Following their dismal 1966 season, the Cubs had nowhere to go but up, and up they went indeed. After finding themselves firmly in last place the previous season with more than 100 losses, they finished third in the NL in ‘67 and briefly occupied first place in July, the first time that late in the year since the pennant-winning season of 1945. Thankfully for Cubs fans, this signaled a turning of the tide, and they could expect several winning years ahead.
Standing: 3rd in the National League
Managers: Leo Durocher
There were several contributing factors to the Cubs success in 1967, and finally they had a pitching staff with winning records on their hands. Fergie Jenkins dazzled with 20 wins and a 2.80 ERA. Ken Holtzman didn’t lose a single game in his 12 starts and had a 2.53 ERA, while pitching only on leave from National Guard service. In the batting order, Ron Santo continued to dominate, and finally had a winning team to spotlight his incredible skills.
But for a 24-year-old outfielder who had spent his entire major league career with the Cubs to that point, it would be a season to say goodbye to his first team.
Perhaps it was a sign that Byron Browne’s first at-bat with the Chicago Cubs happened to come on September 9, 1965. If the date doesn’t stand out, the events of the game might, as Sandy Koufax pitched a perfect game against the Cubs. Browne’s second inning line-out was among the 27 outs recorded by Koufax that evening, and Browne’s first on a major league playing field.
Though Browne had initially been signed by the Pirates as an amateur free agent, the Cubs signed him in 1963 as part of the first-year draft (this was all prior to the development of the amateur draft as we know it now, which began in 1965).
Browne played only one complete season with the Cubs, appearing in 120 games in 1966 and hitting .243/.316/.427. He also amassed a whopping 143 strikeouts.
By 1967 the team had Billy Williams and Adolfo Phillips firmly ensconced in the outfield positions most frequented by Browne, and there simply wasn’t as much need for him. He appeared in only 10 games for the Cubs that season, spending most of the year with Double-A Dallas rather than the main club.
By May 1968 Browne had been traded to the Astros, and he bounced around from there to the Cardinals, before finally landing with the Phillies, where he would stay for the remainder of his major league career. His name was not the marquee one in the trade that took him to Philadelphia. Included in the same transaction were Curt Flood and Tim McCarver.
In spite of his promising rookie season in 1966, Browne only appeared as a regular outfielder in the Phillies’ 1970 season, before he became relegated to a backup role in the following seasons. By 1972 he had played his last major league game. He continued on in the farm systems of the Phillies and later the Cardinals, before ultimately leaving baseball behind at the age of 32.
Browne’s son, Byron Browne Jr., also played ball, pitching for seven seasons in the minors in the Brewers organization, but never making it to the majors.