Buried in St. Adalbert Cemetery, Milwaukee, Wis.
Here lies Mandy Brooks, who was an outfielder for the Chicago Cubs in 1925-6. I know the headstone reads John Brozek, but trust me, Brozek is Brooks. Brozek’s Americanization of his last name has led to all manner of confusion in baseball circles, especially when his obituary was written 14 years before he died. I’ll get to that.
Let’s start with what we do know of Mandy Brooks. He was purchased by the Cubs in May 1925 from Columbus of the American Association, where he had been terrorizing pitchers. They put him in center field, batted him 4th in the lineup, and Brooks became an immediate sensation. He made his debut on May 30 and launched his first career home run off Brooklyn’s Dazzy Vance on June 5. Then he hit two more on the 8th. Then one on the 11th and two more on the 15th. He wasn’t just hitting home runs, he was hitting EVERYTHING. After one month in the major leagues, Brooks was flirting with a .400 batting average. He clobbered a walk-off home run on June 21 off the Phillies’ Art Decatur, which was the third homer he’d hit in that 4-game series.
Brooks eventually cooled off, but he still ended the 1925 season with a .281 batting average and a .513 slugging percentage. His 14 home runs ranked him second on the Cubs after Gabby Hartnett (24) and 10th in the entire National League. Bear in mind, this was in just 90 games. He also knocked in 72 runs, which were 4 behind Charlie Grimm for the team lead. The Cubs finished in 8th place, so he quickly became a bright spot on an otherwise terrible team.
Brooks never had the chance to repeat his success. In the offseason, the Cubs acquired Hack Wilson, in the midst of his Hall of Fame career. With Wilson in center and Cliff Heathcoate and Riggs Stephenson firmly established in the outfield as well, Brooks had nowhere to go. As a part-time player and pinch hitter, he struggled mightily. He didn’t homer until June 1, and that brought his average up to .150. After a couple more weeks, he was sent to the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association.
In a total of 116 MLB games, Brooks had 107 hits for a .270/.316/.484 slash line. He hit 26 doubles, 7 triples and 15 home runs, with 78 RBI.
So, let’s talk confusion. Brozek was usually called Mandy Brooks but sometimes called John Brooks. The usually impeccable Baseball Reference has a listing for Mandy, and one for a minor-leaguer named John, and here’s where it gets weird. John Brooks played in Peoria in 1921-2 and Columbus in 1923. I think those are Mandy’s stats. John Brooks also played for Louisville in 1927 and Nashville in 1927-8. Again, those are Mandy’s stats. Our Brooks definitely played for the Nashville Vols in 1927-8, as he was referred to in the papers as a former Cub several times. He played very well there and hit .335 with 9 homers in 49 games in 1928, but he was suspended by manager Jimmy Hamilton for “indifferent play” in June.
So if John Brooks is Mandy Brooks, can we assume that we get a complete minor-league career if we just merge the two pages together? Not so fast. Mandy Brooks’ minor-league register has him playing in Waterbury, Ct. for part of 1927. The one box store I found of a Hartford game shows a Brooks as a catcher, but there is no record that Mandy Brooks ever caught. I’m not wholly confident that Brozek/Brooks played there. Also, the 1927 Louisville Colonels page on Baseball Reference shows a Mandy Brooks and a John Brooks on the roster. Were there two Brookses on the same team? I have a headache from researching this guy as it is, so someone else can comb through 90-year-old Louisville box scores.
Mandy Brooks did go to Oakland after he wore out his welcome in Nashville and continued to hit well through 1928. He split time between Oakland and Little Rock in 1929 and then spent a couple seasons in Springfield, Mass. of the Eastern League. He seems to have dropped out of professional baseball after 1931, but his name still popped up in Wisconsin papers as a player on several state teams. He hit a game-winning homer in 1936, when he would have been almost 39, to lead the Milwaukee Red Sox over the Madison Blues. By the 1940 census, he was living in Milwaukee, working as a shoe cutter.
We’re not out of the Brozek/Brooks woods yet. Jonathan Joseph Brooks died on June 17, 1962 in Kirkwood, Mo. According to a SABR Biographical Research newsletter, the 1963 TSN Baseball Guide assumed it was Mandy Brooks, and the 1962 death date became attached to the player. The person who died in 1962 was really named John Bux, and he had nothing to do with baseball. Mandy Brooks —the REAL one— died December 6, 1976 in Fort Atkinson, Wis. He was 79 years old, though the baseball world assumed he’d been dead for 14 years. The confusion over his death was discovered in 2008 and has been corrected.
To think, all this mess could have been avoided had he just stuck with Brozek.
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