One of the most colorful legendary characters of the 1907 Chicago Cubs is “Three Finger” Brown. The following is an excerpt from The Best Team Ever, a Novel of America, Chicago, and the 1907 Cubs:
Two of the digits on the hand did not heal right, freezing in a bent and clawed fashion. But Pete’s family did not grieve the deformed hand their boy extended to shake the hands of strangers. Pete could firmly grasp the coal miner’s pick and shovel. His future was not jeopardized.
Mordecai Brown did end up gripping a pick axe in a deep coal mine in the Illinois Basin of West Central Indiana, not far from his birthplace. But that did not last long. What was not evident early in Pete’s life became crystal clear when he clutched a baseball to throw for the mining company’s team. While the two clawed fingers cradled the ball securely, he could tuck the fleshy nub of the remainder of his index finger firmly behind the baseball, giving it an unusual spin on release. It would fly from Pete’s grasp and break straight down over the plate. It was as if God had molded the perfect instrument to throw the curveball.
His teammates on the Cubs in 1907 called him “Brownie” or “Miner,” but the newspapermen, mindful of their audience, always referred to him as Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown. The curveball provided his bread and butter. Ty Cobb described it as “the most devastating pitch I ever faced.” The sharp action on Brown’s curveball so greatly impressed New York Giants manager John McGraw that he tried to coax two of his pitchers to have their index finger amputated like Mordecai’s
“My paw gives me a firmer grip on the ball,” Brown told his teammates, ‘paw’ being how he referred to his mangled right hand, “so I can spin it over the hump. It gives me a greater dip.” A reporter once asked him whether missing most of his index finger made it more difficult to pitch. Mordecai Brown answered honestly. “Don’t know. Never done it the other way.”
Back in Nyesville, Indiana, after “Three Finger” Brown became the mainstay of the Cubs’ pitching staff, locals put the machine that shaped Brown’s life on display outside the town hall–the first corn shredder in America to become a tourist attraction.
Get the fascinating story of Mordecai Brown as he pitches the Cubs to the World Series in The Best Team Ever, a Novel of America, Chicago, and the 1907 Cubs.