Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Lou Brissie - A soldier's courageous journey to take the mound

Lou Brissie is an exemplary measure of courage, strength and perseverance. Just as he graduated from Ware Shoals High School in 1941, Brissie signed with the Philadelphia Athletics on the condition he would join the club after finishing three years at Presbyterian College.

The Athletics were ready to bring Brissie to spring training in 1943, but the draw of representing his country was too strong, as Brissie enlisted in December 1942.

To call Brissie's experience in the war remarkable would be an understatement. Life changed drastically for Brissie on December 7, 1944. While serving in Italy, an artillery shell exploded on his squad leaving him for dead with his left leg tattered from the explosion. Doctors wanted to amputate, but Brissie pleaded with them to save his injured appendage.

Dr. Wilbur Brubaker believed he could repair Brissie's leg, and after 23 surgeries, he was able to return to the field in 1947. Connie Mack held a spot for the left-hander through his recovery, encouraging him every step along the way.

Wearing a heavy brace on his weakened leg, Brissie battled through pain filled nights trying to find the strength that made him a fireballing prospect. Mack rewarded him with a late-season appearance in 1947 with the Philadelphia Athletics after posting a 23-5 record with Class A Savannah. He spent the next six seasons in the major leagues, making the 1949 American League All-Star team en route to a 44-48 career record.

Every time Brissie took the field, he brought hope and inspiration to the veterans recovering from injuries even more devastating than what he faced. His career became a shining example of the resilient spirit of Americans in the face of extreme adversity.

Some sixty years later, Brissie went through the arduous task of reliving the details of his war experiences in his 2009 autobiography, "The Corporal Was a Pitcher." The book is a must read not only for all baseball fans, but those who are interested in discovering a first-person experience illuminating the true meaning of the American spirit.

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