Forrest “Lefty” Brewer — Hero Of Normandy


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Promising minor league pitcher Forrest “Lefty” Brewer in the Major League uniform of the Washington Senators, circa 1938.
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FORREST VERNON “Lefty” BREWER

born: December 7, 1919, in Jacksonville, Florida
passed : June 6, 1944, in Normandy, France

bats : left
throws : left

Interred : Riverside Memorial Park, Jacksonville, Florida

PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL CAREER

1938 – St. Augustine (ind) — D class FSL — (41 ga, 25-11 w-l, 1.88 ERA)
1939 – Shelby (WASH) — D class THL — (10 ga, 5-4 w-l, 5.25 ERA)
1939 – Orlando (WASH) — D class FSL — (22 ga, 7-11 w-l, 3.85 ERA)
1940 – Charlotte (WASH) — B class PL — (28 ga, 11-9 w-l, 3.68 ERA)

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Unlike ELMER GEDEON, his teammate with the Orlando Senators and Charlotte Hornets, FORREST “Lefty” BREWER was neither college educated nor an officer. In fact, in the words of British author GARY BEDINGFIELD, “the Brewers were an impoverished family moving from slum to slum, where streetfights were commonplace and electricity wasn’t.”

A standout pitcher in high school, Brwer would impress in a professional tryout with the independent St. Augustine Saints of the Class D Florida State League.

His first season as a professional, Brewer posted a stellar record of 25 wins and 11 losses with an ERA of 1.88 for the Saints. Most notable was a a no-hitter tossed on the fateful day of June 6 that caught the attention of CLARK GRIFFITH, the owner of the Major League Washington Senators.

Griffith would purchase the playing contract of Brewer from the independent St. Augustine Saints and had the prospect come to the nation’s capital for the final weeks of the 1938 Major League campaign. Brewer went to spring training the following year with the American League’s Senators, but was assigned to the Shelby Senators of the Tar Heel League to formally begin his affiliated pro career. Injuries did much to sabotage the youngster’s second season.

But, by the end of Brewer’s third year of professional baseball, spent with the Class B Charlotte Hornets of the Piedmont League, everything seemed to be coming together nicely. Brewer had progressed to the point where Griffith reportedly made a formal salary offer for a Major League roster position with respect to the upcoming 1941 baseball season.

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BELOW — Lefty Brewer, in the uniform of the Charlotte Hornets, instructs a young fan with respect to the proper way in which a pitcher grips the baseball.
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ABOVE — Forrest Brewer in the formal dress of the United States Army, left, and pictured at parachute school in 1942, right.

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Fate in the form of Uncle Sam stepped in and drafted Forrest “Lefty” Brewer before the 1941 season had a chance to arrive, however. Brewer immediately decided to volunteer from the paratroopers after completing basic training.

Exactly six years to the day after throwing a no-hitter for the St. Augustine Saints, Brewer and his parachute landed at La Fiere near Ste Mere Eglise and the Merderet River in Normandy with a small band of paratroopers; this group would later be overwhelmed by a larger body of German soldiers.

Lefty Brewer did not survive D-Day.

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This facscinating photograph of Brewer (seated in the front row at the far left) and his 508th PIR Red Devils baseball team was taken just nine days before D-Day in 1944. Notice the looks on the faces of these boys who are about to have a Major League collision at home plate with History, the likes of which they cannot possibly comprehend at the actual moment.
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NOTE — all photos for this post are courtesy of GARY BEDINGFIELD and SEAMHEADS.COM

Mr. Bedingfield has another website, BASEBALL IN WARTIME, which is absolutely amazing, a comprehensive analysis of the subject and completely worth the visit.

What a coincidence for this blog that today, on this 66th Anniversary of D-Day, the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs are currently engaged in an International League series with the Charlotte Knights.

Or is that, perhaps, on purpose?

A not-so-subtle reminder for IronPigs fans, and, indeed, supporters of the great American game of baseball everywhere, that, without brave and courageous genuine heroes such as Lefty Brewer, we might not have the FREEDOM TO PLAY diamond games.

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