Chester Arthur Brewer
Teams: Gilkerson Union Giants (1924), Kansas City Monarchs (1925-1935, 1937, 1940-1941, 1946), Crookston, Minn. (1931), Washington Pilots (1932), Brooklyn Royal Giants (1935), Bismarck, N.D. (1935-1936), New York Cubans (1936), Dominican Republic (1937), Mexican League ('1938-1939, 1944), Philadelphia Stars (1941), Cleveland Buckeyes (1942-1943, 1946-1948), Chicago American Giants (1946), minor leagues (1952)
Height: 6' 4'' Weight: 187
Born: January 14, 1907, Leavenworth, Kansas
Died: March 26, 1990, Whittier, California
An outstanding finesse pitcher with good control and a retentive memory, he spotted the ball, mixing a wide repertory of pitches that included a live running fastball, a sweeping curve, an overhand drop, a deep sinker, an emery ball, and a good screwball. He also learned to throw a cut ball from Emory Osborne and "Double Duty" Radcliffe, and would not hesitate to hit a batter to establish respect. Brewer toiled on the mounds of black baseball for twenty-four years with an assortment of teams throughout the world, including China, Japan, the Philippines, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Santo Domingo, and in forty-four of the forty-eight continental United States.
The tall, lanky right-hander had his first outstanding season in 1926, his second year with the Kansas City Monarchs, when he teamed with Bullet Rogan to pitch the Monarchs to the first half of the Negro National League championship. Brewer is credited with 20 victories against all competition, and carried an 11-3 league record into the hard-fought seven-game playoff against the victorious Chicago American Giants, but was not utilized in the Series.
Although his marks the next two seasons (8-7 and 7-9) were not indicative of his talent, Brewer continued his impressive hurling and put together his best year (17-3) in 1929, while pitching the Monarchs to the Negro National League pennant. While fashioning his exquisite .850 winning percentage, he hurled 31 consecutive scoreless innings in league play. The next season, 1930, playing under the Monarchs' portable light system against the Homestead Grays, Brewer locked up with an aging Smokey Joe Williams in a 12-inning pitching duel in which Brewer struck out 19 batters, including 10 straight during one stretch, only to have Williams strike out 27 Monarchs and allow only one hit to win 1-0. Both Williams and Brewer were accused of "doctoring" the balls in this game. Similar allegations plagued Brewer throughout his career.
After the Negro National League folded, the Monarchs played as an independent team, barnstorming across the country. Against league competition his ledger shows a combined 15-11 mark for the first three years of the 1930s, but against all levels of competition Brewer was credited with winning 30 games on three occasions (30 in 1930, 34 in 1933, and 33 in 1934). In the latter season, Brewer won 16-straight games for the Monarchs to earn a berth in the East-West All Star game. Succumbing to the lure of more money, many of his prime years were spent in Latin American leagues. In 1937 he went to Santo Domingo, logging a 2-3 record for the Aguilas Cibaenas team, and hurled a one-hitter against Satchel Paige and the Ciudad Trujillo team, featuring Josh Gibson and "Cool Papa" Bell.
When the Dominican season ended, he joined an All-Star team that won the Denver Post Tournament, striking out 19 batters in one contest, albeit losing to Paige 2-1. Two years earlier, in 1935, he and Satchel had pitched together for Bismarck, North Dakota, and won the Wichita Tourney. Brewer spent two years in Bismarck, but spent part of the last season with the New York Cubans, logging a 5-2 record while pitching in the Big Apple.
As the first black American to play in Mexico, he fashioned an 1-3 record with a 1.92 ERA for Tampico in 1938, and followed with a 16-6, 2.50 ERA season while pitching 40 scoreless innings and two no-hitters. Five years later, in 1944, he returned for his last season in the Mexican League, and endured an 8-12 season and a 5.11 ERA with Mexico City.
Returning to the United States, he rejoined the Monarchs for their 1940 pennant-winning campaign, and years later, pitching for the Cleveland Buckeyes, Brewer posted a 12-6 ledger as he helped pitch the team to the 1947 Negro American League pennant. At midseason, thirteen years after his first appearance, he again pitched in the All Star game. And in postseason play he pitched in the World Series against the New York Cubans, losing his only start. In 1948 he split 10 decisions in league games and, during the span of three seasons (1947-1949) with the Buckeyes, he is credited with starting and completing 41 games.
Also in 1947, pitching with Caguas in the Puerto Rican winter league, he suffered a broken hand in the first half of the season, but came back to log a 7-3 record and help the team win the second-half title. In the final drive to the flag he won a 1-0 game in 103-degree weather and won the finale 6-5 to nail down the championship. In an earlier year, in Puerto Rico, Brewer was released because management thought he did not strike out enough players, and he was replaced with Satchel Paige. Brewer then signed with another team and came back and beat Satchel. Fans were so incensed that the team manager who had released Brewer had to be escorted back to the hotel by soldiers.
Brewer also played in other foreign locales, splitting four decisions in Cuba in the winter of 1930-1931, touring the Orient in 1933, and pitching two years in Panama, winning the Caribbean Series in his second season.
His career covered a wide experiential range. including playing against major leaguers in exhibition games. In 1934 he pitched against an all-star team that included Jimmie Foxx and Heinie Manush, and later was manager of the Kansas City Royals, who played in the Los Angeles winter league against Bob Feller and other major leaguers.
His father was a minister and, as a youngster, Brewer learned early the value of hard work. He attended Western High School in Des Moines, Iowa, where he played football and basketball, and in the summers he played baseball for a team called the Tennessee Rats. His professional baseball career started when he signed with the Gilkerson Union Giants, playing out of Joliet, Illinois, in 1924, but after playing briefly with Gilkerson's team, at age twenty, he joined manager José Mendez's Kansas City Monarchs.
The record book is not complete but, from existing data, the underpublicized hurler is credited with a 127-79 record for his long career in the Negro Leagues. After he closed out his career in black baseball, he entered organized baseball in 1952, playing in the Southwest International League, where he was 6-5, and with Visalia in the California League, where he was 1-4, for a combined 709 record in his last year in baseball.
After retiring from baseball, he was a major-league scout and instructor for the Pittsburgh Pirates for almost thirty years (1957-1974), developing a very close relationship with Roberto Clemente, and later worked with the Major League Scouting Bureau. Later in life, in recognition of his contributions to baseball, Chet Brewer Field in Los Angeles was dedicated in his honor.
Source: James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994.