Mordecai Brown

Last updated
Mordecai Brown
Mordecai Brown Baseball.jpg
Brown in 1904
Pitcher / Manager
Born:(1876-10-19)October 19, 1876
Nyesville, Indiana
Died: February 14, 1948(1948-02-14) (aged 71)
Terre Haute, Indiana
Batted: SwitchThrew: 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 record 239–130
Earned run average 2.06
Strikeouts 1,375
Teams
As player

As manager

Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svgEmpty Star.svgEmpty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svgEmpty Star.svgEmpty Star.svg
Induction 1949
Election MethodVeteran's Committee

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.

Major League Baseball Professional baseball league

Major League Baseball (MLB) is a professional baseball organization, the oldest of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. A total of 30 teams play in the National League (NL) and American League (AL), with 15 teams in each league. The NL and AL were formed as separate legal entities in 1876 and 1901 respectively. After cooperating but remaining legally separate entities beginning in 1903, the leagues merged into a single organization led by the Commissioner of Baseball in 2000. The organization also oversees Minor League Baseball, which comprises 256 teams affiliated with the Major League clubs. With the World Baseball Softball Confederation, MLB manages the international World Baseball Classic tournament.

Pitcher the player responsible for throwing ("pitching") the ball to the batters in a game of baseball or softball

In baseball, the pitcher is the player who throws the baseball from the pitcher's mound toward the catcher to begin each play, with the goal of retiring a batter, who attempts to either make contact with the pitched ball or draw a walk. In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the pitcher is assigned the number 1. The pitcher is often considered the most important player on the defensive side of the game, and as such is situated at the right end of the defensive spectrum. There are many different types of pitchers, such as the starting pitcher, relief pitcher, middle reliever, lefty specialist, setup man, and the closer.

Manager (baseball) someone who manages a baseball team

In baseball, the field manager is the equivalent of a head coach who is responsible for overseeing and making final decisions on all aspects of on-field team strategy, lineup selection, training and instruction. Managers are typically assisted by a staff of assistant coaches whose responsibilities are specialized. Field managers are typically not involved in off-field personnel decisions or long-term club planning, responsibilities that are instead held by a team's general manager.

Contents

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

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Professional sports hall of fame in New York, U.S.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is an American history museum and hall of fame, located in Cooperstown, New York, and operated by private interests. It serves as the central point for the study of the history of baseball in the United States and beyond, displays baseball-related artifacts and exhibits, and honors those who have excelled in playing, managing, and serving the sport. The Hall's motto is "Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations."

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.

Nyesville, Indiana Unincorporated community in Indiana, United States

Nyesville, also known as Nowlington, is an unincorporated community in Washington Township, Parke County, in the U.S. state of Indiana.

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

Index finger finger

The index finger, is the first finger and the second digit of a human hand. It is located between the first and third digits, between the thumb and the middle finger. It is usually the most dextrous and sensitive finger of the hand, though not the longest – it is shorter than the middle finger, and may be shorter or longer than the ring finger – see digit ratio.

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.

Changeup type of pitch in baseball

A changeup is a type of pitch in baseball and fastpitch softball. The changeup is the staple off-speed pitch, usually thrown to look like a fastball but arriving much more slowly to the plate. Its reduced speed coupled with its deceptive delivery is meant to confuse the batter's timing. It is meant to be thrown the same as a fastball, but farther back in the hand, which makes it release from the hand slower while still retaining the look of a fastball. A changeup is generally thrown to be 8–15 miles per hour slower than a fastball. If thrown correctly, the changeup will confuse the batter because the human eye cannot discern that the ball is coming significantly slower until it is around 30 feet from the plate. For example, a batter swinging at the ball as if it were a 90 mph fastball when it is coming in at 75 mph means they are swinging too early to hit the ball well, making the changeup very effective.

Career

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

Terre Haute, Indiana City in Indiana, United States

Terre Haute is a city in and the county seat of Vigo County, Indiana, United States, near the state's western border with Illinois. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 60,785 and its metropolitan area had a population of 170,943.

The Illinois-Indiana–Iowa League was a minor league baseball organization that operated for the better part of 60 years, mostly in those three states. The league began play in 1901 and disbanded after the 1961 season. It was popularly known as the Three–I League and also sometimes jokingly as the Three-Eye League.

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

Related Research Articles

Christy Mathewson American Major League baseball player, manager

Christopher Mathewson, nicknamed "Big Six", "The Christian Gentleman", "Matty", and "The Gentleman's Hurler", was a Major League Baseball (MLB) right-handed pitcher who played 17 seasons with the New York Giants. He stood 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 m) tall and weighed 195 pounds (88 kg). He was among the most dominant pitchers in baseball history, and ranks in the all-time top ten in several key pitching categories, including wins, shutouts, and ERA. In fact, he is the only professional pitcher in history to rank in the top ten both in career wins and in career ERA, if taking 19th century pitchers statistics into account. Otherwise, both Mathewson and Walter Johnson would hold that distinction. In 1936 Mathewson was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of its first five members.

Chief Bender American baseball player and coach

Charles Albert "Chief" Bender was a pitcher in Major League Baseball during the 1910s and 1920s. In 1911, Bender tied a record by pitching three complete games in a single World Series. He finished his career with a win-loss record of 212-127, for a .625 winning percentage and a career 2.46 earned run average (ERA).

Grover Cleveland Alexander American baseball player

Grover Cleveland Alexander, nicknamed "Old Pete", was an American Major League Baseball pitcher. He played from 1911 through 1930 for the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, and St. Louis Cardinals. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938.

John Clarkson American baseball player

John Gibson Clarkson was a Major League Baseball right-handed pitcher. He played from 1882 to 1894. Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Clarkson played for the Worcester Ruby Legs (1882), Chicago White Stockings (1884–1887), Boston Beaneaters (1888–1892), and Cleveland Spiders (1892–1894).

Joe Tinker American baseball player, manager

Joseph Bert Tinker was an American professional baseball player and manager. He played from 1902 through 1916 for the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Chicago Whales of the Federal League.

Jack Taylor (1900s pitcher) right-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball, active in 1900s

John W. Taylor was a right-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball for the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.

Vic Aldridge American professional baseball pitcher

Victor Aldridge, nicknamed the "Hoosier Schoolmaster", was an American right-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball who played for the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Giants, and was known to be an excellent curveball pitcher. Before his playing career he was a schoolmaster, hence his nickname. His most significant actions as a player occurred during the 1925 World Series, where Aldridge completed and won games two and five, only to have the most disastrous first inning in the seventh game of the World Series ever. After his retirement from baseball, he served as a state senator in the Indiana General Assembly. Aldridge is a member of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame, inducted in 2007.

Charlie Root American baseball player and coach

Charlie Henry "Chinski" Root was an American Major League Baseball pitcher with the St. Louis Browns and the Chicago Cubs between 1923 and 1941. Root batted and threw right-handed. He holds the club record for games, innings pitched, and career wins with 201. He was the last player born in the 19th century to pitch in a Major League game.

Hank Borowy Major League Baseball pitcher

Henry Ludwig "Hank" Borowy was a starting pitcher in Major League Baseball. From 1942 through 1951, Borowy played for the New York Yankees (1942–45), Chicago Cubs (1945–48), Philadelphia Phillies (1949–50), Pittsburgh Pirates (1950) and Detroit Tigers (1950–51). He batted and threw right-handed.

1906 World Series 1906 Major League Baseball championship 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.

Ken Holtzman American baseball player

Kenneth Dale Holtzman is an American former Major League Baseball pitcher with the Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees who pitched from 1965 to 1979. He was a two-time All Star and a three-time World Series champion, all while with Oakland.

Orval Overall Major League Baseball player

Orval Overall was an American pitcher in Major League Baseball. He was a member of the Chicago Cubs dynasty of the early 1900s.

Dizzy Trout American baseball player

Paul Howard "Dizzy" Trout was an American Major League Baseball pitcher with the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles between 1939 and 1957. Trout batted and threw right-handed

Zack Taylor (baseball) American Major League Baseball player, Major League Baseball manager, catcher

James Wren "Zack" Taylor was an American professional baseball player, coach, scout and manager. He played in Major League Baseball as a catcher with the Brooklyn Robins, Boston Braves, New York Giants, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, and again with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Although Taylor was not a powerful hitter, he sustained a lengthy career in the major leagues due to his valuable defensive abilities as a catcher. After his playing career, he became better known as the manager for the St. Louis Browns owned by Bill Veeck. His baseball career spanned 58 years.

Lefty Leifield American baseball player

Albert Peter "Lefty" Leifield was an American Major League Baseball pitcher with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Browns between 1905 and 1920. He batted and threw left-handed.

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.

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.

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 1908 New York Giants season was the franchise's 26th season. The team finished in second place in the National League with a 98–56 record, one game behind the Chicago Cubs.

Merkles Boner baserunning mistake committed by Fred Merkle in 1908

Merkle's Boner refers to the notorious base-running mistake committed by rookie Fred Merkle of the New York Giants in a game against the Chicago Cubs on September 23, 1908. Merkle's failure to advance to second base on what should have been a game-winning hit led instead to a forceout at second and a tied game. The Cubs later won the makeup game, which proved decisive as they beat the Giants by one game to win the National League (NL) pennant for 1908. It has been described as "the most controversial game in baseball history".

References

  1. "Brown, Mordecai". baseballhall.org. 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. 1 2 Haugh, David (June 29, 2008). "Mordecai Brown a Special Memory in Indiana Farmland". Chicago Tribune . Retrieved August 14, 2013.
  4. "The Ballplayers: Christy Mathewson". BaseballLibrary.com. September 4, 1916. Archived from the original on April 14, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
  5. "Chicago Cubs win 2016 World Series". MLB.com.
  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.