On August 20, 1945, 11 days after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, Brooklyn Dodgers utility player Tommy Brown homers to drive in his team's only run in an 11-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. It seems insignificant, aside from the fact that, at 17 years old, Brown remains the youngest player to homer in a Major League Baseball game, a feat unlikely to be duplicated.
Born in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn on December 6, 1927, Brown made his debut with the Dodgers in 1944 when he was 16. During World War II, millions of men served overseas—future Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Yogi Berra were among them—so many teens got their shot in the big leagues. Fifteen-year-old Joe Nuxhall pitched 2/3 of an inning for the Cincinnati Reds in the summer of 1944.
On August 3, 1944, Brown was called up from Newport News (Va.) Builders of the Class B Piedmont League to make his MLB debut. The Dodgers had tried Bobby Bragan at shortstop but were looking for someone more mobile. Dodgers manager Leo Durocher told Brown that day he would play both games of a doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs. Brown, according to a bio on the Society of American Baseball Research web site, advised his manager that he had ridden the train all night, "but Leo responded that he didn't care."
Brown got two hits in eight at-bats as the Cubs beat the Dodgers in both games, 6-2 and 7-1. Brown wound up playing 46 games for the Dodgers in 1944, hitting .164 without a homer.
After starting 1945 in the minor leaguies, Brown returned to the Dodgers in July, becoming the team's No. 1 shortstop for the remainder of the season. He hit his first MLB home run against Pittsburgh's Preacher Roe, who won 127 games in the big leagues. Five days later, Browne hit the second home run of his career, against the New York Giants' Adrian Zabala. He finished the season with a .245 batting average.
Brown played seven more seasons in the big leagues, spending time with the Philadelphia Phillies and Cubs after leaving Brooklyn. He never became anything more than a part-time player, but his distinction of youngest person to homer in the majors endures.