Playing for the Indians as he did in 1923 and 1924, there can’t be too many people alive today who witnessed a game in which Frank Brower made an appearance. But he is worth remembering today, and especially this weekend, for several reasons.
Brower began his major league career in 1920 as a member of the Washington Senators, playing mostly right field and a little first base. In the spring of 1923, he was traded to the Indians. The Tribe decided to go with Homer Summa in right field that year, and Brower became the team’s everyday first baseman. He had a good year at the plate, batting .285 with an OPS+ of 136, and hitting 16 home runs, good enough for sixth best in the league (a fellow named Babe Ruth led the league with 41).
In a game against the Senators on Tuesday, August 7, 1923, Brower had one of the best hitting performances in Indians history, going 6 for 6 with one double and five singles with three RBI, and raising his batting average from .293 to .309. Someday you might win a bar bet by being able to point out that Brower was the first member of the Indians to go 6 for 6 in a game, and you could double down on that bet by knowing that although Zaza Harvey went 6 for 6 in a game in 1902, he did so during the sole season that the team was known as the Cleveland Bronchos (they were the Blues in 1901, the Bronchos in 1902, and the Naps in 1903, finally becoming the Indians in 1915. Hell, that’s enough information to win several bar bets. You’re welcome).
But Brower was apparently considered a liability on defense at first, making 13 errors, the fourth highest at first base in the league, in 1,126 chances. In January of 1924, Plain Dealer sports editor Henry P. Edwards wrote that “Frank Brower slipped up on the job last year.” Apparently the Indians front office shared this assessment, as they traded to get George Burns (no, not the guy who was married to Gracie Allen) back, having traded him away after the 1921 season. In 1924, Brower played only 26 games at first, down from 112 in 1923. He was used mostly as a pinch-hitter; it wasn’t until July 9 that he had more than two plate appearances in a single game.
Brower did have some success in a different position that year, though. He made four appearances as a relief pitcher, all in Indians losses, two of which were blowouts. Brower himself pitched rather well in those games, though, allowing only one earned run in 9⅔ innings of work. In the Plain Dealer of July 15, 1924, Stuart Bell wrote about the Indians’ loss to the Nationals the day before: “Of the four [Indians pitchers], Frank Brower was easily the best. Ten men faced him in the two and one-third innings he pitched. He passed one. Two gathered singles. BUT NONE SCORED.”
Brower was released by the Indians after the 1924 season and played in the minors until 1929, upon which time he retired from the game to work for a grain business. He died in Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in 1970 at the age of 67.
If you’ve read this far, and I thank you for doing so, you may recall that earlier I said that this weekend was a good one to get to know a little bit about Brower. And here’s the reason why: his nickname as a ballplayer was Turkeyfoot. When I learned this, I figured that it was probably due to some real or imagined deformity of his. But the truth, according to an interview with a daughter of Brower’s in the book Baseball Nicknames by James Skipper, was this: “His real nickname was ‘Tuckey’ which he got as a child. Sportswriters thought he said Turkey because of his Southern accent. Later it was changed to Turkeyfoot because he was so fast.” She went on to add that Brower did not care for the nickname.
There you have it, the story of Frank “Turkeyfoot” Brower, a forgotten Indian if ever there was one.