The last “clown prince” of the Negro League baseball’s Indianapolis Clowns, Samuel “Birmingham Sam” Brison, was born on July 24, 1940 in Birmingham, Alabama.
Here are nine (9) facts about his baseball career:
- Brison, a shortstop, first played for the Birmingham Black Barons when 18 years old in 1958.
- The Black Barons, Memphis Red Sox, Detroit Clowns, and Kansas City Monarchs were the only teams in the Negro American League (NAL) Brison’s first year.
- In 1962, Brison began his fifteen year stint with the Indianapolis Clowns.
- The Clowns in 1962 were strictly a barnstorming team and the “Harlem Globetrotters” of baseball.
- Brison replaced Richard “King Tut” King who had retired in 1959. “King Tut” had been the Clowns’ leading comedy performer and a fan favorite for the team since the 1940s. At times during those years with a midget named “Spec Behop”, King would perform comedy stunts before the game and between innings.
- Because Brison looked so much like King, Clowns’ owner Syd Pollock initially billed him “King Tut Jr.”. However, because “King Tut” was so popular with the fans, Brison said he felt uncomfortable with that name. It was changed to “Birmingham Sam”.
- There is unconfirmed information about Brison’s opportunities to play in the Major Leagues while with the Clowns. Supposedly, he was on the spring training camp roster for the Milwaukee Braves in 1965 and the Cincinnati Reds in 1969. However, there is no record of Brison officially playing for a Major League team in his career.
- He had a small part in “The Bingo Long Traveling All Stars”, a 1976 movie that loosely depicted life in Negro League baseball.
- Brison played basketball in the winter of 1963 with the Harlem Road Kings along with former Indianapolis Clowns first baseman “Goose” Tatum.
“Birmingham Sam” Brison died in April 1204 while living in Birmingham.