Chicago Cubs: An enduring legacy in baseball
By 1912, the 35 year-old Brown lost his form and began dealing his nagging injuries. He was a shell of himself, appearing in only 15 games and posing a 5-6 record. After the season, the Chicago Cubs traded him to the Cincinnati Reds.
After going 11-12 for the Reds in 1913, Brown, along with other big leaguers, joined the short-lived Federal League in 1914. During his first season in the new league, he was a player/manager for St. Louis before going to Brooklyn. Combined he was 14-11 with an ERA of 3.52. In 1915, he returned to Chicago to play for the Federals, improving to 17-8 with an ERA 2.09 and winning the league championship.
When the Federal League folded, Brown returned for a final season with the Chicago Cubs. He was 39 years old and far from the dominant pitcher he was in his past. During his final season in 1916, he made only 12 appearances, going 2-3 with a 3.91 ERA.
His final game Major League game was on Sept. 4, 1916, against Christy Mathewson. The final face-off between the two rivals was a highly promoted event on Labor Day as it was the last big-league performances for both of the legendary pitchers.
Brown lost their final duel but bested the all-time matchup going 12-11 with one no-decision in their 24 matchups. At one point, Brown beat the Giants star nine consecutive times. The pitching rivalry is still known for being one of the best of all-time.
In 1949, he was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee. Sadly, he wouldn’t live long enough to see the induction as he died in Terre Haute, Indiana the prior year at the age of 71.
Forty-six years after his death, a three-foot-high granite stone was erected to mark the birthplace of Mordecai Brown in Nyesville, Indiana.
In his 14-year career in the Majors, Brown won 239 games while losing only 130 and had a lifetime ERA of 2.06.
In nine seasons with the Cubs, from 1904-12, Brown would win 186 games and had six straight seasons (1905-10) posting 20 or more wins. He still holds franchise pitching records including most career shutouts (48), lowest career ERA (1.80) and the lowest ERA in a single season (1.04 in 1906).
During his tenure in Chicago, he was well respected and brought stability to the notoriously rowdy bunch. Teammate Johnny Evers‘ words are enshrined at Brown’s Hall of Fame file. He described Brown as having, “plenty of nerve, ability, and willingness to work under any conditions. He was charitable and friendly to his foes.”
Three Finger Brown’s handicap became and handicap for opposing players en route to becoming one of the greatest pitchers in Major League history.