It’s easy to confuse Kevin Brown with other players.

After all, if you go to Baseball-Reference.com and search for his name, you’ll see something like this:

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That’s three Kevin Browns, with two of them playing at the same time between 1990 and 2002 — but not the same two all the time.

Two of them were pitchers, too.

The other was a catcher.

The pitcher (one of them) and the catcher, played for the same team, but not at the same time — one of them arrived in town the year after the other left.

So … which one do you want to talk about?

OK, let’s go with the pitcher.

No, not that one. That other one.

Yeah, the one who debuted for the Texas Rangers in September 1986 as the team was trying to figure out which of its young players were going to help build something special.

He was that 6’4” righty, if that helps at all.

Brown made the majors for the first time about two months after teammate Mike Loynd, a … um … 6’4” righty.

But at least our baseball cards helped us sort out Brown from the rest, because his brief stint (one game) with the Rangers landed him on a 1987 Donruss rookie card.

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Loynd, meanwhile, had to wait for his RC all the way until … uh … 1987 Donruss:

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Hmm…

Aside from their doppelganger cards, it was actually fairly easy to tell Loynd and Brown apart in 1987, as the former spent most of the season with the Rangers, while Brown struggled to a 1-11 mark with a 6.49 ERA in the minors.

The next year, though, Loynd was gone to the Astros organization, while Brown turned things around and made it back to the majors late in the year.

And then, in 1989, he stuck, nabbing a rotation slot and going 12-9 with a 3.35 ERA.

Over the next few seasons, Brown solidified his spot in the five-man, topping out at 21 wins in 1992. Along the way, the Rangers improved to an above-.500, middling contender on the strength of Brown and other youngsters like Ivan Rodriguez, Ruben Sierra, Rafael Palmeiro, and Juan Gonzalez.

Oh, and a certain oldster named Nolan Ryan.

A year after Ryan retired, though, Brown became a free agent and signed with the Baltimore Orioles for 1995.

That marriage lasted just one season, and then he was off to the Florida Marlins on another free agent deal. At 31, Brown was one of several veteran guys heading to south Florida to try and turn the fifth-year Marlins into something.

Jeff Conine, Gary Sheffield, Al Leiter, Devon White — all of them lent some name power to the young Marlins.

And then, in 1997, the Marlins welcomed another round of stars to their firmament — Bobby Bonilla, Moises Alou, Alex Fernandez — and the club shocked the baseball world by winning the World Series.

It was easy to confuse one guy for the next, what with so many veterans, so many All-Stars coming together in one place to nail down the championship.

But the best player on that club, by WAR, anyway, was none other than Kevin Brown.

At 16-9 with a 2.69 ERA, Brown was pretty clearly the ace of the staff by more conventional numbers, too, and he also led the team in innings pitched (237.1) and strikeouts (205).

The lacquer was barely dry on the Series trophy, though, when owner Wayne Huizenga ordered the team dismantled, and Brown was one of the first to go.

Traded to the Padres in December 1997, Brown turned in another stellar season in 1998 heading into his next round of free agency — 18-7, 2.38 ERA, 8.6 WAR.

And that performance set him up for a historic contract — a seven-year, $105-million pact with the Los Angeles Dodgers, making him the first 100-million-dollar in the history of the game.

This, entering his age-34 season.

Three years after that, Mike Hampton used Brown’s example as leverage to land an eight-year, $121-million contract of his own, with the Colorado Rockies, forever linking the two hurlers.

Ah, but while Hampton famously stumbled with the Rox, Brown turned in two All-Star seasons in L.A. before injuries began to limit his time on the mound.

Even so, his 2.65 ERA in 19 starts in 2001 gave Brown and the Dodgers hope as he worked through a lost 2002 season that featured just ten starts.

Mostly healthy in 2003, Brown rebounded to 14-9, 2.39, boosting his trade value and landing him with the Yankees to finish up his career in 2004 and 2005.

According to Baseball Reference, Brown retired with career numbers that put him in a class with guys like Bob Welch and Hall of Famers Catfish Hunter and Don Drysdale.

So, would Brown himself make the Cooperstown cut?

Well …

He might have mustered better support than the 2.1% of votes he received in his only trip through the voting process, in 2011, if not for … The Mitchell Report.

Brown’s name was prominent in that damning document, accused of purchasing human growth hormone and Deca-Durabolin.

And, suddenly, it was tough to tell Brown from Roger Clemens and David Justice.

In the end, while it might be easy to confuse Kevin Brown with other players, he forged a historic if star-crossed career unique to him.

One you would have been hard-pressed to predict gazing at that 1987 Donruss rookie card all those years ago.


Hobby Wow!

Those ‘97 Marlins fairly shocked the baseball world with a World Series title in just their fifth year of existence, and memorabilia from that star-laden team still turns heads:

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That’s a team-autographed baseball from the Marlins’ first championship team, including — of course — Kevin Brown.

Check out the full listing right here on eBay (affiliate link).

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