Ralph "Country" Brown (1921-1996)
One of the most popular professional baseball players in Atlanta history, Ralph "Country" Brown was a member of the minor league Atlanta Crackers from 1947 to 1952. In 1993 he was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
Brown was born in 1921 and grew up in Summerville, the seat of Chattooga County. In 1946, at the age of twenty-five, Brown signed with the Tampa (Florida) Smokers, a Class C farm team for the New York Yankees. He won the league batting and Most Valuable Player awards with the Smokers, and then received those same honors again the following season with the AA Augusta Tigers in Augusta.
While playing for the Tigers, Brown, an outfielder, was christened with his nickname by teammate Dutch Lumberger. "Dutch came up to me one day and said, 'Boy, where you from?' And I told him I was from Summerville, Georgia. And he said, 'I've never heard of that. That must be way out in the country,'" Brown recalled.
After his stint with the Tigers, Brown spent a little time with the AAA Newark (New Jersey) Bears, only to be demoted to Class A and switched to first base. He then returned to Summerville, and within ten days Crackers team owner Earl Mann purchased his contract.
With the Crackers, Brown earned a salary of $500 a month. He led the Southern Association with thirty-three stolen bases in 1949 and was a member of the 1950 Atlanta Cracker Southern Association championship team.
Brown was traded in 1952 to the Chattanooga (Tennessee) Lookouts. He finally retired in 1957, returned to Summerville, and eventually took a job in law enforcement. For the last twenty-five years of his life, Brown served as a magistrate judge in Chattooga County. He died on December 24, 1996.
"'Country' Brown stood for a whole way of life," Paul Hemphill of the Atlanta Journal wrote during a 1967 Old-Timers Game. "He was a Southern farm boy who had to make his own way. He did not look like a great ballplayer, but he darned near was. . . . They loved him everywhere he went because he had this easy, honest flair about him and he was a winner." Former Georgia governor and U.S. senator Zell Miller has said that Brown was his favorite Atlanta Cracker of all time.