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Lou Brissie: Baseball’s Wounded Warrior

During World War II, major league baseball stars who were called up to serve in the military often got relatively cushy assignments, working as physical education trainers or playing in exhibition games to entertain their fellow troops. But not pitcher Lou Brissie, at the time a promising prospect coveted by the Philadelphia Athletics’ Connie Mack.

428px-Lou_BrissieAfter leaving South Carolina’s Presbyterian College to enlist in the Army, the 20-year-old corporal nearly lost his life on an Italian battlefield in 1944, when a German artillery shell exploded alongside him, so severely mangling his left leg that a surgeon told him it would have to be amputated. Instead, Brissie somehow persuaded the doctors to spare his leg and, after working to rehabilitate it, even managed to achieve his dream of pitching for the A’s. Not only that, at his peak in 1949, he achieved a 16-11 record and even pitched three innings in the All-Star Game.

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“I knew I was a symbol to many veterans trying to overcome problems,” Brissie, who died on Nov. 25 at age 89 in North Augusta, S.C., told New York Times writer Ira Berkow in a 1994 interview. “I wasn’t going to let them down.”

Here are some facts about Brissie:

 

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Here’s a 2008 interview in which Brissie talks about a memorable incident in which Ted Williams hit a line drive off his leg brace on opening day in 1948. YouTube Preview Image

 

Photo: U.S. Army photo of Brissie in 2009 by Frank H. Carter

 

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