The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

June 16, 2013

Love of the game

Ashtabula’s Roy Brashear didn’t spend much of his long career in the majors, but baseball was his life

By DON McCORMACK - donmac@suite224.net
Sports Editor

— Even though Roy Brashear was born two years before James “Farmer” Burns, it was the latter who beat the former in terms of becoming the first man born in the city of Ashtabula to reach the majors.

And the St. Louis Cardinals.

And to play for manager Patsy Donovan.

However, unlike Burns, who played one game for Donovan’s Cardinals on July 6, 1901 only to never again appear in a major-league game, once Brashear reached the majors, and the Cardinals, and Donovan, he had staying power.

At least relative to Burns, Ashtabula’s first major leaguer.



Early days

Roy Parks Brashear was born in Ashtabula on Jan. 3, 1874. He was the second of five children of James and Elizabeth (McGahey) Brashear, following older brother Walter, born in December 1870, and preceding three younger siblings.

After growing up in the city, he plied his baseball skills wherever possible. Finally, at age 24, he got a chance to play professionally, hooking up with the St. Joseph Saints, a Class B minor-league franchise in the Western Association. The Saints were based in St. Joseph, Montana.

A stout 5-foot-11, 190 pounder who threw and hit right-handed, Brashear’s natural position was first base, though he would see considerable time at different positions throughout his career.

He appeared in nine games for the Saints in 1898, hitting .222 with 10 hits, including two doubles, in 45 at-bats, scoring six runs and stealing four bases.

Brashear moved on to the Bloomington Blues, a Class B team based in Bloomington, Ind., in 1899, and it was a struggle for the native Ashtabulan. Appearing in only 14 games, he hit but .157, going 8 for 51, scoring six runs and stealing seven bags.

However, upon turning 26, something clicked for Brashear. Now playing for the Sioux City Cornhuskers out of Sioux City, Iowa of the Western League, he moved to the middle of the infield and flourished.

Appearing in 66 games at second base and 40 at shortstop for the Cornhuskers, Brashear hit  .311, posting 373 at-bats in 97 games. He went 116 for 373, with 19 doubles and three triples, scoring 64 runs and proving to be fleet of foot as he pilfered 37 bases. He was also good handling the bat as he laid down 16 sacrifice bunts.

The excellent season at Sioux City in Class B ball earned Brashear a promotion to Class A, where he played the 1901 season for the Minneapolis Millers of the Western League.

Brashear’s fine play continued there as he hit .302, going 140 for 463 in 119 games, with 21 doubles and a pair of triples.

The back-to-back fine seasons proved to be Brashear’s ticket to the majors.



Spirit of St. Louis

At age 28, Brashear got the call, joining the St. Louis Cardinals, managed by Donovan, the same man who had been in charge when Farmer Burns became the first Ashtabula native to play in a major-league game the season before.

However, unlike Burns’ gone-in-a-blink-of-an-eye tenure in the majors, Brashear stuck, though not for long, by today’s standards.

A semi-regular for the Red Birds, Brashear — who made his big-league debut on April 25, 1902 — played in 110 games for St. Louis and responded with a solid season.

He hit .276, going 107 for 388, smacking eight doubles, two triples and a home run, scoring 36 times and driving home 40 runs. Brashear drew 32 walks, struck out 41 times and continued to be adept at handling the bat, laying down 13 sacrifice bunts. He also stole nine bases.

Brashear continued to be versatile, playing 67 games at first base, 21 at second base, 16 in the outfield and three at shortstop.

The Cardinals, though, struggled, going just 56-78 and finishing sixth in the eight-team National League, a whopping 441⁄2 games behind the pennant-winning Pittsburgh Pirates (103-36).



On the move

Finishing close to 50 games out of first place is more than enough cause for change and part of the thinning of the herd with the Cardinals saw Brashear move east to Philadelphia, where he joined the Phillies for the start of the 1903 season.

Things didn’t go well for Brashear in the City of Brotherly Love. He lasted but 20 games for the Phillies, appearing in only 20 games, he hit .227, going 17 for 75, with three doubles, 4 RBI and scored 9 runs.

On May 23, 1903, Brashear made his final appearance with the Phillies and, it turned out, his last game as a major leaguer.

Two days shy of 13 months, his big-league career was done.



Playing out the string

Brashear refused to run up the white flag, though, and he didn’t let his demotion to the Louisville Colonels of the American Association douse his passion for the game.

The Ashtabula native played four season for the Colonels, putting up solid numbers in each campaign.

And though his major-league career ended in the spring of 1902, Brashear stayed with the game. He played a dozen seasons in the minors after being demoted by the Phillies.

He played four seasons at Louisville, even taking over as player-manager in his final season there in 1906 for Suter Sullivan.

Brashear then played two seasons with Kansas City of the American Association, then moved west to California, where he played four seasons for the Vernon Tigers of the Pacific Coast League.

Even at age 40, Brashear hung in there, splitting the 1914 campaign with the Seattle Giants of the Northwestern League and the Portland Beavers and then the Los Angeles Angels of the PCL.

Though his major-league career was limited to 130 games in a span of roughly 13 months, Brashear was basically a Crash Davis of “Bull Durham” fame, though well before the character made famous by Kevin Costner’s time.

Brashear was on the road for 16 seasons in the minors, playing in 2,092 games and posting 7,599 at-bats. He had 2,082 hits, including 333 doubles, 86 triples and 69 home runs.

In 1921, at age 47, Brashear filled in for a few games as manager of the Class D Mineral Wells Resorters/Ballinger Bearcats of the West Texas League.

However, Brashear’s involvement with baseball wasn’t yet finished. Having played and managed, he became an umpire, working several seasons in the Pacific Coast League.

That would prove to be his final go around with the game.



Oh, brother

Ironically, as was the case in following Burns to the majors, Brashear also followed his brother, his younger brother Norman, to the show.

Norman Brashear, known as “Kitty,” was not born in Ashtabula, though, coming into this world on Aug. 27, 1877 in Mansfield.

Almost the same size as Roy, Norman as a 5-11, 205-pound right-handed pitcher. He made his major-league debut as a 21-year-old on June 25, 1899 for the Louisville Colonels — the same team of which Roy would later play four seasons of minor-league ball. The Colonels were then a major-league franchise, playing in the National League.

Norman lasted just more than a month in the majors, making his final appearance on July 30, 1899.

Appearing in three games, he went 1-0 with a 4.50 earned run average, working eight innings, allowing eight hits, seven runs (4 earned), striking out five and walking two.

Baseball must have been in the blood of the Brashear family as Norman followed the lead of his older brother and spent almost two decades kicking around the minors, playing 2,065 games — 27 fewer than his brother — over the span of 16 seasons, the majority of which were for teams based west of the Mississippi.



Tough times

Though he made a life for himself with baseball, Roy Brashear went through more than his share of difficult times.

He and his wife, Grace (Wyman) had just had their first child, Roy Jr., in late 1907. The couple built a new home in Los Angeles and appeared to be ready to live the American dream.

However, two days before Christmas 1908, Grace Brashear died. Crushed by losing his wife and being on the road so much as a baseball player, Roy knew he could not raise his son.

So Roy Jr. was sent to live with and be raised by Grace’s parents, who still resided in her home town of Vinton, Iowa.

One day before the 26th anniversary of Grace’s death, tragedy struck again.

Roy’s younger brother, Norman “Kitty” Brashear, died on Dec. 23, 1934 at age 57. Cause of death was listed as a ruptured duodenal ulcer.



Epilogue

After his time as a player, manager and umpire ended, Roy Brashear remained in Los Angeles. He remarried and his second wife, along with his son, Roy Jr., were by his side when he died at age 77 on April 20, 1951 at their home, located at 3201⁄2 West 47th Place.

As if losing his first wife and having to send his son to her parents to be raised wasn’t enough, Roy Jr. did not take his name.

Instead, he took his mother’s maiden name and was Roy Wyman.

Roy Brashear, the second man born in the city of Ashtabula to appear in a major-league game, rests alongside his brother in Rosedale Cemetery Los Angeles.

News of his death did not appear on these pages.

McCormack is the sports editor of the Star Beacon. Reach him at donmac@suite224.net.