Leland Victor Brissie (June 5, 1924 – November 25, 2013) was a Major League Baseball starting pitcher who played for the Philadelphia Athletics from 1947 to 1951 and the Cleveland Indians from 1951 to 1953.
Brissie began his baseball career in 1940 when at the age of 16 he pitched for Ware Shoals in a textile baseball league. Brissie attracted the attention of Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics in 1941; however his father insisted he finish school.
Brissie attended Presbyterian College before enlisting in the U.S. Army in December 1942. In November 1944, he found himself in heavy fighting in Italy with the 88th Infantry Division (Blue Devils). On December 2, 1944, his unit suffered an artillery barrage, and a shell exploded which shattered his left tibia and shinbone in 30 pieces. At the Army field hospital, doctors told him that his leg would have to be amputated due to the severity of the injury. Brissie told the doctors that he was a ballplayer and insisted that the leg be saved even if it jeopardized his life.
Lou's citations included the Purple Heart (with oak leaf cluster), Bronze Star Medal, ETO and American Campaign Medals.
After two years and 23 major operations, Brissie was able to return to baseball with a metal brace on his leg. He was signed by the Philadelphia A's on December 15, 1946. His comeback began with Savannah in the Southern League, where he won 25 games in 1947. The A's called him up and on September 28, 1947 he realized his "life's ambition" of pitching in the major leagues.
Brissie’s first start of the 1948 season was against the Boston Red Sox. During the course of the game, Ted Williams hit a ball up the middle of the field, striking Brissie's lag and causing him to "…jokingly ask Williams why he didn’t pull the ball to right field instead of hitting it up the middle." Brissie went on to defeat the Red Sox 4-2, striking out Williams for the game's final out. His best season with the A's came in 1948 when was 14–10, and 1949 when he was 16–11. He pitched 3 innings for the 1949 American League All Star team.
Brissie was traded to the Cleveland Indians on April 30, 1951. This was part of a three-way trade between the Indians, Athletics and Chicago White Sox. A notable result of the trade was that Cleveland utility player Minnie Miñoso went to the White Sox where he became the first black major league player in Chicago's history and soon became an all-star. Brissie retired in September 1953. His career record was 44–48 with 436 Ks and 4.07 ERA. He batted and threw left-handed.
Following his retirement from baseball, Brissie served as the National Director of the American Legion Baseball program. Subsequently, he served on the President’s Physical Fitness Council, worked as a baseball scout and for a South Carolina state worker training agency. in his later years, Brissie relied on crutches and was in constant pain. He frequently spoke to veteran's of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2010 Brissie, along with Yogi Berra, Jerry Coleman, John "Mule" Miles was honored in a ceremony at Washington, D.C.'s Nationals Park.
Brissie died at the Augusta VA Hospital in Augusta, Georgia, on November 25, 2013. He was 89. His first wife, Dorothy “Dot” Morgan, died in 1967 after 23 years of marriage. Their son, Ronald Brissie, died in 2002.
Brissie's survivors include his second wife, the former Diana Ingate Smith of North Augusta, S.C.; two children from his first marriage, Vicki Bishop of Kingstree, S.C., and Rob Brissie of Greenville, S.C.; a daughter from his second marriage, Jennifer Brissie of London; two stepchildren, Charlotte Klein of Aiken, S.C., and Aaron Smith of Grovetown, Ga.; nine grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren.
By Dean Hanley
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