For the better part of four decades, the name Bill Brewer has been synonymous with Manning-Santee American Legion baseball. He has coached and operated the program at various levels dating back to the 1980s.
Behind the scenes, his name has also been synonymous with American Legion Baseball across the Palmetto State. But on Nov. 2, he will go from working in anonymity to being in the forefront of the sport when he is inducted into the South Carolina American Legion Hall of Fame. This is the inaugural class of the organization, adding even prestige to the honor.
True to form, though, Brewer showed why he is being recognized.
“It’s great, but it’s all about the boys; it’s about the kids,” said Brewer, who also serves on the American Legion State Committee. “I spent lot of time with them and picking them up if they couldn’t get there. That’s the way it was.”
Brewer is being inducted in the non-player category.
“I spent a good part of my life coaching then when I got on the committee for legion ball, that kind of topped it all off for me, Brewer said.”
As an on-field coach for Manning-Santee, he was both a head coach and an assistant. Regardless of the position, he played a pivotal role in the teams’ successes. Two squads really stand out in his memory.
“That state championship (in 2002), I think It I took us 53 years to get there,” Brewer said. “I was helping G.G. (Cutter); it was a good year.
“We had another great year when we had seven boys to get drafted. When we lost them in the draft, we ended up not winning another game that year. But I was still happy; that was one of my favorite teams.”
Cutter was the head coach on that state title team and said he is pleased that the Hall of Fame saw fit to honor Brewer.
“It’s well deserved, for one thing,” Cutter said. “He gave a lot of time and his money into our legion program. He’s probably the one who has kept our legion team alive. No one deserves it more than Bill Brewer.”
Legree Oswald, the baseball director and chairman of the South Carolina American Legion, said Brewer’s leadership, his level-headedness and common-sense approach to matters, still stands out to him. But his first memory of him goes way back well beyond their days at the state legion.
“I first met Mr. Bill Brewer when I was a young coach and we were assigned to the Manning league and our first game was at the Manning field,” Oswald said. “Mr. Brewer treated me with dignity and respect that very first day. And I thought that this would be a friend for life if I could just make him my friend. And that was 35 years ago.”
Oswald said Brewer backed up his words when it came to what was at the center of American Legion baseball.
“What was fair for all for the kids, not just the Manning teams,” the state director said. “All coaches want to win and Bill wanted to win and they won a lot of games. But never at the expense of the other team or the kids. And the rules were never bent.”
Brewer said his family always gave him great support.
“I had a lot of help,” Brewer said. “My wife (Irene) helped in everything, but that’s really been tough. She was all the help needed. We’ve got to move on, I guess. I miss her very much.”
Mrs. Brewer passed away in 2013.
“She would be very, very happy (with the induction),” Bill Brewer said. “She did many years with Meals on Wheels and she worked for the Pilot Club for many years. And every day on her way to work, she’d be thinking of what she could do to help someone else.”
Joining Brewer in the inaugural class are six former Major Leaguers in the player category, including Don Buddin, who was born in Turbeville but left an indelible mark on the history books in Olanta. He led the OIanta American Legion and Olanta High School teams to state titles in the early 1950s before embarking on his professional career. He will be honored posthumously, having died in 2011 at the age of 77.
The other five players are Bobby Richardson, Billy O’Dell, Jerry Martin, Lou Brissie and Bobby Bolin. Buck Schwing, with 50 with years of service to the South Carolina American Legion, is the other inductee in the non-player category.
Those interested in purchasing tickets can call Bill Brewer at 803-460-4747.