The Transition

  • While Mordecai Brown still holds the lowest historical career E.R.A. in the National League, 2.06, it is often forgotten that he contributed at the plate as well. Pitcher Brown batted .206 lifetime, in an era when the ball was less lively.

  • The famed exploits of Mordecai Three Finger” Brown.

  • Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Athletics exchange pleasantries prior to the 1910 World Series . Left to right: Frank Chance, Eddie Plank, Mordecai Brown, Harry Davis, Jimmy Sheckard, Jimmy Archer.

  • Traded after delivering Chicago four National League Pennants and two World Series titles, Mordecai Brown and teammate Joe Tinker join the 1913 Cincinnati Reds.

Ty Cobb once described Mordecai’s lively pitch as the most devastating he’d ever tried to hit. His words are forever enshrined on a marker erected to Mordecai in Nyesville, Indiana. It is high praise from a man who had remarkable success at the plate during the time when the ball had little juice. In his career, Mordecai won five World Series games for the Cubs and lost four. Cobb hit .273 off Brown during World Series play, but Mordecai won every World Series game he pitched against Cobb and the Tigers.

During the Deadball Era defense was king. The ball didn’t travel far, unlike today, and low scoring games were common. Teams couldn’t afford costly errors. Mordecai was an excellent fielder. In 1908 he handled the ball without error in 108 chances.

The rivalry continued between Brown and Christy Mathewson throughout their careers. Brown lost to Mathewson on June 13, 1905, a no-hitter for Matty, but after that he beat the Giants star nine consecutive times. The ninth game was the October 8th replay of the Merkle game.

The Cubs in those days were a rowdy bunch. Fights in the clubhouse were common, sometimes landing players in the hospital. But Brown was well respected. A search in Brown’s file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame produced a quote from teammate, Johnny Evers. Evers described Brown as having “plenty of nerve, ability, and willingness to work under any conditions. He was charitable and friendly to his foes.”

By 1912 Mordecai had lost his previous form. By that time he was thirty-five and only appeared in fifteen games, posting a 5-6 record. After the 1912 season, ailing from a knee injury, Mordecai was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, where he went 11-12.

Biographical material by Cindy Thomson – SABR Bio Project