James “Jimmy” Brown, the oldest boy of eight children, was born in Kilmarnock, Scotland on December 31, 1908 and raised in Troon. Growing up back then, next to Royal Troon Golf Club, it offered boys the choice of either playing golf or soccer. James never played organized soccer but was part of a group of kids who played on the streets of Troon and enjoyed sneaking on Royal Troon’s course to play a quick nine holes with his brothers before sunset.
After completing a five-year riveting apprenticeship at the Troon Shipyard, he took off for America in late 1927 to find his father. James Sr., was a veteran WWI balloonist, who had left the family a number of years earlier because of alcohol problems to settle down in Westfield, New Jersey where he had family. He reunited with his father but they never reconciled. Nevertheless, his father’s brother took him in and while working in a metal box factory in Plainfield, New Jersey, he got a look at his first American soccer game in May 1928 and his first official team called the Plainfield Soccer Club, scoring four goals in his first match. Then he played with the Bayonne Rovers of Harrison before the start of the summer months, scoring a goal in each of the eight matches he played. Overall for both teams, he scored 13 goals in two months.
Within a year, he signed first with the Newark Skeeters and then top flight NY Giants in late 1929. During his year with NY Giants, he scored 19 goals in 51 games. During his American career, he scored over 61 goals in four years.
He formed a powerhouse tandem with Davey Brown (no relation). They were known as the Brown Bombers. Davey was one of the league’s leading scorers of his time. As 1930 came around, the U.S.F.A was the first federation to accept FIFA’s invitation to the first soccer football World Championships, to be held in Montevideo, Uruguay. James was born in Scotland and therefore Scottish, but because his father had been naturalized as a US citizen, James automatically qualified for US citizenship.
After battling through the US East Coast trials in which he scored two goals, James made his way onto the US squad, a remarkable feat given that he had only played organized soccer for a couple of years. He was tall, well built and could “run like a deer,” as James always said later on in life. During the 1930 World Cup against Belgium, James “made a beautiful run down the right wing, drawing out Belgium’s keeper and delivered an unselfish lob over the his head to Bert Patenaude who headed into an empty goal,” recounted US Manager W.R. Cummings.