Mordecai Brown Biography
Pitched In As A Pitcher, Chronology, Later Career, Career Statistics, Awards And Accomplishments
American baseball player
Of all the young men in history who aspired to play professional baseball, Mordecai Brown wished it perhaps most of all. After a childhood accident left him with a badly mangled right hand, he learned to throw a natural sinker ball despite the handicap. He spent fourteen years in the major leagues and was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, as one of the most successful right-handed pitchers in the history of the game.
Born Mordecai Peter Centennial Brown in Nyesville, Indiana, he was one of five children of Peter P. Brown, a farmer, and Jane Marsh, a homemaker. Brown's parents embellished his given name with a second middle name of Centennial, in honor of his birth year, which marked the first American Centennial.
As a child of six or seven, Brown became engrossed one day by the workings of a threshing machine at his
uncle's farm and, against the warnings of his elders, put his hand too close to the blades. The index finger of his right hand was severed, leaving a misshapen stump. The odd-looking digit was barely on the mend when Brown reinjured the same hand while chasing a pig, breaking the two middle fingers and injuring the pinky finger. The broken fingers healed badly, and the pinky finger remained permanently paralyzed. The hand was crippled for the rest of his life. Years later, as a professional baseball player, the deformity earned him the nickname "Three-Finger Brown." He was known also by the nickname of "Miner" because as a teenager he went to work in the mines around Nyesville before turning to professional baseball for his livelihood.
It was while working in the mines that Brown decided to become a baseball player. With the encouragement of a co-worker—a former minor leaguer named Legs O'Connell—Brown mustered his determination and learned to grip and toss the baseball with his injured hand. With O'Connell's help Brown overcame the pain of handling the ball, yet time and again when he tossed it, the ball curved and jumped stubbornly, landing with an awkward twist. Brown was frustrated by this inability to control the ball, until O'Connell convinced him to turn the odd throwing style into an advantage. With practice and perseverance, Brown learned to pitch a natural curve ball with a special flair made possible only by the mass of crippled fingers on his right hand. In pursuing a goal of playing professional baseball he had never held hope of becoming a pitcher until he came to appreciate his own uncanny ability to throw a sinker ball.
Allen, Lee, and Tom Meany. Kings of the Diamond. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1965.
Garraty, John A., and Mark C. Carnes, Eds. American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Schoor, Gene. Courage Makes the Champion. Princeton: Van Nostrand Company, Inc,, 1967.
Sketch by Gloria Cooksey
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