1.24.2012

Hoosiers on Cardboard, Part 3

It's hard to imagine what Mordecai Peter Centennial Brown was thinking on Oct. 8, 1908, clutching a half-dozen death threat notes inside his coat pocket, and entering the game for his Chicago Cubs in a pennant-deciding final regular season contest against Christy Mathewson and the New York Giants.

Not to mention, he surely was completely unaware that a century later he'd still have arguably the best nickname in baseball history. That alone could have broken his concentration.

The native Hoosier was clear on the message of the notes, what with being death threat notes and all: We’ll kill you if you pitch and beat the Giants. A black handprint marked each note, the signature of the Italian Mafia.
Brown, early in the game, relieved the starter, and then held the Giants in check as the Cubs won 4-2, and the pennant. The Cubs went on to win their second consecutive World Series championship, their last to date. Yes, last to date.

On the plus side for fans of the Cubs, nobody killed "Three Finger" Mordecai Brown.

Sadly, this card is not part of my collection. Now, off to find Mordecai reprints.
Mordecai Peter Centennial was named after his father, his uncle and the year of his birth - 1876. He was born in a small West Central Indiana farming outpost called Nyesville.

At age seven, while 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 did the best he could but, while the injuries were healing, young Mordecai fell, and broke several finger bones in the same hand. He kept quiet about the fall and the fingers were not re-set properly, with the middle finger terribly bent.

And, with that, eventually, came one of "the most devastating" - Ty Cobb once said - curve balls in Major League Baseball history. The extra topspin from his unusual grip made it difficult for batters to connect. In short, he "threw ground balls." Interestingly, he also had a deceptive fast ball and change-up.

Legendary New York Giants manager John McGraw regarded Mathewson and Brown as the two best pitchers in the National League. Brown, in fact, often defeated Mathewson in competition, holding a slim career 13-11 edge, with one no-decision in their 25 classic pitching matchups.

Mathewson v. Mordecai Brown. Oh, to have witnessed one of those games.

1 comment:

  1. Easily two of the best pitchers of the era, watching them would have been incredible. Topps did include him in the 2010 T206 set, so if you're looking for a card of his thats not 100 years old, start there.

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