Some players overcome handicaps. Brown turned his to an advantage. As a seven-year-old boy he caught his right hand in a corn grinder on his uncle’s farm. It was necessary to amputate almost all the forefinger, and, although saved, the middle finger was mangled and left crooked. His little finger was also stubbed. Later, newspapers called him “Three-Finger,” although to his teammates he was “Miner” because he’d worked several years in a coal mine before beginning in baseball at age 24. He started as an infielder, but when he learned to add spin to the ball by releasing it off his stub, he became a pitcher.
Brown was the pitching mainstay of the great “Tinker- to-Evers-to-Chance” Cub teams that won four pennants and two world championships, 1906-10. He won 20 or more games for six consecutive years, starting in 1906, and four of his five WS wins were shutouts.
The peak years of Brown’s career coincided with those of Christy Mathewson, and they were often matched when the Giants and Cubs met. One game he lost to Mathewson was Matty’s no-hitter in 1905. After that, Brown rolled off nine consecutive victories over Mathewson, the ninth coming in the playoff that decided the famous 1908 pennant race after the “Merkle Boner.” In 1916, they faced each other for the final time, each with 12 wins. Mathewson beat Brown, in what turned out to be the last game for each.
Brown was a strong, durable pitcher, admired for his fitness. In 1914, American Monthly, a national magazine, published photos of his exercise program, a rugged series of body-building routines. Always in the starting rotation, he was still able to relieve frequently. He led the NL four times in saves and had 48 lifetime, in addition to his 239 career wins.