Here’s a Halloween story. You probably know about the notorious case of Dave Brown, one of the best pitchers in black baseball during the early 1920s, who apparently murdered a man in New York in 1925 and became a fugitive. Here is the original story in the New York Amsterdam News, published the day after the murder (April 29, 1925), before the identity of the assailant was known:
It turned out that Brown, who evidently pulled the trigger, was accompanied by Oliver Marcell and Frank Wickware. Here’s an item from the column “Sport Pickups,” written by the pseudonymous “Expert,” in the Pittsburgh Courier a week and a half later (May 9, 1925):
Brown, it is said, played in the west under false names in ensuing years. According to James Riley, “Unverified reports also persist that he died in Denver, Colorado, under mysterious circumstances” (Biographical Encyclopedia, p. 118).
Well, I recently ran across this item, on the front page of the Amsterdam News on July 30, 1938:
That is certainly the murder that Dave Brown was supposed to have committed. I have so far not been able to find any follow up in the Amsterdam News, or mentions in other papers. Could this have been a case of mistaken identity? It’s worth noting that nowhere in this item is Brown identified as a ballplayer. Perhaps the Amsterdam News editor who pulled this from a wire service (or wherever he got it) simply didn’t make the connection, and the baseball world never realized that Brown had been captured?
It seems to me that this should be relatively easy to check in police and court records, especially in New York. If someone was tried for the murder of Benjamin Adair, we should be able to find it.
UPDATE 11/2/2008 In the comments Scott Simkus reminds me about this article (which I’d linked to a while back) on the Pipestone (Minnesota) Black Sox, a black team that in 1926 featured “Lefty Wilson,” who was supposed to have been the fugitive Dave Brown.
UPDATE 3/14/2009 See the latest research on the supposed apprehension of Dave Brown in Greensboro.