Mark Armour and Dan Levitt have written a book: In Pursuit of Pennants, which examines how front offices have historically found innovative ways to build winning teams. In support of that, they are counting down the top-25 GMs of all time over at their blog. Since it’s slow season, I’m going to continue linking to the countdown as it’s great stuff we rarely read about in the normal course.
Who helped build three World Series champions in Pittsburgh? Joe L. Brown, that’s who. The son of the comedian Joe E. Brown — himself famous for uttering the “Well, nobody’s perfect!” line from “Some Like it Hot” — reigned as head of the Buccos from 1955 through 1976.
Brown took over for Branch Rickey and helped turn the Pirates from laughingstocks into champions. Then, when that 1960 championship teamed proved not to have enough momentum, he reloaded throughout the 60s, resulting in the 1971 championship team. That group kept the high level of play up, getting restocked with fresh talent on a regular basis, and winning multiple NL East crowns. After Brown retired, that group held together through the 1979 championship.
Bill Madlock credited Brown with creating the “Fam-a-lee” of that Willie Stargell and Sister Sledge would make famous. Maybe he didn’t help them gel the way Stargell did in the clubhouse, but there would be no talent there to gel if it weren’t for Joe L. Brown.