Chester Arthur Brewer
- Bats Both, Throws Right
- Height 6' 4", Weight 176 lb.
- High School West Des Moines High School
- Debut 1925
- Final Game 1948
- Born January 14, 1907 in Leavenworth, KS, USA
- Died March 26, 1990 in Whittier, CA, USA
Known for his mastery of scuffing baseballs and guidance of young players, Chet Brewer played a role on the baseball scene for decades. Born in Kansas, Brewer's family moved to Des Moines, IA when he was young because of racism in Kansas. In Iowa, Brewer could go to integrated schools. A fan of Bullet Joe Rogan as a kid, Brewer became a pitcher. He joined Brown's Tennessee Rats, a lesser blackball team that included music and acting to increase attendance. Brewer moved on to the Gilkerson Union Giants, then joined the Kansas City Monarchs at the age of 17 in 1924. That year the Monarchs won their first Negro World Series, though the teenaged Brewer did not appear. He was 4-1 in '25 and again sat out the Series. In 1926 he became a regular member of the Monarch rotation. At the age of 19, he was 14-1, tying former idol Rogan for third in the Negro National League in victories; he led in winning percentage and was second to strikeouts to Bill Foster. He struggled the next two seasons.
In '29, Brewer bounced back by going 17-3 to lead Kansas City to first after two years missing the pennant. That year he was second in the league in wins (behind John Williams of the St. Louis Stars and led in winning percentage for the second time. His 2.86 RA led the NNL. In 1930 he slipped to 13-10, tied for 5th in the NNL in wins and struck out 109, second to Foster. That year he partook in the first of many famous duels he pitched over the years. On August 2, 1930, the 23-year old faced 45-year old Smokey Joe Williams of the Homestead Grays in the "Battle of the Butchered Balls". The Monarchs had begun to use lights that season and the two doctored-ball specialists went 12 innings. Brewer fanned 19 and allowed 4 hits, striking out 10 in a row at one point. Brewer lost the game in the 12th inning when Oscar Charleston walked and Chaney White doubled him home. Williams struck out 27 in that game and allowed only one hit, a double by Newt Allen with one out in the eighth inning.
In his prime, Brewer took off time in the mid-'30s to play semipro ball for the Bismarck Churchills and Jamestown Red Sox. Brewer lost a 2-1 decision to Satchel Paige in a major semipro game. In another contest, he struck out 19. He appeared in the East-West Game in 1934. On October 6, while barnstorming, he pitched a four-hit shutout against some white players, striking out Heinie Manush three times and holding Jimmie Foxx without a hit (Brewer said Foxx was drunk).
In 1937 Brewer went to the Dominican Republic to earn the big money being given out by Rafael Trujillo. Brewer beat Paige 4-2 with a no-hitter in the Dominican Republic that season but lost the championship contest to Paige on a Sammy Bankhead grand slam. In his first action in an official Negro League game since 1932, he lost a 1-0 duel to Bill Holland.
The next season Brewer joined the Mexican League. Pitching for the Tampico Lightermen he went 17-5 with a 1.88 ERA, second to Martin Dihigo in wins. He pitched the second recorded no-hitter in Liga history on May 29 and on August 12 no-hit Santa Rosa. It would be 8 and a half years till the next no-hitter in the Liga, 34 years before any pitcher in the ML had 2 career no-hitters (Andres Ayon) and 51 years till another Mexican Leaguer had two no-hitters in the same season (Narciso Elvira). The next year he again pitched 6 shutouts, this time going 12-7 with a 2.50 ERA for Tampico, 4th in the Liga in victories.
Brewer played elsewhere in Latin America the next few years. Additionally, Brewer would play for war-time industrial teams in Los Angeles from '42 through '45. Brewer was also a fixture for years in the California Winter League - he is second in CWL history to Satchel Paige in games (72) and wins (43). He ranks 3rd in innings (445, behind Paige and Bullet Joe Rogan), fourth in shutouts, fourth in complete games (42) and 6th in strikeouts (211).
In 1943, Pacific Coast League boss Pants Rowland announced that the 37-year old Brewer would be one of three Negro Leaguers to get a chance at AAA. The offer was withdrawn a few weeks later for unknown reasons. A year later Vince Devicenzi, owner of the Oakland Oaks, and reporter Hallie Harding, arranged for Brewer to get a try-out but Oaks manager Johnny Vergez refused. Brewer also played in Mexico in '44 but the veteran got hammered (3-12, 5.10).
In '47, the 40-year old moundsman allowed one run in three innings in his second East-West Game, picking up the save. He was 12-6 with a 3.82 RA for the Cleveland Buckeyes that year, returning to regular dut yin the Negro Leagues. He tied for the Negro American League lead in wins, was second in RA and third in strikeouts (91). In 1948 he continued to pitch for the Buckeyes, going 5-5 with a 3.22 ERA, 5th in the league in ERA.
Brewer returned to Latin America again. By '53, he had played in the USA, Canada, Hawaii, the Philipines, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Panama and Mexico. The only year that Panama won the Caribbean Series in the 20th Century, Brewer was the winning pitcher. In Panama, he also discovered Dave L. Roberts, a future Minor League Player of the Year who hit over 400 career homers in pro ball.
In 1952 he became one of the first black managers in the minor leagues (some sources say he was the first but that apparently was Sammy Bankhead a year earlier) with Porterville of the Southwest International League. The 45-year old pitcher took the mound on occasion, going 6-5 for a sub-.400 team and posting a 3.38 ERA, fourth-best in the league.
Overall Brewer was 87-63 in the Negro Leagues, among the top 20 in wins, despite spending a significant chunk of time playing in 10 countries. He was 5-0 against white major-league teams.
After "retiring" from his long career he was a Pittsburgh Pirates scout from 1957 to 1974 sponsored a model boys' baseball program in Watts, CA which produced Dock Ellis, Bob Watson, Reggie Smith and Enos Cabell.
- NAL All-Star (1947)
- NNL ERA Leader (1929)
- 2-time NNL Winning Percentage Leader (1926 & 1929)
- 2-time NNL Complete Games Leader (1930 & 1936)
- 2-time NNL Shutouts Leader (1929 & 1930)
Year-by-Year Managerial Record
|1952||Porterville Comets||Southwest International League||39-59||5th|
- 1953 Sporting News Baseball Guide
- "Baseball's Forgotten Heroes" by Tony Salin
- "The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues" by John Holway
- "Invisible Men" by Donn Rogosin
- "The Mexican League: Comprehensive Player Statistics" by Pedro Treto Cisneros
- "The California Winter League" by William McNeil
- The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract
- Western Canada Baseball web site
- Kansas City Star, August 3, 1930, page 3B ("Strikes Out 27 Batters")
- Rick Obran: "The Sandlot Mentors of Los Angeles", in Jean Hastings Ardell and Andy McCue, ed.: Endless Seasons: Baseball in Southern California, The National Pastime, SABR, Number 41, 2011, pp. 23-27.