across one that read something like, “Who can be reached at (212) (something-something phone number)?” The answer was the office of the American League president, who at the time was Dr. Brown.

In typical Jeff style, he dared me to call the number — a gutsy move on two fronts: the cost of a weekday afternoon long-distance call to New York City when rates were highest, and the embarrassment that would follow after I was brushed off by a receptionist.


Jeff and I quickly strategized what I could say to Brown if he answered. We decided that I should ask him if Jack Morris would start the All Star Game which was scheduled for a few days later.

So, I punched in the phone number from the Trivial Pursuit card. As I recall, it rang once and then a woman answered:

“American League, Dr. Brown’s office.”

I asked if I could speak to him and she stunned me when she replied, “Who should I tell him is calling?”

“Uh, Mike McClary from Detroit.”

“Please hold.”

About three seconds later, he answered.

“This is Bobby Brown.”

The conversation lasted all of about 15 seconds and he could not have been nicer to me. I asked him if he knew whether or not Morris would start*.

“Well, Mike, that’s really up to the Tigers and the American League manager to decide. I think it would depend on how many days rest he has after his next start.”

Not only did Dr. Brown take my call, but he was friendly, and he gave me a thoughtful answer. If I wasn’t all of 16 and a nervous wreck, I might have thought of another question to ask him.

Instead, I thanked him for taking my call. He thanked me for calling and we said goodbye.

It’s true what they say: It costs nothing to be kind. That’s why from that day on — and especially yesterday — every time I see his name, I have a warm memory of a kind man.

*Morris didn’t start, but he did relieve the Blue Jays’ Dave Steib in the third inning.