Throughout A big league career that began in 1984 and lasted six
seasons, Chris Brown was considered a gifted third baseman whose
performance rarely matched his talent. The mighty swing and
powerful throwing arm of this onetime All-Star were undone by a
brittle body and an even more fragile psyche. Teammates vilified
him as the Tin Man: no heart. During stints with the San
Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres and Detroit Tigers, Brown
suffered a seemingly endless array of maladies, some minor
(bruised tooth root), some major (broken jaw). While playing
winter ball in the Dominican Republic, he begged out of a game
claiming that he had "slept on his eye wrong."
"I've seen Chris do things in the field that would make your head
spin," Larry Bowa, his manager with San Diego, told SI in 1989.
"He'd make great plays. He'd hit balls 500 feet. Then he'd show
up the next day and say he was too hurt to play."
Fifteen years after his retirement at 28, the softest ballplayer
of the '80s has one of the hardest jobs of the 2000s. For the
last 10 months Brown has been a civilian contractor in Iraq,
driving an 18-wheeler loaded with diesel fuel for Halliburton.
Wearing a helmet and a bullet-proof vest, he has been the target
of snipers and has motored through mortar fire. More than 40
Halliburton employees have been killed during the war in Iraq,
and others have been taken hostage. "I believe God has a plan for
me," says Brown. "Regardless of where I am, I figure the Lord
will come get me. I might as well be making good money."
After leaving baseball in 1989 with a career average of .269,
Brown worked in construction until '96, when the cement truck he
was backing up slid off a hill at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los
Angeles and fell on its side. Brown suffered back and neck
injuries. Two years later he moved with his wife, Lisa, to
Houston, where he operated a crane for a company that built
skyscrapers. After the economy went south, he took the job in the
Middle East. "So far, not a scratch," Brown says. "And I haven't
missed a day." --Franz Lidz
COLOR PHOTO: DANA SMILLIE/POLARIS UNDER FIRE Driving a truck loaded with diesel fuel the last 10months, Brown has been the target of snipers.
B/W PHOTO: MICKEY PFLEGER (INSET) [See caption above]