Dreams Of The Major Leagues End with World War II

by Arthur Cotterell

Back in the 1930's, Summit High School athletics enjoyed a period of almost unlimited success, winning championships in football, basketball, and baseball year after year. Throughout this period, two names that were constantly in the newspapers were Arthur "Lefty' Vivian and Robert "Bull" Brydon, as they led the teams to championships every year that they were in high school. Both were all-state baseball players. Both were stars as they played in college. And both were good enough to be signed by major league teams, Vivian by the Yankees, Brydon by the Brooklyn Dodgers. Both went into the Marine Corps in the early stages of World War II and, sadly, both had their careers cut short by the war, Vivian being killed in the South Pacific in 1944, and Brydon suffering serious wounds, also in the Pacific, which kept him from continuing on to Ebbets Field after the war.

"Lefty" Vivian and "Bull" Brydon led Summit to titles in 1936,1937, and 1938 in the Little Five Conference (later to be called the Suburban Conference when Verona was added in 1940). The Hilltoppers, under legendary Coach Elwood Cornog, won the baseball title all three years that Vivian and Brydon played, as well as co-championships in football and basketball in their senior year.

Vivian was a top pitcher for the team from his sophomore year on. In his senior year he was the top pitcher in the Little Five Conference (composed of Millburn, Madison, Caldwell, and Glen Ridge, as well as Summit). Because he was an outstanding hitter he played the outfield when not pitching, leading the team in hitting in his senior year with a .432 batting average. He was closely followed by the power hitting Brydon. Both were selected for the All-State baseball team by the Newark Sunday Call. In an editorial on the sports page of the Summit Herald writer Bill Lucas praised them as all-around athletes saying:

"Art 'Lefty' Vivian and Bob 'Bull' Brydon have played their last game of scholastic baseball and in years to come students will recall their feats on the athletic field."

Both Vivian and Brydon had attracted the interest of major league teams, and before the school year had finished both were brought over to the Polo Grounds by the New York Giants for tryouts. Vivian received offers from the Giants, the New York Yankees, and the Boston Red Sox. Coach Cornog, talking several years after Vivian had pitched at Summit High School, was quoted in the Summit Herald in 1943 as saying that "Vivian was the most capable twirler he had ever had." It was becoming evident they were on a fast track to major league baseball.

In the Fall of 1938 Vivian entered Wake Forest College in North Carolina, and there began another very success- ful baseball career. In his senior year he pitched Wake Forest to the league championship by defeating Duke University in the season's final game. As he had in high school. Vivian played the outfield when not pitching, and batted over 400. At the conclusion of his senior year Vivian signed with the New York Yankees, who had been closely watching his career develop.

In his last weeks at Wake Forest, with the Second World War now raging, Vivian had been sworn in to the Marine Corps, and his professional career got underway while he was waiting to be called up by the Marines. He was assigned by the Yankees to their top farm club, the Newark Bears. The Bears then sent him to Amsterdam, New York, to pitch in the Canadian-American League. While there for only a few weeks, he won three games, two by shutouts, before being called to active duty by the Marines.

Meanwhile, "Bull" Brydon was following the same path as Vivian, entering Seton Hall College and playing baseball on the same team with All-American basketball player Bob Davies and future major league player, and future television star, "Chuck" Connors. Brydon followed up his career at Seton Hall by signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Like Vivian, Brydon got off to a fast start in professional baseball, playing at Valdosta, Georgia, in the Georgia-Florida League. As the Summit Herald said in 1943 "both Vivian and Brydon appeared headed for major league baseball until the war nipped such goals"

Vivian entered the Marine Corps in July of 1942, was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in October of that year, and was sent to the Pacific Theater of war in December. He was promoted to First Lieutenant in June, 1943. While in the South Pacific he was able to do some pitching for a Navy-Marine All-Star team. Meanwhile, following the same path as his high school buddy, Brydon had also joined the Marines, been promoted to Sergeant, and was also serving in the Pacific.

In August of 1944 Lieutenant Arthur Vivian was killed after having been engaged in the invasion of Guam. Sergeant Robert Brydon was seriously wounded while serving in the Pacific, wounds that would eventually terminate his base- ball career.

Anyone who had played for Coach Elwood Cornog in the 1940's and 1950's had often heard of the exploits of "Lefty" Vivian and "Bull" Brydon, two of the greatest athletes to ever come out of Summit High School.

Summit fans must often have wondered what might have been. Perhaps in the 1947 or 1949 World Series it might have been Brooklyn Dodger right fielder "Bull" Brydon facing New York Yankee pitcher "Lefty" Vivian. It was certainly a good possibility, as they were on a fast track to major league baseball. What would the accounts by the Summit Herald have had to say about the local heroes who had now reached the major leagues?

Many young men had their careers untracked, some wounded, some killed, all with lives interrupted. As Memorial Day approaches we should remember all who served in this and other wars. We owe them a debt of gratitude.