Home Magazine Snippets Frank Brewster – The reins of power

Frank Brewster – The reins of power

By Susan van Dyke

When Frank W. Brewster died of heart failure at age 99 in November 1996 in Rancho Mirage, California, the only mention of racehorse activity in his obituary in the Seattle Times came in the context of his gains in lifestyle as he rose to the top of the Western Conference Teamsters.

The controversial and powerful union leader was once said to be the western equivalent of the legendary union boss Jimmy Hoffa, whose rule extended from the Eastern seaboard to the Midwest plains, while Brewster’s iron fist controlled unions from the then US territory of Hawaii to the Rocky Mountains. Brewster, whose reputation for serving the working person was eclipsed by the FBI moniker of “goon squad” leader, was later the subject of a 1957 labor racketeering probe by the US Senate (McClellan Committee) and he was also investigated for income tax evasion.

The fledgling Washington racing and breeding industry would prove to be the beneficiary of Brewster’s other strong passion.

Seattle Born Leader
Born in Seattle in 1897, Brewster’s father was a postman. The future labor leader attended Seattle’s Queen Anne High School, but was driving wagons at age 16. It was at that tender age in 1913 that Brewster made his pivotal step in life by joining the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and taking his place that same year in the strike against the wagon delivery industry.

Not long afterwards, he heeded the battle call of World War I where he served in the US Army.

By 1920 Brewster was the recording secretary for what would later be known as Teamsters Local Union 174 (first established in 1909). The following year he was named the union’s business representative and by 1929 he had been elected to the post of secretary-treasurer. After John Dore was once again elected Seattle mayor in 1936, he appointed Brewster to head the Civil Service Commission, which oversaw the city’s police department.

With the advent of World War II, Brewster professed on January 1, 1943, that “. . . we will do nothing that might delay war production or hamper our Army and Navy
. . . Teamsters . . . are willing to serve anywhere and anytime our country asks . . .”

In 1953, the year Brewster took over as Western Conference chairman, the Seattle Teamsters were involved in the all-volunteer “Operation Orthopedic,” which in one day moved Children’s Orthopedic Hospital from Queen Anne to Laurelhurst.

Among his accomplishments to further the cause of union members was negotiating for the first life, medical and dental insurance plans. He also initiated the conference’s pension plan.

During Brewster’s and his boss Dave Beck’s years at the helm – which included the Great Depression – “the Pacific Northwest emerged as one of the most heavily unionized regions of the United States.” Brewster would continue in power and later be the emissary for 46 Washington Teamster locals, which in turn represented over 400,000 members in 13 states, as president of Joint Council 28 during the late 1950s.

Brewster’s leadership in the Teamsters began to wane in 1957, the same year Beck was sent to McNeil Island Penitentiary for grand larceny and other charges. When the time came for a new national Teamsters’ leader, Brewster wrongly chose to support William Lee, but the victory went to Jimmy Hoffa. Brewster was then “purged” as international vice president and lost his position as Western Conference chairman in 1959. Four years later the Seattle union leader retired from his position on the Joint Council.

1957 was indeed a dark year for Brewster, as he was also investigated for racketeering by the US Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor and Management Field, better known as the McClellan Committee, which held him in contempt and sentenced him to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine for refusing to explain his actions to Senator Robert Kennedy, who had questioned him about union finances. The sentence was later overturned by the Court of Appeals, which ruled that the subcommittee had exceeded its authority.

Kennedy’s brother, Senator and future President John F. Kennedy gave an April 1957 speech about the racketeering probe, and among those he named were both Brewster and Beck, citing: “Teamster leader Frank Brewster, for example, channeled a multi-million dollar monopoly in his union’s welfare plans to an insurance broker [George Newell] who also turned out to be Brewster’s partner in a stable of racehorses, a supposedly equal partnership that was unusually profitable for Mr. Brewster to the tune of $40,000, while his partner lost exactly the same amount.”

According to an article in an April 1957 issue of Time magazine, “In 1949 or 1950 . . . Brewster . . . and Seattle insurance man George Newell purchased Los Angeles County property (near Santa Anita Race Track) for $6,050 each, soon sold it for $12,500 each and pooled the money to start the Breel Racing Stables.” Brewster and Newell were partners in more than just a racing stable, as the teamster had named Newell as the broker and consultant for the Western Conference’s lucrative health and welfare fund.

Horses Outside the Union Logo
It is not known exactly what year the savvy Brewster purchased his first racehorse, but by 1939 he emerged as the leading owner at Longacres for the season, due largely in part to the efforts of his three-year-old filly Brief Moment, who raced in the name of Needmore Stables. Ridden by 17-year-old apprentice and former Oregon shoeshine boy Doug Dodson – who the following year would be contracted to Calumet Farm – Brief Moment would win the fifth running of the Longacres Mile. (Brewster later gained a reputation for developing other apprentice riders, including Willie “Punchy” Marsh Jr. and Jerrel Quinn.) Needmore Stable runners would run in seven other editions of the Mile with the other best placements coming from Sir Jeffrey, who ran third in 1944 and was second by a neck to Prince Ernest in 1945.

Quick Journey to the Top
Brewster’s name first appeared among the Washington breeders’ ranks, for which he was voted into the 2008 Washington Racing Hall of Fame class, in 1948, when his first two entrants won a trio of races and finished second or third 15 more times to earn a whopping $2,450.

The following year Brewster became the first owner-breeder to win the Washington (now Gottstein) and Playfair (Spokane) Futurities in not only the same year, but the same month. First came Reminder’s victory at Longacres on September 4, which was followed two weeks later by Whang Bang’s tally in Spokane. The 11 Brewster-bred runners, which were led by eight winners, won 20 races and earned $24,720 in 1949 to rank third in the state.

For the next seven years Brewster’s name would appear in the top three breeder standings, including a trio of years at its helm (1950, 1951 and 1953). Brewster’s time in the breeding ranks was short, but highly successful.

The Washington Horse editor and preeminent racing statistician Clio Hogan wrote: “Frank W. Brewster has had more success in his first five years than any other breeder in the State of Washington – past or present. This success can be credited to Brewster’s selection of broodmares whose pedigrees were better than the general run of mares in the state. Among his broodmares were daughters of Boxthorn, Morvich, Sun Edwin, Tilka, Toro, *Bistori, Gallant Fox, The Nut, Misstep, Macaw and Time Supply.”

Figures compiled by Hogan showed that from 1935-1951, Brewster was the state’s fourth all-time leading breeder by money ($105,973) and ranked sixth in number of wins (80) in that same time period. By the time 1963 rolled around – he hadn’t bred a foal in a decade – Brewster still maintained sixth place among breeders in money won with $276,118.

Brewster established Clearbrook Stables in Lacey in 1947, but would later maintain his stable at trainer Joe Boyce’s Lucky D Ranch near Kent. Among the stallions he stood at Clearbrook was Sir Jeffrey.

In addition to staying at or near the top of the leader board as a breeder, Brewster was the leading money-winning trainer at Longacres in 1950 ($29,025) and 1951 ($24,950). During the latter year he saddled the winners of eight stakes. Brewster also finished second, three behind leader Hump Roberts, in number of winners with 19, in 1953. In 1954 the Breel partnership led the Renton track’s owners’ standings with $22,325.

Racing Commissioner and WHBA Director
Also during the 1940s came Brewster’s tenure on the Washington Horse Racing Commission, of which he served as chairman in 1946-47. It was during this period that the “hot” ruling (set forth by the WHRC at their December 1945 meeting) regarding whether track operators, their families or management employees in directorial capacity should be allowed to run their own horses during meets at their own tracks was established. Brewster felt the ruling helped protect the track operator, as the ordinary race follower and two-dollar bettor could be apt to get “morose and disgruntled if management is allowed to write a race, enter their own horses, and then cop the big stakes.”

Brewster was quoted as saying in an article in The Washington Horse by Ed Donohoe, “It’s the commission’s duty to make sure that each horse owner is correctly listed . . . Racing commissioners are public servants and the best interests of the public must be upheld. Such ownership finagling must be squashed, or else all racing will suffer.”

“Firey” Seattle Post-Intelligencer sports editor Royal Brougham, when commenting on the commission fiasaco in his column, contended “. . . Brewster’s hands were tied” due to Gottstein’s influence. Brewster must have felt the same, as he announced his intent to resign from the commission.

In a review of the April 1947 WHRC meeting published in The Washington Horse, Brewster reaffirmed his intention to resign “since he didn’t believe that, under the present set-up (the other two commissioners of the time were Joe Gottstein’s good friend Wayne Sutton and Allen Drumheller, who trained Gottstein’s stable of runners), the owners and public were getting a square deal.” He also believed that, as they were doing in California, all commissioners in Washington should be barred from racing in the state during the period they were employed on the commission.

Brewster also served for many years on the WHBA board of directors and was the association’s fourth president. According to the masthead of The Washington Horse, he was a board member from 1946-57 and then again from 1960-65. (Any earlier dates cannot be confirmed due to losses the association incurred during the 1959 fire.)

Brewster’s wife at the time, Dorothy, “personally supervised the interior decorating of the WHBA Clubhouse” in 1950 and drew “high praise for her excellent taste in creating a luxurious, yet comfortable motif,” which was highlighted by the etchings of horses on plate glass “done by a movie studio artist.”

Whang Bang
Brewster’s ascension to the top of the state breeder rankings in 1950 and 1951 was largely due to the efforts of a nearly black filly by the name of Whang Bang, who he also trained.

Whang Bang was a 1947 daughter of Better Bet out of Torobang, by Toro. At two, after running third in the Washington Futurity to her stablemate Reminder, Whang Bang shipped to Playfair and earned her first stakes victory in the previously mentioned Spokane Futurity.

The granddaughter of Bon Homme (by Sweep) began her three-year-old campaign at Longacres with a close victory against older horses in a June 28 allowance. Four days later she faced older distaffers in the six-furlong, $4,000 Fashion Handicap, which she won by four lengths. Seven days after that, on July 7, Brewster trotted out his sophomore star to take the 5 1/2-furlong, $3,000 Bremerton Handicap, again over older runners, in a time of 1:94 4/5, only three-fifths of a second slower than Galla Damion’s track record. She was considered to be “the greatest Washington-bred prospect of the season.” The Longacres fan darling extended her 1950 record to four in a row when she not only again defeated older runners, while giving weight to each, but was stretching out to a mile and a sixteenth for her 1 1/2 length tally in the $5,000 Washington Championship in a good 1:43 2/5. In her next outing, in the second division of the British Columbia Handicap, Whang Bang’s winning streak came to an end after she was hemmed in until late to finish third.

It was a different story for the August 13, $5,000 Longacres Derby as the speedy filly went gate-to-wire to win by three lengths. Her final time of 1:49 3/5, was only one tick off the track’s nine-furlong record.

The brave filly ran a gallant second to her stablemate Two and Twenty in the Longacres Mile (see below). She won seven races that season, earning only $19,495, but it was more than good enough for her to be named 1950 Washington horse of the year.

When recalling her sophomore season, Clio Hogan wrote “Not since the days of Sirde, Hank H. and Georgie Drum has a Washington-bred gone forth from the Evergreen State to capture the fancy of the home crowd as Whang Bang.”

At four, Whang Bang would earn repeat victories in both the Bremerton Handicap (in which she set a new track record of 1:04 flat for 5 1/2 furlongs) and Washington Championship (over good male runners Sir Calbenor and Lighted Way), run third in the Fashion Handicap and place in an additional five stakes at six and seven. She made 69 lifetime starts and finished her career with an 18-5-10 record and earnings of $43,935. With a Standard Starts Index (SSI) of 3.55, she was nearly four times better than any other distaffer – on a national scale – of her generation.

Whang Bang would produce only one named foal before her death in 1960 as the result of foaling twins. Her daughter Kelley’s Choice, a 1958 daughter of Jean Miracle, won two races and $1,986, and of her three foals, only My Own Choice (1965 filly by Divoy) would win, and that was a minor, minor race ($334 total earnings) in 19 starts. Neither of Kelley’s Choice’s two daughters would produce a named foal.

Two and Twenty
Foaled in Kentucky in 1946, Two and Twenty was a son of Gallant Duke out of the brilliant race filly Toro Nancy, by Toro. Bred by Norman W. Church, he had been claimed by Brewster for $12,500 in July of his sophomore year. The handsome chestnut had been named for the $2 a game and 20 cents a point scale Church used at his daily luncheon domino game. For Brewster, Two and Twenty would win the Longacres Derby and finish second in both the Seattle and Governor’s handicaps and be named top three-year-old of the meet. He also finished a disappointing fifth in the Longacres Mile that year after going off as the favorite.

In 1950, Brewster again had the favorites for the 15th running of Longacres premier event with the entry of Two and Twenty – who now raced in the name of Mrs. Dorothy Brewster – and Whang Bang. Eddie Arcaro, in his only Mile appearance, was aboard the colt, and Joe Baze, who had only lost his “bug” four days before the August 27 race, was astride the talented filly. Carrying the 120 pound highweight, Arcaro had Two and Twenty at the front of the other ten runners from the half-mile call to the finish, drawing off to defeat his stablemate by 1 3/4 lengths in a good 1:35 4/5.

Two and Twenty also won the 1951 British Columbia Handicap and the 1949 and 1951 editions of the Spokane Handicap.

After retiring from racing at age five, he entered stud in 1952 at Lucky D Ranch with 14 wins and earnings of $46,775. Leon Rasmussen hailed Two and Twenty “as one of the brightest sire prospects to enter service in the Evergreen State in some time.”

Two and Twenty would sire only three small crops before his early demise, including 1960 Washington Championship and Fashion Stakes winner Two Dreams and her stakes-placed full brother Twenty Dreams. Two and Twenty’s daughters – the previously mentioned Two Dreams, five-time stakes-placed Two and Whirl and the 1954 filly Miss Jeff – would all leave their mark on the Pacific Northwest racing scene.

Two and Whirl, who finished second in both the Oregon Derby and Oakland Handicap against the boys, produced four stakes winners, led by Ruler’s Whirl, who won or placed in 30 Oregon or Washington stakes from ages two to 11.

Miss Jeff produced two stakes winners, Pataha Pete and 1973 Washington horse of the year and 2011 Washington Racing Hall of Fame inductee Pataha Prince, who earned $245,523 over an eight-year career.

A pair of Two Dreams’ offspring would be stakes-placed, but her daughters would produce six stakes winners: Dream Lately, First Dream, Mr. Farr, Dream of Fire, Dream Disturber and Action Aplenty; and another grandson, Intoxicator, by Drum Fire, would sell for $105,000 at the 1981 WTBA August sale and go on to place in a triad of stakes.

Galavon and Little Rollo and the ’51 Mile
Another top runner in the Breel arsenal was the “sky rocket” Galavon – “one of the gamest hearted Thoroughbreds ever to set a hoof on the Longacres strip.” A 1948 son of Can’t Wait who was claimed by Breel for $5,000 at Hollywood Park in May of his three-year-old season, Galavon won four stakes at Longacres, including back-to-back Tacoma Handicaps in 1951-52. He also set a new track record in the nine-furlong Sequoia Handicap run at Tanforan where he defeated future Longacres Mile winner Ocean Mist.

Brewster had purchased Little Rollo as a three-year-old in 1946. He would win both the Governor’s Handicap and Longacres Derby with him that year. Ridden by Johnny Longden, Little Rollo would finish last in the ’46 Mile and then run third in the 1947 Mile won by Hank H. The following February Little Rollo was claimed from Brewster for $15,000 and at age eight, the son of Count Gallahad would win the 1951 Mile for his new owners, the Canadian-based Braemar Stables, over Brewster’s Galavon. Two and Twenty ran seventh. Little Rollo also won the 1950 Governor’s Handicap for Braemer, with Two and Twenty second.

More Early 1950 Highlights
Among the other highly successful runners who raced under the Breel banner was Alderman, who won the $50,000 Sunset Handicap at Hollywood Park in 1951, defeating Mocopo, Bewitch, Be Fleet, Sturdy One and Moonrush in the 13-furlong route. Brewster and Newell had purchased the four-year-old colt earlier that spring for a reported $25,000. The Washington Horse noted “It was the first major triumph of a Washington-owned Thoroughbred in many years.” Alderman, a 1947 son of *Beau Pere who was bred by movie mogul Louis B. Mayer, was retired to stud in 1955 at John Carlson’s Pilchuck Farm outside of Snohomish with $71,145 in total earnings.

Micoka, a $6,000 Hollywood Park claim, and My Urchin, a consistent sprinter who had been purchased privately at Bay Meadows, ran one-four in the 1954 Renton Handicap for Breel. Another successful claim was Silverado, who had been haltered at Hollywood Park in the spring of 1953 for a “cool $15,000,” and earned $3,950 of his bill soon afterwards when he finished second in the Tacoma Handicap on June 27 and won the Independence Day Handicap a week later. Just two days before the Independence Day Handicap, Breel’s Floating Mine, by Depth Charge, won the $2,000 TRA Handicap by four lengths. Floating Mine had also taken the Memorial Day Handicap at Portland Meadows a few weeks earlier. Stablemates My Urchin and Silverado finished in a dead heat in the Speed Handicap. My Urchin – who equaled two track records at the meet – later defeated Silverado by three-quarters of a length in the Spokane Handicap. All four stakes winners were trained for their 1954 triumphs by Mel Eisen.

Always on the lookout for new stars, Brewster and Newell purchased a four-year-old War Admiral colt at Hollywood Park in 1952 from actress Jane Greer and shortly thereafter First Repeater was flown to Longacres to defeat a class-filled Speed Handicap. On August 7 of that same summer, Breel claimed three-year-old filly Bomb Special for $8,000 at Del Mar, vanned her Longacres and won the August 17 Longacres Derby with her. Finishing second was her stablemate Roman Secret.

First Repeater also won the 1953 Longacres meet-opening Renton Handicap as the three-to-five favorite.

Among the other Brewster trainees to win stakes around the Renton oval was 1959 Fashion Handicap winner Queets, a daughter of Two and Twenty who ran in his wife’s name.

Brewster also trained Newellhurst Farm homebred New Miracle, who was ranked the top three-year-old colt of the 1953 Washington crop.

Brewster cut back in his Thoroughbred holdings in 1951. He and Newell abandoned their partnership in 1955 and the teamster leader sold his final nine runners to Eisen in 1957. Among those he parted with was the highly-regarded filly Shes Quick.

Other Breel Additions to the Washington Sire Ranks
The Washington breeding industry was the beneficiary of many well-bred and successful Breel runners who entered its stallion ranks. In addition to Alderman, Galavon and Floating Mine stood at Newell’s Newellhurst Farm. At the time of their retirements, Ed Heinemann noted: “Both of these horses come to the stud with credentials of merit, racing prowess and bloodlines (which) entitle both to their chance.”

But probably the Breel colt who would make the biggest impression on the state’s breeding sector was Speculation, a 1946 son of *Mahmoud who had been the fourth highest selling yearling in the history of the Keeneland sales. Noted Kentucky horseman Col. Phil Chinn was quoted as saying Speculation was “the best looking yearling ever to have sold through the Keeneland sales ring.” A full or half-brother to three stakes winners, including Revoked, Speculation won the Will Rogers Handicap as a three-year-old. He was retired to stud in 1951 and ranked among Washington’s top five stallions from 1956-59, including being second to Succession in 1958. Among his best runners were four-time stakes winner Cold Steel, two-time stakes winner Hildagar and stakes winner Fairena, a mare whose three stakes winners would include state champion Gold Afloat.

Memories of Brewster
Always a dapper dresser, former WTBOA general manager and 2013 Washington Hall of Fame inductee Ralph Vacca remembers a smartly-clad Brewster, “who was as handsome as any Hollywood star of the day” on the Longacres backside. Dressed in a leather-fringed coat and astride his handsome Palomino Major, who was decked out in silver-embellished saddle and bridle, trainer Brewster cut quite the figure.

Vacca also remembers that “Brewster could be, and was, a tough negotiator . . . and from the word go!”

In 1961, the late Pete Pedersen, a 2008 Racing Hall of Fame inductee, wrote an article in The Washington Horse in which he reflected on the people and horses at Longacres. Among them was Brewster for “taking on all comers – and beating them – in dawn saddle horse sprints down the backstretch.”

2003 Washington Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jim Penney first saw Brewster at Longacres when he was a youngster in the 1940s. Penney’s first impression was of Brewster’s fancy Chrysler Town and Country car. Even though it was always “Mr. Brewster,” Penney remembers him “as a very approachable person; a man you could talk to and a much respected horseman.” He also recounted that Brewster’s Longacres barn, “Barn 17,” was the first to have a shower for his help, made from the remodeling of one and a half horse stalls.

Years later while Penney was stabled at Santa Anita for the winter, Brewster looked Penney up and invited him to visit his home in the Palm Springs area. Up until his later years Brewster, a horseman to the end, continued to ride his colorful Palominos.

Penney also recalled that Brewster returned to Washington in the early 1970s to help settle a pending strike at Longacres.

George McIvor served with Brewster on the WHBA board in the 1950s and was later stabled near him at Longacres. McIvor noted the two got along fine and that Brewster “was intelligent and offered good ideas” during their tenure on the board. He also remembers the horseman/labor leader as quite a controversial person. “He had his good points, as well as his bad, but I always liked the guy. He was a helluva a nice guy and a colorful character.”

Both Vacca and McIvor remember that one of Brewster’s many wives took off with one of his trainers, but neither could remember which lady or which trainer. “He had a  bushel full of both and many of his wives fit the same mold and could  have  been  dancing  show  girls  in  a Las  Vegas  review,” recounted Vacca

Five times married, Brewster’s only survivor was his wife Clare, who he had married at age 87. His four other previous marriages each ended in divorce.

Sources: Various issues of The Washington Horse; Organized Crime, Municipal Corruption and the Teamsters Union, by Robert C. Donnelly; Seattle Times, November 21, 1996; The End of an Era (compilation of Longacres statistics); Time, April 1, 1957; History Link; a speech given by Senator John F. Kennedy (Notre Dame Night Celebration), April 29, 1957; and Teamsters History: Local 174 & JC-28 Face Issues of WWII, by Bill McCarthy.