Sunday, 16 March 2008

The Bill Brenner Story

Bill Brenner of Lewiston
Broncs Is Pitcher-Manager
The Lewiston Morning Tribune
LEWISTON, Idaho — Paying Manager Bill Brenner, who has his Lewiston Broncos in the thick of the Western International League second half pennant scramble, tumed over a new leaf last year.
He had made his profession baseball reputation as a catcher in both the Western International and the Pacific Coast Leagues.
But in 1952, when he took over the helm for Lewiston's second fling in the WIL, he moved from behind the plate to in front of it.
As a pitcher he shone. He won 21 games and lost 11. He was one of two Willy League chuckers to pass the 20-game mark.
How could Brenner, at 33, achieve such a success in his self-chosen and vastly different position?
"Pitching batting practice, I guess," he explains very matter-of-factly.
''I kept my arm in shape that way while managing (Vancouver of the WIL four and one-half seasons and Yakima of the same league one year).
Pro Catcher
'"When I was in high school I was a pitcher and it was the same thing in semi-pro ball. It wasn't until I turned pro I began to catch very much."
Brenner has a chance to surpass his 1952 pitching record this season. Through Aug. 27 he had won 19 games, against nine defeats.
He looks more like a catcher than pitcher. He packs 200 pounds on his 6-foot stocky frame, and the act that he's no speed merchant may account for the fact he never made the majors.
Brenner is undisputedly the knuckle-ball king of the Western International. He uses that pitch almost exclusively.
His regular receiver, Catcher Clint Cameron, says:
"He's got about two pitches - one is slow and the other one is slower."
It isn't out of the ordinary for him to win while giving up ten and more hits a game. But he doesn't usually allow the opposing team to bunch its bingles. That's how he gets by."
Hits Too
No slouch at the plate himself, he is currently batting .292, getting 31 blows in 106 official 'trips, including six homers.
Today Brenner leads the WIL Most innings pitched—253; fewest walks—58; most hits given up—303 in 40 games.
He has an earned run average of 4.14. He keeps that figure in the upper levels with such performances as a 17-9 decision over Calgary Aug. 4 in which he was tapped for 22 hits while going the route.
There's a little of the iron-man in Brenner, too. On June 25 he shut out Yakima there 9-0 and the next night at Spokane he won 6-5. Both were nine-inning contests.
Brenner once made Ripley's Believe It Or Not cartoon when he was charged with a passed ball which permitted not one, but three, runs to score.
Lost Argument
Telling about it later, Brenner recalls how he argued with the plate umpire for a new ball while laboring under the impression his bobble was an automatic one-base advance in that particular park.
Brenner piloted a B-17 bomber for the Air Force during World War II and he won three Distinguished Flying Crosses for his missions over Berlin and German-controlled Czechoslovakia.
On one mission, after dropping his bombs, the plane's oxygen system was shot out at 22,000 feet. Most of the crew members "blacked out" because of a lack of oxygen, but Brenner retained consciousness until he had reduced elevation and he flew four hours at ledge level to safely get the plane and its crew back to a base in England.
Born in Olympia
Born in Olympia, he began his professional baseball career with the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League in 1938, and was optioned out to Bellingham, then in the WIL. He went back to Hollywood in 1940 and was sold to Tacoma, another firmer WIL club. That same season Los Angeles bought him. He was with the Angels until late in the '41 season, when he went to Vancouver in the WIL.
After four years of military service, he returned to the Angels, and left to manage Vancouver the last part of the '46 season. He remained there until '51 when he took the helm at Yakima. The following year he moved here.
With his wife and 2-year-old son, Brenner lives across the river at Clarkston, where he does as little as possible about a huge backyard garden.
He became general manager of he Lewiston club last year.

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