Area Baseball Beat: Author spent 50 years as “A Fly on the Wall”

Walt Brown (Lincoln) grew up a fan of the semi-pro Lincoln Potters, listened to Sacramento Solons play-by-play man Tony Koester and called Tony Freitas his favorite player. As a high school senior in 1953, his goal was to become the voice of the Solons.

Brown, 79, spent 40 years as a broadcaster and play-by-play man for college and pro sports, including working with Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons doing Giants games on radio. Doing play-by-play for more than 20 sports, plus interviews, talk shows, radio newscasts and more, he often was a “a fly on the wall” the last 50 years.

He’s met some of the biggest names in sports, including Willie Mays, Muhammad Ali, Jesse Owens, Dan Marino, Emmit Smith, Ernie Banks, Gary Player, Jerry Rice and Wilt Chamberlain.

From those experiences, the Roseville resident wrote “A Fly on the Wall,” self-published last year via AuthorHouse.

“The book is an account of sports and cultural history of little known, but true, biographical incidents and anecdotes from famous lives,” Brown said. “This is a history that began 50 years ago, which, in many ways, is being repeated in the world today, but with added bits in the book from famous lives of that day.”

The 204-page memoir recounts time observing and interacting with well-known athletes, movie stars, politicians and other celebrities of the last half of the 20th century.

“I want to show America their greatest heroes from the view of the fly on the wall, not the camera in their face,” Brown said.

Brown’s list of the five athletes who made the most memorable impression on him: Ali, Owens, Player, Rod Laver and Stan Musial.

Brown isn’t the only person from this area who has written a book about baseball.

• Former major-league player and manager Buck Martinez (Elk Grove, Sacramento City, Sacramento State) is the author of two books, “From Worst to First” about the 1985 Toronto Blue Jays and “The Last Out” about the 1986 Blue Jays.

• Harry Dunlop (Sacramento), a former minor-league catcher and major-league coach between 1969 and 2005, wrote “50 Years in a Kids Game” about dreaming of becoming a big-league ballplayer.

• Former catcher Rick Cabral (Christian Brothers) wrote “Barnstormin’ Across America: The Bustin’ Babes and Larrupin’ Lous,” which details the tours of New York Yankees legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in the late 1920s. Cabral also wrote “Against All Odds: How the River Cats Became Sacramento’s Hometown Team.”

• Local historian Alan O’Connor (McClatchy, Sacramento City, UC Davis) wrote “Gold on the Diamond,” about the great players from the Altas, Senators, Gilt Edge and Solons who contributed to the Sacramento baseball legacy. He also wrote a chapter in the book “Mexican American Baseball in the Central Coast.”

• Before she died in 2011, former schoolteacher and historian Frances Pendleton (Sacramento State) was working on a book titled “Dusty Diamonds” that explored baseball in Sacramento from 1849 to 1889. The book, expected to be published next baseball season, will be completed by O’Connor.

• Joe Taxiera (UC Davis) digs into numbers in “A Unique Look at Big League Baseball.” Jayson Stark of ESPN calls it “the greatest baseball record book ever.”

• Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton tells of the plight of Latino ballplayers in “Sammy Sosa: An Autobiography,” and “Away Games: The Life and Times of a Latin Ball Player.” Bee photographer José Luis Villegas collaborated on the later book.

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