Mordecai Brown

Mordecai Peter Centennial Brown (October 19, 1876 – February 14, 1948), nicknamed Three Finger or Miner, was an American Major League Baseball pitcher and manager during the first two decades of the 20th century (known as the "dead-ball era"). Due to a farm-machinery accident in his youth (April 17, 1888), Brown lost parts of two fingers on his right hand,[1] and in the process gained a colorful nickname. He turned this handicap into an advantage by learning how to grip a baseball in a way that resulted in an exceptional curveball, which broke radically before reaching the plate. With this technique he became one of the elite pitchers of his era.

Brown was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1949.

Mordecai Brown
Mordecai Brown Baseball
Brown in 1904
Pitcher / Manager
Born: October 19, 1876
Nyesville, Indiana
Died: February 14, 1948 (aged 71)
Terre Haute, Indiana
Batted: Switch Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 19, 1903, for the St. Louis Cardinals
Last MLB appearance
September 4, 1916, for the Chicago Cubs
MLB statistics
Win–loss record239–130
Earned run average2.06
As player

As manager

Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Election MethodVeteran's Committee

Early life

Brown was born in Nyesville, Indiana. He was also known as "Miner", having worked in western Indiana coal mines for a while before beginning his professional baseball career. Nicknames like "Miner" (or misspelled as "Minor"[2]) and "Three Finger" (or sometimes "Three-Fingered") were headline writers' inventions. To fans and friends he was probably best known as "Brownie". To his relatives and close friends, he was also known as "Mort". His three-part given name came from the names of his uncle, his father, and the United States Centennial year of his birth, respectively.

Mordecai Brown 3 fingers
Brown's pitching (or "twirling") hand

According to his biography, he suffered two separate injuries to his right hand. The first and most famous trauma came when he was feeding material into the farm's feed chopper. He slipped and his hand was mangled by the knives, severing much of his index finger and damaging the others. A doctor repaired the rest of his hand as best he could. While it was still healing, the injury was further aggravated by a fall he took, which broke several finger bones. They were not reset properly, especially the middle finger (see photo).

He learned to pitch, as many children did, by aiming rocks at knot-holes on the barn wall and other wooden surfaces. Over time, with constant practice, he developed great control. As a "bonus", the manner in which he had to grip the ball (see photo) resulted in an unusual amount of spin. This allowed him to throw an effective curve ball, and a deceptive fast ball and change-up. The extra topspin made it difficult for batters to connect solidly. In short, he "threw ground balls" and was exceptionally effective.


Mordecai Brown 1909 and 1916
Brown with the Chicago Cubs in 1909 (left) and 1916 (right)
Mordecai Peter Centennial Brown
Brown in 1911

Brown was a third baseman in semipro baseball in 1898 when his team's pitcher failed to appear for a game and was put in to pitch. Players in the league quickly noticed the spin and movement created by Brown's unusual grip. Fred Massey, Brown's great-nephew, said, "It didn't only curve, it curved and dropped at the same time", Massey said. "It made it extremely hard to hit and if you did hit it, you hit it into the ground [because you] couldn't get under it."[3] After a spectacular minor league career commencing in Terre Haute of the Three-I League in 1901, Brown came to the majors rather late, at age 26, in 1903, and lasted until 1916 when he was close to 40.

Brown's most productive period was when he played for the Chicago Cubs from 1904 through 1912. During this stretch, he won 20 or more games six times and was part of two World Series championships. New York Giants manager John McGraw regarded his own Christy Mathewson and Brown as the two best pitchers in the National League. In fact, Brown defeated Mathewson in competition as often as not, most significantly in the final regular season game of the 1908 season. Brown had a career 13–11 edge on Mathewson, with one no-decision in their 25 pitching matchups.[4]

Brown's most important single game effort was the pennant-deciding contest between the Cubs and the New York Giants on October 8, 1908, at New York. With Mathewson starting for the Giants, Cubs starter Jack Pfiester got off to a weak start and was quickly relieved by Brown, who held the Giants in check the rest of the way as the Cubs prevailed 4–2, to win the pennant. The Cubs then went on to win their second consecutive World Series championship, their last until 2016, a span of 108 years.[5]

In late 1909, Brown was on a team that played some games in Cuba. He planned to spend the winter there, but returned home when he caught a mysterious sickness.[6] Brown saw limited action in 1912 and was released by the Cubs in October, a week before he turned 36. Soon after, he consulted a physician about a minor illness. Examining Brown's knee, the physician advised Brown to retire from baseball because he risked losing the use of his leg.[7] However, Brown continued to play, signing with the Louisville Colonels, who traded him to the Cincinnati Reds for the 1913 season.

After the 1913 season, Brown jumped to the Federal League, signing his contract on the same day as Joe Tinker. While Tinker went to the Chicago Whales, Brown was the player-manager for the St. Louis Terriers in 1914.[8] Brown was dismissed as manager in August, then finished the season with the Brooklyn Tip-Tops, and was rumored to retire again in October 1914.[9] He stayed in the league and played for the Chicago Whales in 1915. He returned to the Cubs for his final season in 1916.[3] Brown and Mathewson wrapped their respective careers by squaring off on September 4, 1916, in the second game of a Labor Day doubleheader. The game was billed as the final meeting between the two old baseball warriors, and would turn out to be the final game in each of their careers. The game was a high-scoring one, the two teams combining for 33 hits. But with both teams well back in the pennant race, the two men pitched the entire game. Mathewson's Reds prevailed 10-8 over Brown's Cubs, as the Cubs' ninth-inning rally fell short.

Brown finished his major league career with a 239–130 record, 1375 strikeouts, and a 2.06 ERA, the third best ERA in Major League Baseball history amongst players inducted into the Hall of Fame, after Ed Walsh and Addie Joss. His 2.06 ERA is the best in MLB history for any pitcher with more than 200 wins. Brown was a switch-hitter, which was and is unusual for a pitcher. He took some pride in his hitting, and had a fair batting average for a pitcher, consistently near .200 in the major leagues.

Later life and legacy

Following his retirement from the majors, he returned to his home in Terre Haute, where he continued to pitch in the minor leagues and in exhibition games for more than a decade, as well as coaching and managing. According to his biography, in an exhibition game against the famous House of David touring team in 1928, at the age of 51, he pitched three innings as a favor to the local team, and struck out all nine batters he faced.

From 1920 to 1945, Brown ran a filling station in Terre Haute that also served as a town gathering place and an unofficial museum. He was also a frequent guest at Old-Timers' games in Chicago. In his later years, Brown was plagued by diabetes and then by the effects of a stroke. He died in 1948 of diabetic complications.[10] He was posthumously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame the following year.

The television series The Simpsons made reference to Brown in the episodes "The Last Traction Hero" and "Homer at the Bat". Mr. Burns lists three ringers he wants for his company's softball team, but they are Honus Wagner, Cap Anson, and Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown. Smithers has to point out that they are not only retired, but long-dead. He was referenced again in the episode The Last Traction Hero by Mr. Burns once more.

In 1999, he was named as a finalist to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

Between Brown and Antonio Alfonseca, the Cubs have featured both a "three-fingered" pitcher and a six-fingered pitcher on their all-time roster (Brown technically had four, including the thumb).

See also

Further reading

  • Cindy Thomson & Scott Brown (2006). Three Finger. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-4448-7.
  • The Editors of Total Baseball (2000). Baseball: The Biographical Encyclopedia. Sports Illustrated. pp. 134–135. ISBN 1-892129-34-5.


  1. ^ "Brown, Mordecai". Baseball Hall of Fame. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
  2. ^ "Baseball Salaries Reach Top Mark" (PDF). The New York Times. January 18, 1914. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  3. ^ a b Haugh, David (June 29, 2008). "Mordecai Brown a Special Memory in Indiana Farmland". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 14, 2013.
  4. ^ "The Ballplayers: Christy Mathewson". September 4, 1916. Archived from the original on April 14, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
  5. ^ "Chicago Cubs win 2016 World Series".
  6. ^ "Mordecai Brown Sick From Mysterious Cause". Pittsburgh Press. January 3, 1910. Retrieved August 14, 2013.
  7. ^ "Mordecai Brown May Never Pitch Again". The Daily Times. November 12, 1912. Retrieved August 14, 2013.
  8. ^ "Tinker and Brown Sign Contracts; Their Three Years' Salary Is Guaranteed by a Bonding Company". The New York Times. December 30, 1913. Retrieved May 12, 2013.
  9. ^ "Mordecai Brown is Thirty-Eight Years Old Today – About to Quit the Diamond". Milwaukee Journal. October 19, 1914. Retrieved August 14, 2013.
  10. ^ "Mordecai Brown, Great Hurler, Dies". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. February 15, 1948. Retrieved August 14, 2013.

External links

1904 Chicago Cubs season

The 1904 Chicago Cubs season was the 33rd season of the Chicago Cubs franchise, the 29th in the National League and the 12th at West Side Park. The Cubs finished second in the National League with a record of 93–60.

1906 Chicago Cubs season

The 1906 Chicago Cubs season was the 35th season of the Chicago Cubs franchise, the 31st in the National League and the 14th at West Side Park. The team won the National League pennant with a record of 116–36, a full 20 games ahead of the second-place New York Giants. The team's .763 winning percentage, with two ties in their 154-game season, is the highest in modern MLB history. The 2001 Seattle Mariners also won 116 games, but they did that in 162 games with a .716 winning percentage.

In a major upset, the Cubs were beaten by the Chicago White Sox in the 1906 World Series.

1906 World Series

The 1906 World Series featured a crosstown matchup between the Chicago Cubs, who had posted the highest regular-season win total (116) and winning percentage (.763) in the major leagues since the advent of the 154-game season; and the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox, known as the "Hitless Wonders" after finishing with the worst team batting average (.230) in the American League, beat the Cubs in six games for one of the greatest upsets in Series history. This was the first World Series played by two teams from the same metropolitan area.

The teams split the first four games; then the Hitless Wonders (a name coined by sportswriter Charles Dryden) exploded for 26 hits in the last two games. True to their nickname, the White Sox hit only .198 as a team in winning the series but it beat the .196 average produced by the Cubs.

In Game 3, Ed Walsh struck out 12 Cubs, breaking the previous record of 11 set by Bill Dinneen in 1903.

The 1906 Series was the first to be played between two teams from the same city. To date, it remains the only World Series played between the two Chicago teams (In fact, it would be another 102 years before both Chicago teams would qualify for the playoffs during the same season, as this was next accomplished in 2008), and one of only two Series (the other being the 1944 World Series) played outside New York City that featured two teams from the same city (although the 1989 World Series was played between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics, which are roughly 10 miles apart). This is also the most recent World Series where both teams were making their first appearance in the Fall Classic.

1907 Chicago Cubs season

The 1907 Chicago Cubs season was the 36th season of the Chicago Cubs franchise, the 32nd in the National League and the 15th at West Side Park. It was the first season that the Chicago Cubs became the franchise's name officially. The team finished in first place in the National League with a record of 107–45, 17 games ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was their second straight NL pennant. The Cubs faced the Detroit Tigers in the 1907 World Series, which they won four games to none (with one tie) for their first World Series victory.

1908 Chicago Cubs season

The 1908 Chicago Cubs season was the 37th season of the Chicago Cubs franchise, the 33rd in the National League and the 16th at West Side Park. It involved the Cubs winning their third consecutive National League pennant, as well as the World Series.

This team included four future Hall of Famers: manager / first baseman Frank Chance, second baseman Johnny Evers, shortstop Joe Tinker, and pitcher Mordecai Brown. In 1908, Brown finished second in the NL in wins and ERA. This would be the last World Series victory for the Cubs until the 2016 World Series.

1908 World Series

The 1908 World Series matched the defending champion Chicago Cubs against the Detroit Tigers in a rematch of the 1907 Series. In this first-ever rematch of this young event, the Cubs won in five games for their second consecutive World Series title.

The 1908 World Series was significant for being the last World Series championship the Cubs would win until the 2016 World Series (108 years later). Before the 2016 series, the team would go on to appear in seven World Series; in 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, and 1945, losing each time. The Cubs had been one of baseball's most dominant teams in the early 1900s. This was the year of the infamous "Merkle's Boner" play that allowed the Chicago Cubs to reach the World Series after beating the New York Giants (now the San Francisco Giants) in a one-game "playoff", actually the makeup game for the tie that the Merkle play had caused.

The Series was anti-climactic after tight pennant races in both leagues. Ty Cobb had a much better World Series than in the previous year, as did the rest of his team. The final two games, held in Detroit, were shutouts. This was also the most poorly attended World Series in history, with the final game drawing a record-low 6,210 fans. Attendance in Chicago was harmed by a ticket-scalping scheme that fans accused the club's owner of participating in, and the World Series was boycotted to some degree.

For the first time, four umpires were used in the series, in alternating two-man teams.

1909 Chicago Cubs season

The 1909 Chicago Cubs season was the 38th season of the Chicago Cubs franchise, the 34th in the National League and the 17th at West Side Park. The Cubs won 104 games but finished second in the National League, 6½ games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cubs had won the pennant the previous three years and would win it again in 1910. Of their 104 victories, 97 were wins for a Cubs starting pitcher; this was the most wins in a season by the starting staff of any major league team from 1908 to the present day.The legendary infield of Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, Frank Chance, and Harry Steinfeldt was still intact, but it was the pitching staff that excelled. The Cubs pitchers had a collective earned run average of 1.75, a microscopic figure even for the dead-ball era. Three Finger Brown was one of the top two pitchers in the league (with Christy Mathewson) again, going 27–9 with a 1.31 ERA.

1910 Chicago Cubs season

The 1910 Chicago Cubs season was the 39th season of the Chicago Cubs franchise, the 35th in the National League and the 18th at West Side Park. The Cubs finished first in the National League with a record of 104–50, 13 games ahead of the second place New York Giants. The team was defeated four games to one by the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1910 World Series.

1910 World Series

The 1910 World Series featured the Philadelphia Athletics and the Chicago Cubs, with the Athletics winning in five games to earn their first championship.

Jack Coombs of Philadelphia won three games and Eddie Collins supplied timely hitting. The 2nd greatest Cubs team in history closed out its glory years, only ten years into the new century.

1911 Chicago Cubs season

The 1911 Chicago Cubs season was the 40th season of the Chicago Cubs franchise, the 36th in the National League and the 19th at West Side Park. The Cubs finished second in the National League with a record of 92–62.

1913 Cincinnati Reds season

The 1913 Cincinnati Reds season was a season in American baseball. The team finished seventh in the National League with a record of 64–89, 37 ½ games behind the New York Giants.

1914 St. Louis Terriers season

The 1914 St. Louis Terriers season was a season in American baseball. The Terriers finished in 8th place in the Federal League, 25 games behind the Indianapolis Hoosiers.

1916 Chicago Cubs season

The 1916 Chicago Cubs season was the 45th season of the Chicago Cubs franchise, the 41st in the National League and the 1st at Wrigley Field (then known as "Weeghman Park"). The Cubs finished fifth in the National League with a record of 67–86.

Chicago Whales all-time roster

The Chicago Whales were a Major League Baseball franchise that played in the Federal League during its two years of existence, 1914 and 1915. The following is a list of players and who appeared in at least one game for the franchise during this time. This includes the Chicago Federals, the name of the club in 1914.

Earl Moseley

Earl Victor Moseley (September 7, 1887 – July 1, 1963) was a pitcher who played for the Boston Red Sox (1913), Indianapolis Hoosiers / Newark Pepper (1914–1915) and Cincinnati Reds (1916). Moseley batted and threw right-handed. He was born in Middleburg Heights, Ohio.

Moseley made his majors debut in 1913 with the Boston Red Sox and went 8–5. The next year, he jumped to the Federal League and won 19 and 15 in two seasons for the Indianapolis/Newark franchises, leading the league with a 1.91 earned run average in 1915 over Eddie Plank (2.08) and Mordecai Brown (2.09). Bothered by arm problems, he played his final season with the Cincinnati Reds in 1916.

In a four-season career, Moseley posted a 49–48 record with a 3.01 ERA and 469 strikeouts in 855-2/3 innings pitched. Moseley died in Alliance, Ohio, at the age of 75.

List of Chicago Cubs team records

The following lists statistical records and all-time leaders as well as awards and major accomplishments for the Chicago Cubs professional baseball club of Major League Baseball. The records list the top 5 players in each category since the inception of the Cubs.

Players that are still active with the Cubs are denoted in bold.

Records updated as of August 5, 2011.

List of Major League Baseball annual saves leaders

The following is a list of annual leaders in saves in Major League Baseball (MLB), with separate lists for the American League and the National League. The list also includes several professional leagues and associations that were never part of MLB.

In baseball, a save is credited to a pitcher who finishes a game for the winning team under prescribed circumstances. Most commonly a relief pitcher ("reliever") earns a save by entering in the ninth inning of a game in which his team is winning by three or fewer runs and finishing the game by pitching one inning without losing the lead. The statistic was created by Jerome Holtzman in 1959 to "measure the effectiveness of relief pitchers" and was adopted as an MLB official statistic in 1969. The save has been retroactively measured for pitchers before that date.

MLB recognizes the player or players in each league with the most saves each season. In retrospect, the five saves by Jack Manning meant he led the National League in its inaugural year, while Bill Hoffer was the American League's first saves champion with three. Mordecai Brown was the first pitcher to record at least 10 saves in a season. Dan Quisenberry, Bruce Sutter, Firpo Marberry, and Ed Walsh are the only pitchers to lead the league in saves five times (though Marberry and Walsh did so before 1969). Sutter is also tied with Harry Wright, Dan Quisenberry and Craig Kimbrel for the most consecutive seasons leading the league in saves with four.

St. Louis Terriers

The St. Louis Terriers were a baseball club that played in the short-lived Federal League in 1914 and 1915. They played their home games at Handlan's Park. The St. Louis Chapter of SABR placed a marker at the site of Handlan's Park, now on the campus of Saint Louis University, on October 17, 2007. The team was owned by ice magnate Phil Ball, who later was owner of the St. Louis Browns.

In their inaugural season, the Terriers posted a 62-89 record (.411) and finished in last place, 25 games behind the league champion Indianapolis Hoosiers. The team improved significantly the next year as they were pennant contenders until the last game of the season. The Terriers had an 87-67 mark (.565), ending up in second place 1/10 of a percentage point behind the champion Chicago Whales, who finished 86-66 (.566).

Tommy Leach

Thomas Andrew Leach (November 4, 1877 – September 29, 1969) was a professional baseball outfielder and third baseman. He played in Major League Baseball from 1898 through 1918 for the Louisville Colonels, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds.

Leach played in the first modern World Series in 1903 with the Pirates, hitting four triples to set a record that still stands. He played alongside legendary ballplayers such as Honus Wagner and Mordecai Brown. Leach began his career primarily as an infielder including playing shortstop, second base and, mostly, third base. Later, to take advantage of his speed, Leach played mostly outfield. Leach is also famous for being interviewed for Lawrence Ritter's The Glory of Their Times collection.

Veterans Committee
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Second basemen
Third basemen
Designated hitters
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Inducted as a Cardinal
Inductees who played
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Cardinals managers
Cardinals executives
Frick Award
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