Thursday, November 28, 2013
North Augusta resident Lou Brissie, a former Major League Baseball player and World War II veteran, has died. He was 89.
Brissie, who played MLB baseball from 1947 until 1953, was a native of Ware Shoals. Ware Shoals High School named its baseball field after Brissie on Veterans Day.
Lamar Garrard, a close friend of Brissie's, called him “a great man.”
“It was an honor to know Lou,” Garrard said. “He was a true American hero and patriot. He was a fine gentleman and led his life in a way that was a great example for others. He always put others first.”
Garrard said Brissie had been in the hospital for five months.
“He had a long, hard last five months in the hospital,” Garrard said. “It was an honor to know him, and we're going to miss him.”
Brissie, Garrard and Milledge Murray would have lunch once a month, according to Garrard.
“Milledge and I would go to lunch with Lou every month for years,” Garrard said. “Lou would tell us great stories about his time in baseball. The people he knew in the baseball world were amazing. He had fantastic stories.”
Murray, a local historian and a friend of Brissie's, recalled a story Brissie told about his first career game.
“His first game was Babe Ruth Day, his second to last appearance in Yankee Stadium,” Murray said. “The very first time he pitches in the major leagues, it's in Yankee Stadium and Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb are in the stands. Isn't that incredible?”
Brissie was injured during his time in World War II, when a shell exploded and shattered his left tibia. He fought to keep the leg and became an All-Star in 1949.
“His story is one of the great stories of overcoming an obstacle to achieve a goal when you think about it,” Murray said.
“He's telling them not to amputate because he's going to pitch in the major leagues. Then he goes and does it.”
During his final few months, while in the hospital, Brissie lost a lot of weight and was having complications, according to Murray.
“He started losing weight and he had a lot of complications,” Murray said. “Lamar and I saw him about a little over a week ago and he was very, very thin. We later learned they had to take him downtown to the downtown VA and give him four pints of blood. That's just serious when you have that kind of situation going on.”
Both Garrard and Murray told stories of how Brissie would visit wounded soldiers in the VA hospital to cheer them up.
“He would go to the VA quite often on crutches and visit soldiers who were wounded and give them encouragement,” Murray said. “I think that was something he did in life, and I admire him for that. I know that he was an encourager all of his life and his mind was sharp.”
“Every week he went down to the VA,” Garrard said. “He went to see the wounded soldiers, to talk to them and make sure they were in good spirits. I admired that he did that.”
Brissie was a Ware Shoals native, but lived in North Augusta for the final 40 years of his life.
T.J. Lundeen is a reporter for the North Augusta Star. Follow him on Twitter @lundeentj for more updates.