Which MLB pitcher left baseball and changed Hollywood racial history?

By Scott A. Rowan

If you saw Jurassic Park or Speed, then you saw former Cubs pitcher Jophery Brown at work, though you almost certainly didn’t know it. A pitcher with the Chicago Cubs from 1966 to 1969, Brown left the game for Hollywood, where he spent the next 30 years working on hundreds of films and television shows as a pioneer stuntman.

This excerpt is from “The Cubs Quotient: How the Chicago Cubs Changed the World” by Scott A. Rowan. Available now at Amazon and SherpaMultimedia.com.

The scene in the film Speed in which a bus jumps across a break in the freeway had Brown at the wheel. The opening scene in Jurassic Park begins with a dinosaur eating a worker played by Brown (“Jophery, raise the gate!”). He also orchestrated the gunfights in Scarface, as well as the car stunts on the television show The A-Team. He was the body double for Morgan Freeman in many of his movies—and his brother, Calvin, served the same role for Bill Cosby for much of his career.

Jophery (also listed as Jophrey in many baseball guides) and Calvin were two of the first African American stuntmen in Hollywood. Cosby, the first African American television star of a primetime show (I Spy), insisted that the show’s production company hire African American stuntmen rather than white ones in black face (referred to as “painting down” in Hollywood lingo).

Scouted by Buck O’Neil when he played for Grambling University, Brown was drafted in 1966 and worked his way through the Cubs’ minor league system until he was called up at the end of the 1968 season. He appeared in only one major league game, taking the mound for two innings on September 21, 1968, and surrendering one run and one hit. The Cubs didn’t use him for the rest of 1968, and sent him back down to the minors at the end of the season.

Former Cubs pitcher Jophery Brown being eaten by a dinosaur in “Jurassic Park.”

After going 9–10 during the 1969 season for the San Antonio Missions (an AA affiliate of the Cubs), Brown decided to go into show business. He had an “in” thanks to his brother, who, along with Willie Harris, had founded the Black Stuntman’s Association in 1967. It was the first organization of its type, forcing Hollywood to hire minorities to do stunt work or act as body doubles for African American actors instead of using white ones in makeup. Jophery, Calvin, and Harris became the first three African American stuntmen in Hollywood.

Being a former athlete proved to be a huge advantage for Jophery. His athleticism allowed him to work on nearly 400 films and television shows during his career, more than twice that of his brother and Harris combined. Despite being part of the small fraternity of players who only played in one major league game, Brown was honored in 2010 with the Taurus Lifetime Achievement Award for his 30-plus years of stunt work in Hollywood.


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