Brown dies after fire that's being investigated

HOUSTON -- Chris Brown, an All-Star third baseman who played six seasons in the majors in the 1980s, died Tuesday, nearly a month after he was burned in a fire at his home outside Houston. He was 45.

Brown died at Memorial Hermann Hospital. An autopsy has been performed but the cause of death is still pending, said Beverly Begay, a spokeswoman for the Harris County medical examiner's office.

Authorities say they are investigating the circumstances surrounding the fire and how Brown was burned. Doug Adolph, a spokesman for the Sugar Land police and fire departments, said arson is suspected.

Brown played with the San Francisco Giants,
San Diego Padres and
Detroit Tigers. He is the second member of the mid-1980s Giants infield to die this month. Jose Uribe played shortstop for the team from 1985-92. He died at 47 in a Dec. 8 car crash in the Dominican Republic.

A few years ago, Brown took a job with Halliburton Co. and ended up in Iraq driving, inspecting and repairing 18-wheel fuel trucks. In a 2004 telephone interview with The Associated Press, he said he'd faced enemy fire several times.

"It's a place I would've never thought 20 years ago that I'd be," Brown told the AP.

Firefighters arrived about 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 30 at the home Brown owned in Sugar Land and found it "fully engulfed" in flames, Adolph said. Firefighters found no people or furniture inside, he said, and neighbors told authorities no one had lived there for some time.

Adolph said officials at Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital told the Sugar Land fire department later that morning that Brown was there being treated for burns he suffered in a fire at his house. How Brown got from the burning house to the hospital about 9 miles away is part of the investigation, Adolph said.

Brown was transferred a few hours later to the main Memorial Hermann Hospital, Begay said. Sugar Land authorities never formally interviewed Brown because of his deteriorating condition, Adolph said.

Brown, who played with Darryl Strawberry at Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles, debuted in the majors in 1984 and made the All-Rookie team in 1985 after batting .271 with 16 home runs and 61 RBI. Brown made the NL All-Star team in 1986, when he hit .317 with seven homers and 49 RBI for San Francisco.

He underwent shoulder surgery after the '86 season and his statistics tapered off. He hit .242 in the first half of the 1987 season and the Giants traded him to the Padres. He batted .235 with only two homers in 1988 and the Padres dealt him to Detroit. He appeared in only 17 games with the Tigers in 1989 and batted .193 before he was released. He never returned to baseball.

Brown finished his big league career with a .269 average, 38 home runs and 184 RBI.