The Legend Grows

  • Felt pennant featuring Brown during his years with the Cubs. Mordecai, being a fan of baseball as well as a player, collected team pennants.

  • The “workhorse” of the Chance era Chicago Cubs. Mordecai would often be the starting pitcher for the front half of a double header, and come in as a reliever during the second game.

  • A Chicago newspaper artist captures the determinant, yet calm demeanor of Brown.

  • The disfigured pitching hand of Three Finger Brown has become the subject of legend.

After the 1903 season, Brown and pitcher Jack O’Neill were traded to the Chicago Cubs, the team Mordecai beat in his rookie appearance and the team for which he would set records that have not been broken to date. The Cardinals received veteran pitcher Jack Taylor, who was suspected of throwing games, and rookie catcher Larry McLean. The Cardinals, being the last- place team, were probably desperate for an experienced pitcher, and Mordecai had not yet proven himself. It was theCubs, however, who benefited the most by the trade because Mordecai had his greatest years while pitching for Chicago.

After joining the Cubs in 1904, Mordecai improved his record to 15-10 and lowered his ERA to 1.86. Brown still holds the Cubs record for most shutouts (since 1900) with 48 and lowest career ERA of 1.80. In addition, Brown is the Cubs record holder for most wins in a season, 29 in 1908, and the lowest ERA in a season, 1.04 in 1906. When Mordecai joined the club he was already twenty-seven years old, older than his manager, Frank Chance, and most of his fellow players.

Besides capturing the interest of the Cubs in his rookie year, Brown also caught the eye of Miss Sarah Burgham. They married December 17, 1903, in Rosedale, Indiana, shortly before he joined the Chicago team. The marriage lasted forty-five years, until Mordecai’s death. Sarah died ten years later on Oct. 5, 1958. They had no children.

Mordecai’s greatest years were during his tenure with the Cubs, 1904 to 1912, when he won 186 games and had six straight seasons, from 1905 to 1910, posting 20 or more wins. During that time he led the Cubs to two World Series championships.

His best year was 1906 when his winning percentage was .813. He pitched nine shutouts that year, and his 1.04 ERA is baseball’s third best in a single season. The Cubs won a remarkable 116 games in 1906 but lost the World Series to their cross-town rival White Sox, known as the Hitless Wonders because the team’s batting average was a weak .230. Mordecai won two of the World Series games, but the one he lost, Game 6, 8-3, lifted his series ERA to 3.20. However, Mordecai could not have been called the Hitless Wonder. At the plate, he went 2 for 6.

Biographical material by Cindy Thomson – SABR Bio Project