Mordecai Peter Centennial Brown
(Three Finger or Miner)
- Bats Both, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 175 lb.
- Debut April 19, 1903
- Final Game September 4, 1916
- Born October 19, 1876 in Nyesville, IN USA
- Died February 4, 1948 in Terre Haute, IN USA
"Brown is my idea of the almost perfect pitcher." - Christy Mathewson
"You haven't space enough to tell of the good deeds of Brownie on and off the field. Plenty of nerve, ability and willingness to work at all times under any conditions. Crowds never bothered him. There was never a finer character, charitable and friendly to his foes and ever willing to help a youngster breaking in."" - Johnny Evers
After overcoming a serious childhood injury, Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown went on to become one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. He won 239 games over 14 seasons in the majors, and his career ERA, 2.06, is sixth-best all-time.
Born in Indiana in 1876, Brown was given the middle name "Centennial" to honor the 100th birthday of the United States. As a boy, he lost part of a finger in a childhood farming accident. In another incident, he broke other fingers on the same hand and, as they healed, bent unnaturally. These accidents apparently helped him throw pitches, most notably a curveball, that had unusual properties. Before 1900, he played semipro ball with a team from Coxville, IN. He began his professional career with the Terre Haute Hottentots in 1901, winning 25 games. After winning 27 for the Omaha Indians the following summer, his contract was purchased by the St. Louis Cardinals. He won 9 games for the last-place Cardinals while posting a 2.60 ERA. After one year, he was dealt to the Chicago Cubs.
Brown soon established himself as the top pitcher on the Cubs excellent pitching staff. He was in the top five in the National League in ERA in each year from 1904 to 1910. In 1906, he won 26 games while leading the National League with 9 shutouts and a miniscule 1.06 ERA. The Cubs went to the World Series that year, but Brown went 1-2 in 3 Fall Classic starts as his heavily-favored team fell to the crosstown "HItless Wonders" Chicago White Sox in six games. He won at least 20 games in each of the next five seasons, and the Cubs reached the World Series three more times during that span. In the 1907 Series, he threw a shutout in the deciding Game 5 to give Chicago the crown, and he notched two wins against Detroit in the 1908 World Series. In 1909, he put up some remarkable splits for the second-place Cubs. Exactly half of his starts (17 of 34) came against the two other best teams in the National League that season, the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Giants; he went 9-8, 2.16 in those games. Against the other 5 teams, he was 18-1, 1.95. Clearly, his manager, Frank Chance, saved him for the biggest games.
After struggling with arm injuries and winning just 5 games in 1912, Brown moved on to the Cincinnati Reds in 1913. He jumped to the upstart Federal League in 1914 as player-manager of the St. Louis Terriers. He won a dozen games for St. Louis but only posted a 50-63 record as skipper of the club before moving on to the Brooklyn Tip Tops late in the season. He was acquired by the Chicago Whales for the 1915 campaign and won 17 games with a 2.09 ERA for the FL champions. After the circuit folded, he was back with the Cubs in 1916. He pitched his last big league game on September 4th of that year, taking the loss to the Reds while facing his greatest rival, Christy Mathewson (who was also playing in his final big league game).
In addition to his 239 victories, Brown had 49 saves during his career, leading the league several times in saves (although not an official statistic at the time). In six minor league seasons, he won 62 percent of his decisions. Brown was a Veteran's Committee selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1949 and was inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979. In 1992, he is mentioned by name as one of the desired ringers of Mr. Burns for the Springfield Power Plant softball team in the classic episode of The Simpsons, "Homer At The Bat".
Following his big league days, Brown returned to the minors. He played two years for the Columbus Senators of the American Association before spending 1919 and 1920 as player-manager for the Terre Haute Browns. He later returned to Terre Haute, running a filling station until several years prior to his death.
"It's interesting that Mordecai Brown pitched fifty years before I showed up, and yet we stood on the same field. We both hurled a ball toward a batter standing in virtually the same location... It's my honor to have been the pitcher who broke one of Three Finger's records. Until I finished my sixth consecutive season of more than 20 wins, in 1972, Mordecai had been the only Cub to do it." - Fergie Jenkins
- NL ERA Leader (1906)
- NL Wins Leader (1909)
- 2-time NL Games Pitched Leader (1909 & 1911)
- 4-time NL Saves Leader (1908-1911)
- NL Innings Pitched Leader (1909)
- 2-time NL Complete Games Leader (1909 & 1910)
- 2-time NL Shutouts Leader (1906 & 1910)
- 15 Wins Seasons: 9 (1904-1911 & 1915)
- 20 Wins Seasons: 6 (1906-1911)
- 25 Wins Seasons: 4 (1906, 1908, 1909 & 1910)
- 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 11 (1903-1911, 1914 & 1915)
- 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 2 (1908 & 1909)
- Won two World Series with the Chicago Cubs (1907 & 1908)
- Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1949
Year-by-Year Managerial Record
|1919||Terre Haute Browns||Three-I League||50-70||5th||none|
|1920||Terre Haute Browns||Three-I League||--||none||--||replaced by Charles Oberta|
- Lowest ERA, right-hander, season (since 1893), 1.04, 1906
- Cindy Thomson and Scott Brown: Three Finger: The Mordecai Brown Story, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2006.