Sherwood Brewer

"I never saw [Sherwood] make a mental mistake on the ballfield."

--Buck O'Neil, Sherwood's manager on the Kansas City Monarchs


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Sherwood Brewer, ca. 1993
(Brewer)

 

Negro Leaguer of the Month
May, 2003


Sherwood Brewer
Born: Aug. 16, 1923 in Clarksdale, Miss.
Died: April 22, 2003 in Chicago, IL.
Ht: 5'-8", Wt: 170
Batted and threw right.
Positions: shortstop, second base, third base, outfield, manager
Years: 1946-1954

Teams: New York Cubans, Harlem Globetrotters, Kansas City Monarchs, Indianapolis Clowns.

Sherwood Brewer was one of the good ones, and when he passed away in April of 2003 it was a sad time for many Negro League fans who adored Mr. Brewer.

Sherwood will always hold a special place in my heart because more than 10 years ago when I became interested in the Negro Leagues and wanted to interview some players, Sherwood was one of the nicest and most knowledgeable men I met, and was very generous with his time. The first time I called him, I woke him from a nap, yet he still talked with me for more than an hour.

From that time forward I considered Sherwood a good friend, and I sent him cigars several times over the years, and called him often to get his opinion on certain players. Sherwood was unique among Negro Leaguers in that he didn't always describe players as "the best ever." When Sherwood gave his opinion on a player, you could be guaranteed that there was a lot of thought behind it.

I last saw Sherwood at Double Duty's 100th birthday last July and, although he was recovering from cancer, he was still his usual friendly self. In short, as a person, Sherwood was a Hall of Famer!

Now to Sherwood's career...

Sherwood desbribed himself this way:"I had a great arm, good speed and I was looked on mostly as a pretty sound player. No standout--I played everyday though. I was always a regular."

Modesty prevented Sherwood from talking a lot about his own abilities, but he was good enough to play in the East-West All-Star game in 1949 and went 1 for 2. He also was good enough to spend several years in the Minor Leagues, though he was already 30 when he got his first chance in Organized Baseball.

Sherwood grew up in the small railroad and mining town of Centralia, Missouri, 40 miles east of St. Louis. As a teenager, Brewer traveled to Fort Wayne, Indiana and worked at a foundry until he was drafted into the army.

Brewer was stationed in Saipan, near the Philippine Sea, and after the island was secured in July of 1944 there was a lot of baseball played among the soldiers, and Brewer was a standout.

When Brewer was discharged from the army, he was signed by the Harlem Globetrotter's baseball team managed by Paul Hardy and featuring sluggers Lester Lockett and Luke Easter. Brewer fancied himself a slugger too, despite his lack of size, and he blasted 17 homers in 1946, but batted under .250. He then decided to forgo the longball for base hits, and he became a tough singles and doubles hitter, usually in the .290-.320 range.

With the Globetrotters, track star Jesse Owens traveled with the team and would put on running exhibitions before games. For most of the year Brewer and teammate "Suitcase" Simpson, both speedsters, would race Owens, with a 10 yard headstart--they never beat Owens, even though it had been 10 years since he won Gold in the '36 Olympics.

Brewer moved to the Indianapolis Clowns in 1949, then to the Monarchs in 1952 where he would spend the rest of his Negro League career. Buck O'Neil was the manager of the '52 Monarchs, and he played Brewer at second base, with his shortstop being a youngster named Ernie Banks.

Brewer considered the '52 Monarchs to be one of the top four Monarchs' teams of all-time with Banks, Pancho Herrera, Booker McDaniels, Lefty Lamarque, John Matchett and Buck O'Neil.

When O'Neil retired as the Monarchs' manager after the '55 season, Brewer was hired as player-manager, something he enjoyed.

Brewer named Barney Brown and Bill Greason as the toughest pitchers for him to hit; he had moderate success against Satchel Paige because he only tried to put the ball in play. Brewer placed Paige, however, on the top of the list for greatest pitchers ever. "Satchel just didn't make mistakes," remembered Sherwood. "If he missed with a pitch outside, he meant to miss outside!"

Brewer named Ted Williams as the best hitter he ever saw, with Josh Gibson and Hank Aaron tied for second.

In 1946, when Jackie Robinson entered Organized Baseball with the Montreal Royals, Brewer thought there were quite a few Negro Leaguers better than Robinson, but over the years Brewer really came to love the man who broke the color barrier.

"Jackie was a great guy," said Brewer. "Jackie was very caring, very concerned [with the Negro League players]. That's why no one was jealous of him."

Brewer usually played baseball year-round, traveling to the Dominican Republic, Panama, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Hawaii over his career.

Sherwood's biggest thrill in baseball came when he belted a game-tying homer against Bob Lemon in an exhibition game.

There's a misconception about Negro Leaguers, that most were bitter about being denied a chance to play in the Majors, but Brewer spoke for the majority of men I met over the years:

"Oh, I had a lot of fun. I don't regret anything. When I went to a celebration in Cooperstown I didn't get up and talk. They had a section where anybody could get up and say what they wanted to. Everyone who got up, except Buck O'Neil, had a regret about the denial but I just didn't look at it that way. I though about the good things. I made a lot of friends, I had a lot of fun. Lots of travel that I probably never would have been able to do."

Brewer was known as a scrappy player, going into bases hard and doing whatever it took to win. Brewer, a fine amateur boxer who was once offered a professional boxing contract, got into his share of scrapes on the field.

"[In the Negro Leagues] we had some big mouths," remembered Brewer. "Bonnie Sorell was one. One time they knocked somebody down on our team and so we got on the pitcher about it. And so when I went out to second he got on me--you how players bench jockey. I don't know why he jumped on me. He just gave me a hard time and I gave him the finger. He said, 'When this innings over I'm gonna come out there and kick your butt.'

"I thought he was kidding so between innings I was heading for the dugout and here he came. He really did! And we had a good scrap. He wasn't much of a fighter!"

I speak for many Negro League fans everywhere when I say, 'Thanks for the memories, Sherwood!