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Chet Brewer


published in Dallas News

"He had three speeds: fast, faster and out of sight! He threw a pea, an aspirin and one with a tail on it!"

--Al McKerlie, catcher for Brewer on the 1952 Carmen,Manitoba Cardinals, when Brewer was 45 years old! Quoted from attheplate.com

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Negro Leaguer of the Month
December, 2002

Chester Arthur "Chet" Brewer
Position: pitcher
Career: 1924-1952
Teams:
Tennessee Rats, Gilkerson's Union Giants, Kansas City Monarchs, Crookston (MN), Bismarck (ND) Churchills, Brooklyn Royal Giants, New York Cubans, Philadelphia Stars, Aguilas Cibaenas (D.R.),
Cleveland Buckeyes, Chicago American Giants, Carman (Manitoba) Cardinals, Indian Head (Sask) Rockets, Sceptre, St. Jean (Quebec), Tampico (MX)Lightermen, Carta Viejo (Panama)

HT: 6'-4"; WT: 180 lbs
Batted right; threw right
Born:
Jan. 14, 1907 in Leavenworth, KS
Died: March 26, 1990 in Whittier, CA

A tall, handsome pitcher who could beat you with raw speed, or the emery ball, Chet Brewer is one of the top 20 pitchers in Negro League history. Brewer had pin-point control and a mean streak that caused him to throw at batters who dared dig in at the plate or hit him too hard!

Brewer was born in Leavenworth, Kansas, but his family moved to the more integrated Des Moines, Iowa when Brewer was eight years old. Brewer was tall for his age, and was a fine baseball, basketball and football player as a youth and at West High School, playing with both blacks and whites.

Brewer and his buddies formed a youth team called the Dashing Eagles, and held dances to raise money for uniforms and equipment. By age 15, Brewer was good enough to play semipro ball with adults, and at age 16 Brewer signed with the Tennessee Rats (from Missouri, oddly), a team that combined baseball with a minstrel show, traveilng the midwest.

Brewer played the '23 season with the Gilkerson's Union Giants, one of the top black teams on the road, which over the years featured Double Duty Radcliffe, Alec Radcliffe, Cristobel Torriente and George Giles.

In 1924, Brewer joined the Kansas City Monarchs, and played with them for most of the next decade. In '26, Brewer and Bullet Joe Rogan were the best 1-2 pitching duo in the Negro Leagues, with Brewer going 11-3 in league games. Brewer named Rogan, not Satchel Paige, the best pitcher he ever saw.

1929 may have been Brewer's best season, as he went 17-3 in league games and had 31 consecutive scorless innings in league play!

Brewer's most famous pitching performance occurred in 1930 when his Kansas City Monarchs faced Smokey Joe Williams and the Homestead Grays. The game was played under the portable lighting system that the Monarchs traveled with (which was poor at best), and it resulted in a pitching duel for the ages. Brewer, using the emery ball he learned from Double Duty Radcliffe while on the Gilkerson's Union Giants, struck out 19 Grays, 10 in a row at one point. Williams struck out 27 and eventually won, 1-0, in 12 innings on a one-hitter. .

Brewer was one of the first black players to play integrated baseball when he was signed by Crookston, Minnesota in 1931 along with catcher John Van. Brewer won every game he pitched that year, was given a house to live in, a car to drive, and a key to the city, and showed many Midwest towns what a top black pitcher could do for an otherwise ordinary team. Brewer called his stint in Crookston, "one of the most beautiful summers I ever spent,"

In 1934, Brewer was the ace of the Kansas City Monarchs' pitching staff, but, as Hilton Smith would later learn, Satchel Paige often found a way to steal the pitching spotlight. Both the Monarchs and the white House of David team from Benton Harbor, Michigan, were entered in the Denver Post Tournament, but the "Davids" enhanced their team with Satchel Paige and Negro League catcher Bill Perkins. Brewer won two games, one with 19 strikeouts, and both teams faced each other in the championship game, and Paige won a thriller, 2-1, with Brewer suffering the loss. .

In October, Brewer joined the integrated semipro Jamestown, North Dakota Red Sox for several games against white professional teams. Jimmie Foxx's Major League All-Stars came to North Dakota in early October of that year and played three games against a combination of Valley City, Jamestown and Bismarck's semipro teams.

In the first game, in Valley City, Brewer relieved Barney Brown and allowed one run on four hits over the last three innings, preserving the 6-5 victory for the North Dakotans. In the second game, in Jamestown, Brewer shut out the Major Leaguers, 11-0, and held Foxx and fellow Hall of Famer Heinie Manush hitless in six at bats. North Dakota won the third game, in Bismarck, 11-3, when Double Duty Radcliffe threw a complete game.

A week later, in a game against the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association in the Minors, Brewer took the loss, 5-1, while former and future Major Leaguer Ray "Ironman" Starr won the game. Brewer allowed 12 hits, struck out three and walked one. Brewer, who was an above-average hitter for a pitcher, scored his team's only run after blasing a triple. For both the Monarchs and North Dakota combined, Brewer won more than 30 games, something he achieved in '30 and '33, too.

In 1935 Brewer was hired away from the Monarchs to play with the integrated Bismarck team in the first National Semipro tournament in Wichita, Kansas. The Bismarck team, which featured white semipros as well as Satchel Paige, Double Duty, Hilton Smith, Quincy Trouppe and Barney Morris, won the tourney in seven straight, Brewer winning three games and Paige winning four.

After Paige won game one, Brewer won game two against Wichita, 8-4, when he went six innings and was relieved by Paige. After Paige won game three, Brewer won game four, 7-1, against Shelby, North Carolina. Paige won game five, and Brewer won game six with a complete game 15-6 win over the Omaha V-8s, putting Bismarck in the championship game, which Paige won, 5-2.

In 1937 Ciudad Trujillo hired Negro Leaguers Satchel Paige, Sam Bankhead, Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell. Brewer was the top pitcher on Trujillo's rival, the Aguilas Cibaenas (Eagles), and he had his biggest career thrill during the season when he threw a no-hitter to beat Paige. Both teams made the finals for the league pennant, and In the championship game Paige beat Brewer when Sam Bankhead hit a grand slam.

In '38, Brewer was the first black player to play in Mexico when he joined the Tampico Lightermen and went 18-3 with a 1.92 ERA. In '39 he went 16-6, pitched 40 consecutive scoreless innings, and threw two no-hitters. No pitcher would throw another no-hitter in the league for eight seasons, and no pitcher would pitch multiple no-hitters in the Mexican League again for 51 years. With the high elevation, the Mexican League was a high-scoring league that roughed up many pitchers over the years.

Brewer was one of the most well-traveled players of his era, playing in the Dominican Republic, Panama, Puerto Rico, Canada, Hawaii, the Phillipines, Haiti, China and Japan. Despite playing abroad for many of his prime years, Brewer pitched in two East-West games, in '34 and '47, pitching six innings, boasting a 1.50 ERA, and getting the save in the '47 game.

In 1945, at age 38, Brewer helped the Cleveland Buckeyes win the Negro American League pennant and World Series, going 7-2 for manager, and former Bismarck teammate, Quincy Trouppe. The Buckeyes swept the Homestead Grays, despite the Grays fielding future Hall of Famers Ray Brown, Jud Wilson, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell and Buck Leonard; Brewer thought Leonard was the toughest hitter he ever faced!

In '45, Brewer almost integrated "Organized Baseball" when a Cleveland Indians' farm club considered making him player-manager.

In 1947, Brewer pitched in Puerto Rico for Caguas and led them to the league champioship, winning a 1-0 game down the stretch in 103 degree heat, then winning the championship game, 6-5.

In 1950, Brewer, as player-manager, helped Panama's Carta Viejo win their country's only Carribean Series, a yearly tournament of countries such as Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba and the Dominican Republic; Brewer won two games in the series without a loss, including the championship game against Puerto Rico and their star pitcher Dan Bankhead, who had just finished his season with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

In the late 40s and early 50s, Brewer finished his career in Canada. In '49, Brewer pitched with St. Jean, Quebec, in '50 for Scuptre, Saskatchewan, in '51 for Indian Head, Saskatchewan, and in '53 for Carman, Manitoba.

In '51, Brewer won all four of his decisions for Indian Head, including a three-hitter over Estevan with 14 strikeouts, and in '53, Brewer was player-manager for the Carman Cardinals, pitched well at times, but Carman struggled and Brewer retired at season's end.

In 1966, Brewer was inducted into the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame, the first Negro Leaguer to be so honored. In retirement, Brewer scouted for the Pittsburgh Pirates and organized a youth baseball program in Los Angeles which produced Major Leaguers Roy White, Dock Ellis, Don Wilson, and Bobby Tolan. Chet Brewer Field was dedicated in Los Angeles in 1978.

Brewer was married twice, and had two children, Chester and Marian.


*some information from attheplate.com &
baseball-refernce.com

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