Fish Stripes’ All-Time Marlins Countdown is wrapping up which can only mean one thing: we are so close to Opening Day!
The runner up spot belongs to right-handed pitcher Kevin Brown. Check back tomorrow as Kevin Kraczkowski unveils the final chapter of the countdown!
2. Kevin Brown
Although Brown was a Florida Marlins for only two seasons, he has the 10th highest WAR in franchise history. He was the Marlins’ most valuable player both seasons, according to Baseball-Reference, posting 7.8 and 6.8 wins above replacement in 1996 and 1997. Before he was the Marlins’ ace, Brown was the fourth overall pick in the 1986 MLB Draft out of Georgia Institute of Technology where he studied chemical engineering.
The 21-year-old would pitch in only 6 professional games before making his debut with the Texas Rangers in the final games of the 1986 regular season. He spent the next season and a half in the minor leagues before becoming a regular in the Rangers’ rotation. Brown’s best season in a Rangers uniform was in 1992 where he led the league in wins (21) and threw the most innings (2652⁄3). He was also selected to his first All-Star Game.
Before the 1996 season, the Florida Marlins signed Brown and Al Leiter to join the pitching staff. Both Brown and Leiter had fantastic seasons and would finish the season with the first and third-best ERA in baseball. Brown also allowed the lowest total walks and hits per inning and had the least amount of home runs allowed per 9 innings. By season’s end, he was the runner-up for the NL Cy Young Award.
Looking to build upon the previous season’s success, Brown came out of the gates strong. Through his first 4 starts in 1997, he allowed just 3 earned runs in 28 innings. He struggled in a few subsequent outings but put it all together one June afternoon.
Atop the mound at Candlestick Park on June 10, 1997, Giants pitcher William VanLandingham and Brown were dueling. Through 6 full innings, neither VanLandingham nor Brown had allowed a hit. In fact, Brown had been perfect.
In the top of the 7th inning, a Charles Johnson home run broke up the Giants’ no-hitter; in the bottom of the 7th inning, Brown retired the Giants hitters in order. When the Marlins’ defense trotted out for the bottom of the 8th inning, the 10,257 fans at the ballpark that Tuesday afternoon were on the verge of witnessing history.
After retiring the first two batters, a 1-2 pitch from Brown hit Giants batter Marvin Benard, breaking up the perfect game. With the no hitter still intact, Brown got the next batter to groundout and escape without allowing a hit. In the 9th inning, Brown would end up inducing two groundouts and striking out the final batter to complete the no-hitter.
Brown’s no-hitter against the Giants did not remain the most exciting feat of the Marlins’ 1997 season. The two teams would meet again in the postseason and Brown would take the mound for Game 1 of the NLDS. He held the Giants to just one run on four hits that game, and the Marlins would win the game and eventually sweep the series.
The next time Brown appeared for the Marlins was in the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, starting Games 1 and 6. Brown pitched well enough to record the win in both games, helping his team advance to the World Series. Although Brown’s two starts against the Cleveland Indians in the 1997 Fall Classic resulted in losses, he was monumental in the Marlins success throughout the regular season that led them to the eventual 1997 World Series victory.
After the 1997 season, as I’m sure many fans remember, Florida’s ownership dismantled the team. Brown would be shipped off to the San Diego Padres for Derrek Lee and two pitchers. Upon becoming a free agent following the 1998 season, Brown signed the first nine-figure deal in Major League Baseball history. The Los Angeles Dodgers offered a seven-year, $105 million deal and Brown pounced. Brown would end up being traded after his fifth season in Los Angeles, finishing his career with the New York Yankees.
Over his 19 seasons in the major leagues, Brown tallied 211 wins and amassed a career bWAR of 67.8. The 6-time All-Star and 2-time ERA champion was on the 2011 Hall of Fame ballot, but received just 2.1% of the vote from the BBWAA electorate.