Jim Brewer, My Friend

Jim Brewer pitched in the Major Leagues for 17 years. He was my friend. In the off season, he lived for many years in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma . I think that he was either full or half Indian, but I do not remember which tribe. I came to know him in 1963 when I was traded from the Cardinals to the Cubs. He was traded one year later to the Dodgers. Seems like the Cubs have a history of letting the best ones get away.

Here is some information about Jim before I had joined him with the Cubs. “While pitching in only his fifth game, on August 4, 1960, the Chicago Cubs rookie was attacked on the mound by the hot-headed Cincinnati Reds second baseman Billy Martin for throwing too far inside. A Billy Martin roundhouse broke Brewer’s cheekbone, and the Cubs sued Martin for $1 million in damages” (The Biographical Encyclopedia of Baseball, page 125). As Jim later related to me, when Martin charged the mound, Jim had his defenses up. But as Martin got close , he dropped his arms, which caused Jim to relax, and suddenly Martin popped him in the jaw. Martin was a street fighter and knew all the tricks. This is not the last time Martin’s hot-headedness got him into trouble. Many thought that would be the end of Jim’s career. Those early years were difficult for him. He was a left-handed relief pitcher with good stuff on his fast ball, but was somewhat erratic with his control. He was not enjoying much success in the beginning years of his career.

I remember the time Jim was brought into a game against the Mets in the Polo Grounds with the bases loaded and two outs. It was the bottom of the 9th and the met fans were screaming their lungs out. You would have had to be there to understand. The Cubs had a 2 or 3 run lead. The manager, Bob Kennedy, had brought in Jim to face the left-handed pinch hitter, Ed Kranepool. Jim quickly got two strikes on the batter. Then suddenly, on the next pitch, Kranepool pulled the ball into the right-field stands for a grand slam homerun to win the game. The Polo Grounds became a mad house! Jim was fit to be tied. He slowly had to walk over 450 feet to the wall in center field and up the many steps to the visitor’s clubhouse amid the jeering fans.

I have never witnessed a more dejected player! At first I thought he was going to tear up the clubhouse. It took him a good twenty minutes to settle down and to finally take a shower. To make matters worse, we had to take a long bus ride to Philadelphia. The Cubs were a pretty subdued bunch of players. I sat with Jim in the very back of the bus and we talked all the way to Philly. I had been in his shoes a few times myself, and could well understand his anger and frustration. This is a part of baseball that a lot of people do not know about, but it is a very common experience. Fortunately, for Jim, it didn’t happen in the World Series or in some high profile game. But that seemed little consolation at the time.

It was not long after that Jim was traded to the Dodgers. I later heard that the great Warren Spahn , another American Indian from Oklahoma, taught Jim how to throw a “screwball” which is a change up pitch that breaks away from a right-handed hitter. Jim went on to became one of the great relief pitchers of the game, pitching for the Dodgers and saving over 20 games for many seasons in a row. His total record in relief pitching was 62 wins, 49 losses, 132 saves and an overall E.R.A. of 3.07. He had 810 strikeouts against 360 walks in 1039 innings. Folks, those are very good stats. If Jim and I could combine our records, we would be in the Hall of Fame for sure! I hope that I had just a little something to do with this by encouraging him at the lowest point of his career. Life is really strange in so many ways. Jim was a good man and a fellow Christian. I wish I could have spent more time with him. As I think of him now, I remember that he was always cheerful and smiling. Many years later, sometime after the fact, I heard that he had been killed in an auto accident before reaching age 50. I wonder what ever happened to his family and kids. When you are young and busy living and competing, you miss the significance of many things, but as you grow older you see life with a different perspective.

I’m not really big on baseball reunions. But it would be really nice to have a few days with a selective group of baseball players, both living and dead, to talk about life and old times. Jim would be on the top of that selective list. My brother Von, who died in 1995, was especially interested in researching the Indians, especially those in Oklahoma, and it would have been a real treat just to listen and hear Jim and Von talk about this part of Oklahoma history. Allie Reynolds, Warren Spahn and Cal McLish are all Indians and in the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. In my humble opinion, Jim Brewer belongs in that distinguished group.

Paul wrote: “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). It is critically important that we connect with people. Not only to pat them on the back for a job well done but also to identify with their suffering and pain. Unfortunately, many of my old teammates have passed on from this life, but I still have the memories of those very active but volatile days when we were just all trying to compete against the best players in the world. – Lindy McDaniel

Sorry that I could not download a photo of Jim Brewer. The photo you see if of me in Cub uniform.

Article in Pitching For The Master--- July, 2011
1095 Meadow Hill Drive
Lavon, Texas 75166

Contact Lindy by E-mail: lindymcdaniel41@yahoo.com

My son Joey is setting up a special website containing the brief story and photos of my career. It will take another month or so for Joey to have this completed. You can access all of the articles in Pitching For The Master as well as information on the special website by going to my regular website at: lindymcdaniel.com.

Find It