Brewer shone brightly on team of stars

Brewer shone brightly on team of stars

The Kansas City Monarchs had a stable of quality pitchers, and Chet Brewer didn't have to take a back seat to any of them.

He wasn't Satchel Paige or Bullet Joe Rogan, but the 6-foot-4 Brewer managed to carve his own niche while establishing himself as one of the best right-handers in the Negro Leagues.

"Chet was tall and had a good fastball to go with a variety of pitches," Negro Leagues historian James Riley said.

Brewer threw a legal "emery ball," and controlling that pitch was an art in itself.

"The thing about throwing a cut ball is that the direction is so erratic," Riley said. "Pitchers really had to perfect those. There's no use in having a ball move if it moves out of the strike zone."

Brewer outdueled some of the best pitchers of his era, both black and white. He burst onto the Kansas City Monarchs scene in 1926 by going 12-1 with eight complete games. In 1929, he was 16-3 with an .842 winning percentage that led the league. The highlight for Brewer in '29 was a 31-inning scoreless streak against league competition.

Ironically, one of Brewer's greatest performances came in a loss. On Aug. 2, 1930, he went against Smokey Joe Williams of the Pittsburgh Grays in a game that strikeout aficionados remembered as a classic.

Brewer struck out 19, including 10 in a row. But he lost, 1-0, in 12 innings, on a fluke hit by Chaney White. Williams fanned 27 with a one-hitter, and got the victory when Oscar Charleston scored the winning run.

The game was played under Kansas City's portable light system, which made the hitters' plight against two top-notch pitchers that much tougher.

"They had the lights to deal with and both pitchers were cutting the ball," Riley said. "Those things certainly contributed to all the strikeouts."

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Despite dropping that pitching classic to Williams, Riley finished the 1930 season with 30 wins. He won 16 consecutive games in 1934, and finished that season with 33 victories against league and non-league opponents.

Brewer's .597 winning percentage ranked 10th among Negro League pitchers. He spent 19 of his 25 seasons with dominant teams, including 12 seasons with the Monarchs.

Brewer, who had a 2.89 ERA in the Negro Leagues, was the first black U.S. player in the Mexican League. He threw two no-hitters while pitching in Mexico in 1939, and went on to become a longtime scout after his playing days. Brewer was a Pittsburgh Pirates scout from 1957 to 1974 and later worked for the Major League Scouting Bureau. He also developed a youth baseball program in Los Angeles which produced some future Major Leaguers, including Bob Watson and Reggie Smith.

Riley said Brewer was a class act both on and off the field.

"Chet was a very spiritual and ethical man," Riley said. "A good person as well as a good pitcher."

Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.