Leland Victor Brissie
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Leland Lou Brissie may have been one of the most improbable pitchers of all time. Brissie suffered a severe leg injury suffered during the war in Europe that would have probably ended the sports careers for most individuals.
At 16, he was pitching in the textile baseball leagues in Ware Shoals. He was impressive enough to attract an offer from the Dodgers, but his father urged him to turn it down and work out in front of Connie Mack. Later, he pitched for two years at Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC.
Brissie's life and career in sports changed on Dec. 7, 1944. On that day, while serving in Italy with the 88th Infantry Division, Brissie was hit by artillery fire. The shell shattered his left shinbone into more than 30 pieces. He also broke his left ankle and right foot.
The doctors wanted to amputate Brissie's leg, but he somehow persuaded them to send him to an evacuation hospital.
Three years later, Brissie overcame that injury and near loss of his leg to begin his career in major league baseball.
The left-hander made his Major League debut in 1947 with the Philadelphia Athletics. Because of the injury, Brissie pitched in a leg brace, but still managed to finish his career with a 44-48 record in 897.2 innings pitched. He also had 436 strikeouts and a 4.07 career earned run average.
One of Brissie's biggest seasons came in 1949 with the Athletics. Brissie finished with a 16-11 record, 118 strikeouts and a 4.28 ERA, in 229.1 innings pitched.
Grantland Rice, famed sportswriter who coined the Four Horseman nickname for Notre Dame's football team in the 1920s, wrote about the courageous performance of Brissie in an article in Sport magazine in 1948 on the stars of the Textile League.
"Venerable Connie Mack came up with one of the real finds of the year," Rice wrote. "Lou Brissie, a 215-pound southpaw, has captured the hearts of baseball fans everywhere by his courageous triumph over a severe leg injury and by his performance on the mound."
"There have been many stories of servicemen who barely escaped death and returned to play ball again. Lou Brissie's case puts him on top. Brissie's left leg was all but torn away by shell fragments in the Italian campaign. Only his great determination to play baseball again saved Brissie from losing the the leg. With the help of a heavy protective brace, Lou returned to the mound, winning 23 and losing only 5 in the Sally League last year."
Brissie was June 5, 1924 in Anderson, South Carolina. He graduated from Ware Shoals High School in Ware Shoals, South Carolina. Today, Brissie lives in North Augusta, S.C. Following his career in baseball, Brissie became the national director of the American Legion baseball program.
In 1994, he was inducted into the South Atlanta League's Hall of Fame.