A baseball story

Baseball was invented in America and, typically American, it is a game of comparisons and percentages: this year to last, this player to that, earned-run averages, batting averages, and runs batted in.

It's a game of strategy and strikeouts, base hits, pop flies, home runs, and grand-slammers.

It is also a game rich in lore: tall stories and short, great moments and sad ones - stories passed from one generation of baseball lovers to the next.

A few years ago I was given ''The Baseball Encyclopedia: The Complete and Official Record of Major League Baseball'' (Macmillan). I was awed by its size: 2,245 pages of names, games, teams, awards, and statistics.

On Page 1602 I found the name of a pitcher I know. His ''lifetime'' stats, compiled during a 71/2-year career, indicated he had won 44 games and lost 48. He was a left-hander who played for the Philadlephia Athletics and, later, the Cleveland Indians.

I recalled the stories I'd heard about him when I was growing up. ''L.V.'' my father usually called him, as his real name was Leland Victor Brissie; baseball fans called him Lou.

World War II had interrupted his promising start in baseball, and a war injury nearly took his leg.

Determined to reach the pitcher's mound again, my cousin had fought, and won, a long, arduous battle to regain the use of his smashed-up left leg.

One day in 1948, as the game after the American League opener progressed in Boston, Ted Williams, the formidable Red Sox slugger, faced Lou on the mound.

Lou pitched carefully to him - but not carefully enough.

Williams recounted that game to a friend of mine several years ago. ''I hit a line drive right back at him,'' Ted said. ''I hit his tin leg and it sounded like I hit a great big drum. B-O-O-O-M. You could hear it all over the park.

''Down he goes, y'know. Everybody knows Brissie's been hurt during the service and has got this leg that's got a metal plate in it. And there he is on the ground. There's a lot of anxiety in the stands for this guy.

''At first I ran to first base because they (the Philadelphia A's) were beating us. (By the way, he did beat us that day.)

''I get to first base and everybody's out there at the mound. So I went out there and he's laying on the ground, y'know.

''He looks up and sees me and he says, 'Ted, why didn't you pull the ball?' ''

When I saw Lou four years ago, I told him about Williams's recollection of that April game in 1948. He looked at me, a half smile on his face, and nodded slightly but made no comment.

I realized that, in the years I've known him, he has never talked much about baseball.

It seems he has left the talking to everyone else.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.