Two streets in North Augusta’s Riverside Village at Hammond’s Ferry will be named after former pro baseball players with ties to the city.
City Administrator Todd Glover announced the naming of Brissie Drive and Wanninger Run at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon event Thursday.
Lou Brissie is well-known for not only playing baseball, but also for volunteering to fight in World War II, being severely wounded and coming back to play pro ball. Paul Louis “Pee Wee” Wanninger is much less well-known, but played a key role in ending one Major League consecutive games streak and helping another one start.
Glover told about how Wanninger, who played backup shortstop for the New York Yankees in 1925 and 1927, was substituted for Everett Scott on May 5, 1925, ending Scott’s streak at 1,307 consecutive games.
Scott was the first player referred to in newspaper stories as “Iron Man.” A similar title was later bestowed on the man who eventually broke Scott’s record – Lou Gehrig, the “Iron Horse.”
And Wanninger played a role in Gehrig’s streak, too, because it began when Gehrig was put in to pinch-hit for Wanninger on June 1, 1925. Gehrig would play in 2,130 consecutive games between then and April 30, 1939. Cal Ripken broke Gehrig’s record in 1995 and extended his streak to 2,632 games by the time he retired in 1998.
Wanninger played for Ty Cobb’s Augusta Tygers in 1923 and lived in North Augusta after he retired from baseball. He died there in 1981 and was buried in his hometown, Birmingham, Ala.
Brissie, whose widow Diana attended Thursday’s meeting and received an ovation from the audience, was born in Anderson, S.C., raised in Ware Shoals and played at Presbyterian College after joining the Philadelphia Athletics organization.
Brissie twice tried to enlist in World War II before he was 18, but his parents refused to sign the papers. In 1942, he enlisted, went through infantry basic training at Camp Croft in Spartanburg, S.C., and by 1943 was deployed to Italy with the 88th Infantry Division.
In 1944, a 170 mm shell exploded at Brissie’s feet. It broke both his ankles and shattered the bones in his lower left leg into 30 pieces. Doctors wanted to amputate it, but he talked them out of it.
“I just told them I wouldn’t be able to play baseball without a leg,” Brissie told The Augusta Chronicle in 2007. “I can’t tell you what they were thinking, but in any event they didn’t do it and that was my good fortune.”
He eventually recovered and was pitching for the Athletics by 1947. He retired in 1953 with a 44-48 record, 29 saves and 4.07 career ERA, and settled in North Augusta in 1974. In 2012, the North Augusta Sports Commission created the Lou Brissie Award to recognize contributions to the community with a focus on athletics. He died in 2014.
Reach James Folker at (706) 823-3338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.