Thorn: Three Finger Brown’s greatest day

From SABR member John Thorn at Our Game on May 14, 2012:

In the previous post I featured a mid-1940s recollection of Casey Stengel’s self-identified greatest day in baseball, as told to Chicago Tribune reporter John Carmichael. Here is another from that wonderful series, as told to Jack Ryan by Mordecai Peter Centennial “Three-Finger” Brown. He was a seven-year-old Indiana farmboy when he accidentally put his right hand into his uncle’s corn grinder. His index finger was so badly damaged that it was amputated just below the knuckle. Because his index finger was barely a stub, he was forced to exert extra pressure on the ball with his mangled middle finger. Because of Brown’s unique grip, his curve dropped like a modern forkball, and it was his signature delivery.

He named his greatest day as the 1908 National League playoff contest dictated when the Giants and Brown’s Cubs concluded the regular season in a tie for the top spot, because the “Merkle Boner” game of September 23 could not be played to a conclusion. That game was tied 1–1 in the last of the ninth. With the Giants’ Moose McCormick on first and one out, rookie Fred Merkle shot a single to right that moved the runner to third. After another out, Al Bridwell singled to center, the winning run crossed the plate, and the Giants had extended their slim lead in the pennant race. Or had they?

Merkle, in the excitement, never bothered to touch second, instead running off the field to avoid the rush of fans storming out to celebrate. Somehow Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers got the ball (or some ball, at any rate) and stepped on second, showing the ump he had forced Merkle and the run didn’t count. Less than three weeks earlier the Cubs had tried to win a ruling on a similar force-out against the Pirates and were overruled.

Not this time. The umpires, Hank O’Day and Bob Emslie, declared the game a tie, as there was no way to clear the joyously cascading fans from the field. League president Harry Pulliam backed them up. The game was to be replayed if necessary to determine a pennant winner.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: May 14, 2012. Last Updated: May 14, 2012.