Sunday, December 1, 2013

Lou Brissie, Philadelphia Athletics All-Star and War Hero, Dies at 89

By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
@Philabaseball

Lou Brissie, an All-Star pitcher who suffered severe leg wounds fighting in World War II, died last week in Augusta, Georgia due to cardiopulmonary failure. He was 89.

Signed by Connie Mack in December of 1946 at the age of 22, Brissie spent five seasons with the Philadelphia Athletics before being dealt to the Cleveland Indians early in the 1951 season.

A 6-foot-4 left hander from South Carolina, Brissie's best season came in 1949 when he was an All-Star and finished 16-11 with a 4.09 ERA.

Lou Brissie, former Philadelphia Athletics All-Star and war hero, signed baseball card.Like so many other players of his era, Brissie entered the military in 1942 and became a combat infantryman. Two years later, while moving through the Apennines in northern Italy, his platoon was hit by a German shell. Shrapnel injured his right shoulder, broke his right foot and shattered his left shinbone.

"I couldn't look at it, it looked terrible," Brissie said in an interview long afterward.

Brissie was taken to a hospital in Naples and was told his leg would likely need to be amputated due to infection. Aware his dream of pitching was slipping away, he spoke with the surgeon and mentioned he had aspirations of playing professional baseball.

Through a series of more than 20 surgeries Brissie's leg was saved. The surgeon had wired his shinbone back together and he was discharged from the Army.

After several years of rehab Brissie had drawn the attention of Mack and was assigned to the Athletics' minor league affiliate in Savannah, Ga. wear he wore a metal brace on his left leg. He excelled, finishing the season with a 23-5 mark to go along with a 1.91 ERA before being called up for his major league debut on Sept. 28, 1947.

"I knew I was a symbol to many veterans trying to overcome problems,” he once said. “I wasn’t going to let them down."

Brissie pitched in 234 games over his seven year major league career and retired following the 1953 season.

In his later years he walked with braces and crutches, but his story remains a point of encouragement for veterans and the disabled.

"If people can look at what I've gone through and use it as a source of perseverance, that's good by me," Brissie said.

- Patrick Gordon is the Managing Editor of the Philadelphia Baseball Review. Follow him on Twitter @Philabaseball. The Philadelphia Baseball Review is the premier baseball news source / blog in Philadelphia providing news and analysis on the 2014 Phillies.

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