On February 14, 1948, Hall of Fame pitcher Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown dies at the age of 71.
Brown’s nickname “three fingers” came from him losing his index finger in a childhood farm accident.
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 (or knuckle curve), 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.
Brown won 239 games over a 14-year career. He went 127-44 from 1906 – 1910, with an astonishing 1.42 ERA. He pitched in 4 world series for the cubs, we has 4-0 and didn’t give up a run in the two series the Cubs won, and he went 2-4 with an era over 4 and a half.
110 years later Bron ranks first in WHIP, shutouts and is 2nd in wins and 3rd in WAR and second with a 1.80 ERA over his career as a Cub.
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. He was posthumously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame the following year.