Synopses & Reviews
The corporal was left for dead, along with the 11 others of his squad, after a German mortar attack in the freezing, unforgiving mountains of northern Italy on December 7, 1944. But hours after the Nazi infantry had retreated, one member of the American army's Graves Registration Unit picking up the corpses, turned over a body in a ditch and called to his officer, Hey, this one's breathing. It was 20-year-old Lou Brissie, from the small town of Ware Shoals, South Carolina. He was taken to a makeshift medical tent behind the front line and told that with such extensive damage his left leg would have to be amputated to save his life. He pleaded with the medics: Please, you can't take my leg off. I'm a pitcher. I've been promised a chance to pitch in the big leagues. He explained that he had a letter from Connie Mack, owner-manager of the A's, as proof. By a series of remarkable circumstances, including a talented doctor in the major U.S. hospital in Naples where Brissie was transported, and his being the first recipient in the Mediterranean theater of the new wonder drug penicillin, his leg--though in shreds--was indeed saved. The decorated corporal couldn't walk on his own strength for nearly a year and would undergo upwards of 23 operations. He eventually began to throw a baseball while on crutches. All the time, he kept dear the dream of pitching in the major leagues. Not only did he realize that dream, but in virtually implausible, genuinely inspirational pursuit of his goal, the left-handed Lou Brissie--wearing a huge brace on his left, partially immobile leg and now a strike-out ace--made the 1949 American League All-Star team on merit, along with such stars as Joe DiMaggio, TedWilliams, and Bob Feller.
Lou Brissie's extraordinary story is one that takes readers from the terrifying battlefields in Europe in World War II to the playing fields in Philadelphia. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ira Berkow brings together the unforgettable memories of a hero's life, telling the tales of a man who overcame incredible odds with his leg in a protective metal case to realize his dream of pitching in the major leagues. Brissie recounts amazing stories, including Brissieand#8217;s leg injury and how he was left for dead in the snow and mud of the Appenines in Italy, his pleading with doctors to not surgically remove his leg so that he might one day play professional baseball, the numerous surgeries and his improbable road to recovery, his friendship with Connie Mack and the opportunity to pitch after his injury, being named to the 1949 All-Star team as member of the Philadelphia Athletics, the big scare Brissie received when a Ted Williams line drive struck his wounded leg, and his regular visits for the past 60 years to both veteran's hospitals and children's hospital wards. The Corporal Was a Pitcher is a must-read not only for baseball fans, but also for anyone looking to find inspiration from a man who never quit despite the odds being stacked so highly against him.
About the Author
Ira Berkow is a sports columnist and feature writer for the New York Times for more than 25 years. He won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2001 and was a finalist for the Pulitzer for commentary in 1988. He is the author of 18 books, including the bestsellers Maxwell Street: Survival in a Bazaar and Red: A Biography of Red Smith, as well as two memoirs, Full Swing and To the Hoop. Hank Greenberg: The Story of My Life, cowritten and edited by Mr. Berkow, was a primary source for the award-winning documentary The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg. He lives in New York City. Tom Brokaw is a television journalist and the bestselling author of the book The Greatest Generation.