Chet Brewer

This article was written by Thomas Kern - Bill Staples Jr.

“There was no better teammate. … He’ll do anything to win.”James “Cool Papa” Bell1


Chet Brewer (TRADING CARD DB)When legendary pitcher Satchel Paige became the first to be inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971 based on his Negro League accomplishments, he told Afro-American reporter Sam Lacy that he thought there were others who should be considered for future enshrinement. His list of worthy peers included Chet Brewer, Biz Mackey, Bullet Rogan, and Jud Wilson.”2 Brewer – a pitcher known for his durability and long career – is the only player on Satchel’s wish list yet to be honored in Cooperstown.

Chester Arthur Brewer was born on January 14, 1907, in Leavenworth, Kansas to William Albert, 22, and Minnie Belle (née Davis) Brewer, 21. William and Minnie, both Kansas natives, were married on August 31, 1905, and blessed with five children.3 Chet was the oldest.4

Chet’s father worked as a miner and, around 1914 he relocated his family to Des Moines, Iowa, where he secured a job as a supply man with the Great Western Railway.5 Arthur Brewer, William’s brother, had moved to Des Moines years earlier and Chet’s family followed suit.6

Racism fueled the Brewer family move to Iowa. “Des Moines was like a breath of fresh air for us. We got rid of a lot of racial prejudice we found in Kansas,” said Chet. “Everything there (in Leavenworth) was either all-white or all-black. We lived in an integrated neighborhood, and I went to integrated schools in Des Moines. We blacks could go to movies in Des Moines and not have to sit back with the projector,” he recalled.7

Iowa also provided young Chet with the opportunities to develop his athletic skills and competitive spirit. He was a member of the colored YMCA, the Cocker Street Branch, in Des Moines. Young Chet also attended Olive McHenry school (sixth through eighth grade), where he developed into a star ballplayer. In 1920 he carried his school ball club to the baseball championship, where they finished runner-up after a 2-0 defeat. As a towering eighth-grader, Chet led his team to an undefeated season in 1921 – they outscored the competition by an average of 10 runs per game.8

“Chet was a great athlete around Des Moines,” said classmate Allen Ashby. “He was an excellent basketball player and a good football player. He and I played on basketball and football teams together, but I couldn’t carry his baseball shoes.9 After graduating from Olive McHenry, Chet entered West High School. There, he participated in a variety of sports, including football, basketball, and track.10 The school did not have a baseball program, so he competed with local clubs. “I have very fond memories of Des Moines and West High School,” said Brewer.11

It was with these local teams where young Chet began to draw attention for his strong right arm.12 In June 1922 Brewer signed with the Des Moines Independents, the “crack local Negro club” led by Emery Jackson. In his first game against adult, semipro competition, the 15-year-old righty pitched a 15-inning complete game, ending in a 5-5 tie.13

The following season, 1923, Brewer picked up with the Capital City (CC) Giants.14 On May 13, Chet recorded his first victory in semipro competition with a 10-0 shutout over his previous team, the Independents.15 The Des Moines Tribune reported, “Chester Brewer … was on the mound for the Giants and he pitched sensational ball. The Independents made only four hits during the nine innings as Brewer had plenty of stuff on the ball. The Giant hurler whiffed 12 men. He did not walk a single batter and only five men reached first base.” 16

On May 29 the Des Moines Tribune announced that John Donaldson’s All-Nations ballclub, one of the strongest traveling teams, arrived in town to battle the CC Giants. According to pregame promotions, Brewer was slated to start against Donaldson, the legend who at 32 was twice Chet’s age.17

On May 30, the All-Nations team battled the CC Giants at Western League Park. The All-Nations, described as a well-balanced team, won 8-2. “The game, despite the one-sided score, was well played and interesting. The All-Nations won the game because they bunched hits with local misplays. Chester Brewer started for the locals. He pitched five innings, going out in the sixth when the visitors hit him for two solid clouts.” William Bell, a right hander with a good fastball, hurled the first five innings for the All-Nations, allowing just one run. John Donaldson pitched the final four innings, holding the Giants to one run. Lefty Blackburn replaced Brewer and allowed two runs in four innings.”18

A few weeks later the crack Negro squad from Minnesota, the Minneapolis Browns, arrived in Des Moines to take on the CC Giants. Brewer was the starting pitcher; however, no results were published after the game. In fact, coverage of Brewer in Iowa newspapers disappeared completely during the summer of 1923. One possible reason is provided by Negro League historian James Riley, who wrote that as a student at West High School, during the summer breaks, Brewer played baseball for a fast colored team known as Brown’s Tennessee Rats.19 Given that the Tennessee Rats had traveled to Des Moines the previous fall (September 1922) to battle the CC Giants at Western League Park, it is quite possible that Brewer landed on the Rats recruitment radar at this time.20

Shortly before Brewer’s 17th birthday in January 1924, a headline in the Des Moines Tribune announced, “Chester Brewer to Manage Local Club,” which turned out to be the Des Moines Independents. The sports editors praised the young athlete as “one of the best Negro baseball pitchers in this section, who has made quite a record the past two years.” Teammate Harry Crump stepped in as assistant manager to help Brewer book games for the Independents’ new season.21 Young Brewer and Crump started practice on March 9, in preparation for their 1924 season opener – scheduled against their former ballclub, the CC Giants.22

Most likely the season opener for the Independents never occurred, for shortly after the announcement, Brewer learned that he was going to become a father. On March 17, 1924, 17-year-old Chester Brewer married 15-year-old Mary Marguerite Davis.23 Their son, Chester Eugene Brewer, was born five months later, on August 5, 1924.24

With new responsibilities as a parent, Chet abandoned his managerial role with the Independents and returned to the CC Giants. Manager Emory Jackson relied on veteran southpaw Otis Moore and the young Brewer as his one-two punch on the mound. Teams visiting Western League Park in Des Moines to battle the CC Giants that season included John Donaldson’s All-Nations team on June 15, and Leland’s Classy Browns of Omaha on June 22.25

Prior to the game against the All-Nations team, CC Giants’ manager Jackson announced that his club had signed two new pitchers in preparation for the All-Nations game.26 The next day, Brewer was no longer a member of the CC Giants ballclub.27

It appears that Brewer took his pitching services to another team calling themselves the Giants – this one being the barnstorming Gilkerson’s Union Giants, based out of Spring Valley, Illinois, located roughly 100 miles southwest of Chicago. On June 23, The Courier of Waterloo, Iowa, reported that Gilkerson’s Union Giants defeated Grundy Center in a close 2-0 victory, a complete game shutout by Brewer.28 The team was considered one of the top independent barnstorming teams. They dazzled fans in small towns across the Midwest and into Canada, playing in over 100 games a season.

According to Riley, with Gilkerson’s ballclub Brewer developed into “an outstanding finesse pitcher with good control and a retentive memory, he spotted the ball, mixing a wide repertory of pitches that included a live running fastball, a sweeping curve, an overhand drop, a deep sinker, an emery ball, and a good screwball.” It was during his time with Gilkerson’s team that he learned to throw a cut ball from Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe.

Brewer also credited Rube Curry for his development as a pitcher. According to Brewer, “Rube Currie [as his surname was also spelled] of Chicago was a master pitcher. He kind of liked me, and when we’d go to Chicago, he’d say, ‘Come over here, let me tell you a few things about this game.”29 Curry’s advice and Brewer’s natural talent ensured he had an arsenal of deliveries to employ. Said Brewer:

“I threw an overhand curve ball, what we called a drop ball. It started about letter high, then dropped to the knees. Of course, I could throw a screw ball and had a good, live, running fast ball … a cut ball? I got credit for that. If I picked up a rough[ed up] one, I didn’t throw it out of the game. I didn’t exactly put the cuts on it myself, but I could pitch it. … But with the curve ball I had, I could win without scratching the ball.”30

Chet honed his skills with Gilkerson’s Union Giants, and by the end of the summer he found himself in a position to seek revenge against the All-Nations ball club. On August 7, 1924, in Mason City, Iowa, the Union Giants defeated the All-Nations 12 to 4. Brewer pitched another complete game, allowing 12 scattered hits. The opposing pitcher for All-Nations was Sam “Jap” Crowe, the lefty who had replaced Chet when he left the CC Giants.31

Brewer’s journey towards a career in professional baseball brought more encounters with his former teammates. On August 26, the Des Moines Tribune reported that Brewer and the Union Giants defeated the Rats, 9 to 4, in Lakeview, Iowa. A record crowd for Sunday games (for Lakeview) witnessed Brewer limit the Rats to six scattered hits in a complete game victory.32 Three weeks later a rematch occurred. This time Brewer dominated Brown’s Tennessee Rats in Ackley, Iowa, limiting his former team to just two hits, and leading Gilkerson’s Union Giants to a 5-0 victory.33

According to the Center for Negro Leagues Baseball Research, Union Giants owner Robert Gilkerson had a positive professional relationship with J. L. Wilkinson, owner of the Kansas City Monarchs and the All-Nations franchises. Over the years, many star players for Gilkerson’s Union Giants were recruited to play for the Monarchs and/or All-Nations, including Rube Curry, Eddie Dwight, George Giles, Hurley McNair, Harold “Yellow Horse” Morris, Carroll “Dink” Mothell, Cristóbal Torriente, Maurice “Doolittle” Young, and T.J. Young.34

In an interview with historian John Holway, Brewer said, “they [the All-Nations] recommended me to Wilkinson’s Monarchs. … When I got out of high school, the Monarchs sent for me.35 Wilkinson’s signing of Brewer launched the pitcher’s long, illustrious, and international career. The Monarchs were a very good ballclub before Chet arrived, winning the Colored World Series against Hilldale in 1924. Brewer was a modest part of KC’s rotation upon his arrival in 1925, but he became a workhorse thereafter, regularly starting between 15 and 20 games each year and finishing most of them.

The 1925 Kansas City Monarchs were managed by José Mendéz and led by pitching ace Bullet Joe Rogan. The future Hall of Fame pitcher also led the team in batting with a .360 average, ahead of Hurley McNair (.332), Newt Joseph (.323), Dobie Moore (.312), and Newt Allen (.304). Rogan finished the 1925 season with a 15-2 league record. Rounding out the starting rotation were Nelson Dean (11-3), William Bell (10-3), Cliff Bell (4-6). and Bill Drake (9-6). As an 18-year-old rookie, Brewer received few opportunities to pitch, and when he did, he was rudely treated by NNL hitters. His record of 2-1 for the heavy-hitting Monarchs was belied by his 7.52 ERA. The Monarchs lost the rematch of the Colored World Series against Hilldale five games to one; Brewer did not appear.

The 1926 season was a different story for Brewer. He joined a starting rotation that returned Rogan, Dean, and the two Bells, but now featured Chet as a regular in place of the departed Bill Drake. Brewer responded to the opportunity, going 12-1 with a 2.37 ERA. The Monarchs failed in their attempt to make the World Series for a third consecutive year, losing to the Chicago American Giants in the best of nine Negro National League playoff. In that series, Brewer pitched a 5-0 shutout in Game Three, but lost 2-0 to Rube Curry in Game Six. In the ninth inning of Game Seven, he entered the game with two on and none out. The two inherited runners scored on an error by Monarchs rookie catcher T. J. Young, and the Monarchs lost, 4-3. Brewer was to start Game Nine for all the marbles. However, the Monarchs lost Game Eight—the first of the deciding doubleheader – 1-0 in a thriller with Rogan and Willie Foster going the distance. When Rogan, who had been named manager for 1926, saw Foster preparing to pitch the second game, he took the mound again himself, only to lose 5-0 with the game called by the umpires after five innings because of darkness.36

In 1927, the Monarchs again finished behind Chicago. Brewer was in a rotation along with Rogan, William Bell, and George Mitchell. He went 8-7, tossing nine complete games, but his ERA fell to a below-average 3.83. However, in 59 plate appearances, he slashed .347/.458./.510 for a 172 OPS+. A partial makeover of the Monarchs rotation in 1928 saw the arrivals of Andy and Army Cooper. Brewer’s ERA improved to 3.52 (108 ERA+), but his record tailed off somewhat to 6-8.

In 1929, fueled by outstanding hitting thanks to Rogan, Newt Allen, Frank Duncan, Leroy Taylor, and Brewer himself (switch-hitting at a .333 clip), Kansas City became first- and second-half champions of the NNL, posting a combined 63-17 record, 12 games ahead of second place St. Louis. With no Eastern Colored League to contend with in a postseason World Series, the Monarchs were unofficial champions of all Black Baseball. Many consider 1929 Brewer’s best year. He went 15-2, leading the NNL in winning percentage (.882), ERA (1.93), and WHIP (.960), per

On August 7, 1930, Brewer participated in one of the most famous pitching duels ever—a contest against Smokey Joe Williams of the Homestead Grays at Muehlebach Field in KC. On that night, Williams and Brewer each threw complete games, with Williams striking out 27 and Brewer 19 in a 1-0 Grays victory. The only run scored was in the 12th inning after Oscar Charleston walked and Chaney White hit a two-out double.38 The Pittsburgh Courier was not charitable when it came to describing Brewer’s pitching. “The opposing pitcher was cheating without the question of a doubt. An emery ball in daylight is very deceptive but at night it is about as easy to see as an insect in the sky.”39

During the Depression, Brewer found other venues for his game besides his play with the Monarchs. Recruited by the Habana Leones, Brewer played for them in the shortened 1930 Cuban Winter League and then in the UNICO Special Season that immediately followed. It was Brewer’s only time in Cuba.

Brewer later recounted, “I left the Monarchs in ’31 and played up in Crookston, Minnesota. They were hiring colored players to play.” The Crookston Red Sox were an integrated team playing an independent schedule. Said Brewer, “that was one of the most beautiful summers I ever lived.”40 Brewer pitched for Crookston against the Monarchs, who did not participate in the NNL that year. In August, he rejoined Kansas City in time for its “championship series” against the Homestead Grays. The 1931 Grays were reputedly one of the greatest teams ever, and even though St. Louis won an abbreviated NNL title, the successful exploits of the Monarchs and Homestead playing independent schedules during the season argued for a series to determine bragging rights. The Grays prevailed, winning the series six games to three. Brewer was 1-1 for the Monarchs.41

Chet was part of a Monarchs tour to Mexico in late 1931 and then again in October 1932 when the team traveled to play the premier Mexican team, the Mexico City Aztecs. Fortified by Jud Wilson, Turkey Stearnes, and Willie Foster, the Monarchs made short work of the Aztecs, finishing 19-1.42

In 1932, Brewer pitched for the Washington Pilots in the East-West League and then rejoined the Monarchs that summer for its independent schedule. He continued playing for Kansas City through 1935. Managed by Rogan and then Sam Crawford in 1935, Chet played at various times alongside his batterymate T.J. Young, Newt Allen, Willie Wells, Cool Papa Bell, Quincy Trouppe, Charlie Beverly, George Giles, Frank Duncan, Andy Cooper, Willard Brown, and Satchel Paige.

In 1934, Brewer made the first of two appearances in the East-West Colored All-Star Classic. One of the top vote-getters, he pitched a scoreless middle three innings for the West, followed by Willie Foster, who gave up the only run scored by either team. Paige got the decision in the East’s 1-0 victory.43 He would make his second East-West All-Star appearance in 1947.

Brewer’s time with the Monarchs in the 1930s led to his involvement in several iconic, trailblazing competitions. In 1934, still playing an independent schedule, Wilkinson organized two significant tours for his ballclub: first, against the renowned House of David team across Canada and the second, via entry in the Denver Post Tournament as its first Black team. Brewer was featured alongside fellow Monarchs hurlers—Andy Cooper, Charlie Beverly, and Sam Thompson. Chet kicked off the series against the House of David with a 4-3 win. Later, the Denver Post Tournament saw the Monarchs as a co-favorite with the House of David, managed by Grover Cleveland Alexander and famously augmented by none other than Satchel Paige. Brewer pitched multiple times for KC in the tournament, helping get them to the semifinals against the House of David, where Brewer lost 2-1 to Paige. The Monarchs won another game to qualify for the finals, again facing the House of David in a Brewer-Spike Hunter match-up. Kansas City came up short, 2-0.44

The Monarchs traveled to Canada again in 1935 and faced the integrated Bismarck (North Dakota) Churchills in a famous 30-strikeout contest between Brewer and Paige, who was on the Bismarck squad. The game ended in a 0-0 tie.45 Brewer subsequently joined Bismarck in time for its participation in the inaugural semipro National Baseball Congress Tournament in Wichita, Kansas. Its integrated squad included Brewer, Paige, Hilton Smith, Barney Morris, Quincy Trouppe, and Ted Radcliffe—a formidable starting rotation. Bismarck won the tournament, aided by Brewer’s three starts, all wins. He struck out 19 and posted a 2.63 ERA in 24 innings pitched.46

Andy Cooper became Kansas City’s new manager in 1936 and several younger pitchers found their way into the rotation—Barry Morris, Lefty Wilson, and Floyd Kranson. Brewer, by then 29, might have been expendable. He left the Monarchs and joined the New York Cubans. Managed by Martín Dihigo, the Cubans finished sixth in the Negro National League II (NNL2). Brewer turned in a record of 5-7 with a 4.29 ERA.

Brewer was a part of one of the more famous Caribbean baseball sagas – the 1937 Dominican League. In early 1937, Brewer was recruited by Gus Greenlee, owner of the Pittsburgh Crawfords, a formidable power in the NNLII. The Pittsburgh Courier reported, “The Crawfords have attempted to bolster their pitching staff by signing Chet Brewer.”47 As it developed, Brewer was pirated by the Dominican Republic, along with a plethora of other Black players. Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson were the headliners, but several Negro League teams lost talent, including Brewer’s Crawfords. On May 22, the Courier reported the “Pittsburgh Crawfords have lost four valuable men by the raid route. Satchell Paige and W.G. (Cy) Perkins on April 17th, Spoon] Carter and [Chet] Brewer on May 13th.”48

The Dominican Tournament between Ciudad Trujillo, Águilas Cibaeñas, and Estrellas Orientales, orchestrated by dictator Rafael Trujillo to help support his grip on power, recruited over 30 Negro League ballplayers. Brewer pitched for Águilas and famously threw a one-hitter to defeat Ciudad Trujillo and Paige. The championship game between the same two squads saw Brewer pitch four scoreless innings against Leroy Matlock, only to give up three runs and load the bases before relinquishing the mound to Martín Dihigo, who promptly gave up a grand slam to Sam Bankhead. Chet’s Águilas got close in the ninth, 8-6, but Paige held on for the win and championship.49

Barred from playing again in the Negro Leagues in 1937 for a breach of contract, the solid core that played in the Dominican barnstormed as the Trujillo All-Stars in 1937, winning the prestigious Denver Post Tournament. Afterwards, Brewer and his teammates barnstormed their way East, playing a mix of American and National League All-Stars.50

After initially signing to play with the Baltimore Elite Giants, Brewer’s career took yet another turn when in 1938 and 1939, he accepted an offer from the Tampico Alijadores in the Mexican League as their first American Black player. Brewer’s two seasons included an exemplary 1938 when he went 17-5 in 22 appearances with six shutouts and 153 strikeouts. He was 12-7 the following year with two no-hitters and was selected to play in the Mexican League All-Star game. In both campaigns, Tampico finished third.51

Brewer split his time during the 1940 season, playing with both the barnstorming Memphis Red Sox and Bakersfield Colored Cubs. On the West Coast he defeated the mighty Cominta All-Stars from Mexico City, handing them their only defeat in eight games.52 The following year found Brewer first with the NNL2’s cellar-dweller, the Philadelphia Stars, and then back with the eventual Negro American League (NAL) champion Monarchs later that summer.

Like most Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Brewer supported the war effort. At age 35 in April 1942 he left organized baseball to join the North American Aviation company team in California.53 Years later he reflected on his service. “During the war I was inspector for North American Aircraft. I was their first Negro inspector. I worked my way up from janitor to inspector.”54 His work during the war ensured him a pension in his retirement.

During World War II, Brewer also made headlines supporting the “Double V” campaign championed by the Pittsburgh Courier that supported victory abroad while demanding a victory at home in the fight for equal rights for Black Americans.55

Backed by their unions, the Local 887 United Auto Workers and CIO Union of North American Aircraft, Brewer and teammate Lou Dials joined a protest against the Pacific Coast League demanding they “give tryouts and equal opportunities to ball players of any race, color or creed.”56 The protest failed, but Brewer caught the attention of a few teams. Oakland Oaks owner Vic DeVicenzi ordered manager Johnny Vergez to let Brewer and Dials join the team, but the skipper refused. Vergez was fired, but DeVicenzi dropped his plan to use the two players. Two years later, a Cleveland Indians farm team in Bakersfield offered Chet a position as player-coach. George Trautman, the minor-league commissioner, allowed the deal but Cleveland GM Roger Peckinpaugh nixed it.57

Perhaps dejected from the failed protests, Brewer left the U.S. and joined the Mexico City Diablos Rojos in 1944 along with Quincy Trouppe, Willie Wells, and Wild Bill Wright. Despite the presence of the Negro League stars, the Diablos Rojos finished last in the Mexican League standings.58

Brewer’s frustrations with the color line in organized baseball peaked in the spring of 1945. Due to the shortage of players supporting the war effort, MLB teams signed white over-the-hill veterans, a 15-year-old pitcher, and a one-armed outfielder. It broke Brewer’s heart to witness major league teams choosing to sign a white man with a disability over a fully-abled man of color. “How do you think I felt when I saw a one-armed outfielder?” he expressed years later.59

In 1946 Brewer signed with the NAL’s Chicago American Giants, but then moved to the Cleveland Buckeyes. He remained there during the Buckeyes’ NAL championship in 1947, losing Game Five in the World Series against the NNL2 champion New York Cubans. As mentioned above, the 40-year-old Brewer was selected to pitch in the first of two East-West All-Star games, tossing the last three innings on July 27. Brewer gave up one run, and got the save as the West won 5-2.60 He was on the Buckeyes’ roster again in 1948, pitching mostly in relief. In both years after the Buckeyes’ seasons, he pitched for New Orleans in the Negro Southern League playoffs and was on the 1948 Creoles championship team.

As his career wound down, Brewer pitched for a time in 1949 with the Buckeyes, temporarily relocated to Louisville, but then moved to the St. Jean Braves in the Canadian Provincial League and afterwards to the Michigan City Cubs of the semipro Michigan-Indiana League.

Even in his early 40s, Brewer found time for winter ball. He returned to Puerto Rico in 1947-1948 for his second stint (he’d played for Mayagüez in 1940-1941), helping pitch the Caguas Criollos to the Puerto Rico winter league title over Mayagüez.61 “I spent two winters in Panama [1948-1949 and 1949-1950],” Brewer wrote. “The second year we [Carta Vieja] won the Caribbean Series.”62 Brewer defeated Dan Bankhead and the Puerto Rican entry in the tournament, 9-3.63

He pitched again for Michigan City in 1950 and then in Canada for several teams in 1951, including the Indian Head Rockets and the Sceptre Panthers. In 1952, at the age of 45, Brewer was named player-manager with the Riverside Comets of the California League, making him the second Black manager in Organized Baseball. He went to Canada in 1953 as a player-manager with the Carmen Cardinals in the Mandak League, his last season in the game.64

Brewer was a fixture in the California Winter League. He appeared in 13 winter league seasons from 1926 to 1946 for teams ranging from the Philadelphia Royal Giants, Cleveland Giants, Wilson Elite Giants, and Kansas City Royals. According to author William McNeil, Brewer appeared in over 70 games with a record of 43-13 and 42 complete games. His 1928-29 season with the Cleveland Giants was his best, as he led the CWL in most pitching categories.65

Brewer’s offseason sojourns in southern California led to a permanent home in greater LA. In the early 1940s, according to Timothy Gay, “Brewer soon created his own traveling team, dubbed it the ‘Kansas City Royals,’ and managed to attract some top-flight ballplayers.”66 One notable star player to join Brewer’s Royals in 1945 was shortstop Jackie Robinson, whom Chet encouraged to move to second base.67

The CWL connection tied him to manager Lon Goodwin, organizer of goodwill tours across the Pacific. Goodwin invited Brewer to participate in the 1933-1934 tour with fellow Monarchs Newt Allen, Andy Cooper, Dink Mothell, Bullet Rogan, and T.J. Young. Playing as the Philadelphia Royal Giants, the team compiled a record of 46-4 with stops in Hawaii, Japan, China, and the Philippines.68 In Manila, sportswriters declared that Brewer’s mound work was more impressive than that of future Hall of Famer Lefty Gomez, star pitcher of the 1934 barnstorming MLB All-Americans.69

Throughout the 1930s, Brewer participated in exhibition postseason games against teams with a mixture of American and National League talent. Wilkinson’s Monarchs took advantage of the autumn circuit of teams assembled by All-Stars like Dizzy Dean to test their mettle against their White peers. The Monarchs more than held their own, often winning.70 Brewer famously won an 11-0 shutout against Ted Lyons, Jimmie Foxx, Heinie Manush, and Bill Dickey in Jamestown, North Dakota in the summer of 1934.71

Brewer led an active life after his playing and managing days were over. He parlayed his talent into a scouting role, first for the Hollywood Stars in 1957 and then for the Pittsburgh Pirates until 1974. Chet also found time to establish a youth program in Los Angeles, a precursor to MLB’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Program. In a 1980s interview, Brewer said, “I have this semi-pro baseball program (a team called the Watts Giants) for kids from 14 to 23 years of age. Every Sunday, I run it as a kind of showcase for the major league scouting bureau. … They honored me by naming that ball diamond Chet Brewer Field. … A lot of players left there under my tutelage.”72

After the Pirates won the World Series in 1971, the organization presented Brewer with a championship ring.73 In fact, Brewer was so beloved by the team, and Roberto Clemente in particular, that the Pirates sent him Clemente’s uniform after the beloved outfielder was killed in a plane crash.74

Reflecting on the complexity of the game and the era in which he played, Brewer said, “I don’t believe in hate. I do believe in righting wrongs. … Hate puts both of you in the grave. Working with kids at clinics, I do more good in five minutes than the hate groups will do in five years.”75

On March 26, 1990, Brewer died in Whittier, California. He was 83. Buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery, he was survived by his wife Tina and son Chester.76

In 2005 Brewer was named as one of 39 people who appeared on special ballots aimed at selecting prominent Negro Leaguers and pre-Negro League figures for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, he was not one of the 17 chosen in February 2006. He will be eligible once again via the Classic Baseball Era Committee in 2025.



This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and Rick Zucker and fact-checked by Dana Berry.

Photo credit: Trading Card DB.



Statistical references are from unless otherwise noted.



1 Kazuo Sayama & Bill Staples Jr., Gentle Black Giants: A History of Negro Leaguers in Japan (Fresno, California: Nisei Baseball Research Project Press, 2019), 346.

2 Sam Lacy, “Cooperstown to Colombia and Back,” Afro-American (Baltimore), August 14, 1971: 7.

3 William A. Brewer in the 1910 United States Federal Census. See also

4 William Brewer in the 1930 United States Federal Census.

5 U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 for William Albert Brewer, Iowa, Des Moines City, 2, Draft Card B.

6 1910 United States Federal Census for Arthur Brewer.

7 “Baseball great Brewer joins Register ‘Hall’,” Des Moines Register, April 1, 1984: 24.

8 “Olive McHenry Baseball Team,” Des Moines Tribune, June 21, 1921: 10. See also the 1920 and 1930 Federal Census.

9 “Baseball great Brewer joins Register ‘Hall’.”

10 U.S., Baseball Questionnaires, 1945-2005 for Chester A. Brewer.

11 “Baseball great Brewer joins Register ‘Hall’.”

12 “Baseball great Brewer joins Register ‘Hall’.”

13 “Independents Battle Beaver 15-Inning Tie,” Des Moines Tribune, June 29, 1922: 16.

14 “Minneapolis Browns Play Here Tomorrow,” Des Moines Tribune, June 9, 1923: 4.

15 “Capital City Giants Defeat Independents,” Des Moines Tribune, May 14, 1923: 12.

16 “Capital City Giants Defeat Independents.”

17 “All-Nations to Play Locals Here Tomorrow,” Des Moines Tribune, May 29, 1923: 12.

18 “All-Nations Defeat Capital City Giants,” Des Moines Tribune, May 31,1923: 20. Brewer also pitched well on June 24, 1923, in Runnells, Iowa, against the semipro team from Newton, allowing just one run on three hits during six or seven innings of work. Poor fielding and relief pitching resulted in a 7-0 defeat; however, young Brewer was improving with each pitch and building confidence. “Newton 7—Capital City Giants 0,” Des Moines Register, June 25, 1923: 5.

19 James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994), 105-107.

20 “To Play Tennessee Rats Here Tomorrow (photo),” Des Moines Tribune, September 16, 1922: 6. Brewer himself corroborates this possibility in a 1983 interview with the Kansas City Times where he recalled a summer of barnstorming with Brown’s Tennessee Rats. In doing so, he compared the team to the one depicted on the silver screen in the 1976 film, The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings. “We’d come to town in our Model T Ford and go up and down the street with a megaphone and slept in tents and played and clowned,” Brewer said. “It was the only way we knew to make money.” He and his teammates washed their own uniforms and lived out of shaving kits. “It was a tough life,” Brewer said. “Reunion stirs memories for Monarchs pitcher Chet Brewer,” Kansas City Times, November 3, 1983: 41.

21 “Chester Brewer to Manage Local Club.” Des Moines Tribune, January 7, 1924: 9.

22 “Independents Start Practice March 9,” Des Moines Tribune, March 3, 1924: 16.


24 Mary Davis in the Iowa, U.S., Delayed Birth Records, 1856-1940.

25 “Capital City Giants Play at League Park,” Des Moines Tribune, June 7, 1924: 7.

26 “Capital City Giants Sign 3 New Players,” Des Moines Tribune, June 13, 1924: 19.

27 As it turned out, a left-handed pitcher named “Jap” Crowe and an unidentified pitcher named Rice had taken Brewer’s place. “All-Nations to Play Local Giants Sunday,” Des Moines Tribune, June 14, 1924, 7. John Donaldson was a no-show as well, being replaced by Edwards, who pitched a five-hit shutout against the local club. “Capital City Giants Lose Pitchers’ Battle,” Des Moines Tribune, June 16, 1924: 19.

28 “Union Giants Defeat Grundy Center, 2-0,” The Courier (Waterloo, Iowa), June 23, 1924: 8.

29 John B. Holway, Black Diamonds: Life in the Negro Leagues from the Men Who Lived It (New York: Stadium Books, 1991), 26.

30 Holway, Black Diamonds, 26-27.

31 “Gilkerson’s Union Giants Win 4, Lose 3,” Pittsburgh Courier, August 9, 1924: 6.

32 “Union Giants 9 – Rats 4,” Des Moines Tribune, August 26, 1924: 14.

33 “Union Giants Win,” Sioux City (Iowa) Journal, September 19, 1924: 14.

34 Dr. Layton Revel and Luis Muñoz, Forgotten Heroes: Chet Brewer, Center for Negro Baseball Research (2014): 3.

35 Holway, Black Diamonds, 26.

36 John Holway, The Complete Book of Baseball’s Negro Leagues: The Other Half of Baseball History (Fern Park, Florida: Hastings House, 2001), 210-211. Phil S. Dixon, Wilber “Bullet” Joe Rogan and the Kansas City Monarchs (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2010), 64.

37 Holway, The Complete Book of Baseball’s Negro Leagues, 244.

38 “Grays Win 1-0 as ‘Smokey Joe’ Fans 27 K.C. Players,” Chicago Defender, August 9, 1930: 8.

39 “Smokey Joe Scores 27 Strikeouts,” Pittsburgh Courier, August 9, 1930: 15.

40 Holway, Black Diamonds, 28-29.

41 The Pittsburgh Courier covered the best of nine series throughout September. Their September 19, 1931, edition wrapped up the story. “Grays Take 6 of 9 From Kay Sees, Head East,” Pittsburgh Courier, September 19, 1931: 14.

42 Revel and Muñoz, Forgotten Heroes: Chet Brewer, 13.

43 Larry Lester, Black Baseball’s National Showcase: The East-West All-Star Game, 1933-1953 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001), 56.

44 “Paige Defeats Monarchs in 2 To 1 Thriller, ‘Satch’ wins 3 in Five Days in Big Denver Tourney” (reprinted from the Denver Post and authored by Leonard Cahn), Pittsburgh Courier, August 18, 1934: 14. See also “House of David Nine Captures Denver Tourney,” Des Moines Register, August 14, 1934: 7.

45 “Paige, Brewer, Hurl Double Shutout,” Winnipeg Evening Tribune, June 7, 1935: 15.

46 Revel and Muñoz, Forgotten Heroes: Chet Brewer, 20; Tom Dunkel, Color Blind: The Forgotten Team that Broke Baseball’s Color Line (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2013), 189-236.

47 Chester Washington, “Baseball Circus Comes to Town, Sez Chez,” Pittsburgh Courier, May 8, 1937: 17.

48 [No Title], Pittsburgh Courier, May 22, 1937: 16.

49 Averell “Ace” Smith, The Pitcher and the Dictator: Satchel Paige’s Unlikely Season in the Dominican Republic (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2018), 96-111.

50 Smith, The Pitcher and the Dictator: 145.

51 Revel and Muñoz, Forgotten Heroes: Chet Brewer, 24-25.

52 “Comintra Nine to Face Bakersfield’s Brewer,” Los Angeles Times, September 18, 1940: 28.

53 “Brewer, Dials Quit Pro Baseball for Air Team,” Pittsburgh Courier, April 18, 1942: 17.

54 Holway, Black Diamonds, 32.

55 Eull A. Neilsen, “The Double V Campaign (1942-1945),, July 1, 2020. (

56 J. Robert Smith, “Mass Demonstration Planned for May 25,” Pittsburgh Courier, May 15, 1943, 19.

57 John Thorn, “Black Ball Part 3,” Our Game, Mar 18, 2015. (; “Reunion stirs memories for Monarchs pitcher Chet Brewer,” Kansas City Times, November 3, 1983: 41.

58 Negro Leagues Baseball eMuseum, “Personal Profiles: Chet Brewer,” 2006. ( See also

59 David Davis, “Remembering Mr. Brewer,” LA Weekly (Los Angeles), June 12, 1997, 24.

60 Lester, Black Baseball’s National Showcase: 268. A newspaper account and photo identify two other games that Brewer was purportedly selected for, the 1933 and 1948 contests, but he appeared in neither. From Revel and Muñoz, Forgotten Heroes: Chet Brewer, 56.

61 Revel and Muñoz, Forgotten Heroes: Chet Brewer, 46.

62 Holway, Black Diamonds, 32.

63William F. McNeil, Baseball’s Other All-Stars (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 2000), 178.

64 Revel and Muñoz, Forgotten Heroes: Chet Brewer, 32-37.

65 William F. McNeil, The California Winter League: America’s First Integrated Professional Baseball League (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2002): 128-133.

66Timothy M. Gay, Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert: The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball before Jackie Robinson (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010), 183.

67 Gay, Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert, 222.

68 Sayama & Staples, Gentle Black Giants, 327-336.

69 “South America Praises Chet Brewer: Called Greater than ‘Lefty’ Gomez by Fans in All Cities,” Chicago Defender, February 23, 1935: 16.

70 Gay, Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert, 52-123.

71 William F. McNeil, Black Baseball Out of Season: Pay for Play Outside the Negro Leagues (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co. Inc., 2007), 100.

72 Holway, Black Diamonds, 33. The list of Chet’s major-league protégés includes Eddie Murray, Enos Cabell, Ellis Valentine, Bob Watson, Reggie Smith, Bobby Tolan, Dave Cash, Wayne Simpson, and Dock Ellis.

73 Donald Hall, Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball (New York: Fireside Simon & Schuster, 1976), 104.

74 Wayne Lockwood, “Wayne Lockwood,” San Diego Union-Tribune, July 16, 1989: H-1.

75 Jim Murray, “No Glory for Pitcher with the Wrong Color,” Daily Independent Journal (San Rafael, California), March 2, 1967: 38.

76 Chet Brewer Obituary, Los Angeles Times, March 28, 1990: C-12. (, last accessed April 2, 2023).

Full Name

Chester Arthur Brewer


January 14, 1907 at Leavenworth, KS (USA)


March 26, 1990 at Whittier, CA (USA)

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