News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Top Story 3

May 26, 2010

MARK BENNETT: Legacy of Mordecai Brown holds special place for Terre Haute

TERRE HAUTE — Guys with a lifetime ERA of 2.06 don’t pump your gas anymore.

Actually, most Americans fill their own tanks nowadays. But even if old-school filling stations still existed, the last man you’d expect to tap on your window and ask “Fill ’er up?” would be a Hall of Famer with two World Series rings for the Chicago Cubs.

Actually, that would be impossible. Only four pitchers in big-league baseball history allowed 2.06 earned runs or less per 9 innings, and they’re all dead. So are all the ex-Cubs with a pair of World Series rings. (Their last championships were in 1907 and 1908.)

Still, in the 21st-century reality, players of Cooperstown caliber – Cal Ripken, Ken Griffey, Greg Maddux – probably wouldn’t change the oil in your Ford Ranger.

That’s why the legacy of Mordecai Brown is so special to Terre Haute and the Wabash Valley. Next week, the community will unveil a commemorative marker on the northeast corner of Seventh and Cherry streets, the site of the Texaco gas station Brown owned and operated after his playing days ended, from 1935 until his death in 1948. That’s where average Hauteans got a chance to meet a legend, “Three Finger” Brown – the curveballer from Parke County who pitched more shutouts than Don Drysdale as the ace of what is now an incomprehensible entity, the world champion Chicago Cubs.

“It’s definitely a landmark,” said Mike McCormick, Terre Haute’s resident historian.

Beginning several years ago, McCormick led a push for some sort of “Three Finger” recognition at the spot, which is now the National Road Plaza in front of the Cherry Street Multi-Modal Transportation Facility (aka “the new parking garage”). “I was quietly advocating they name it the ‘Mordecai Brown Parking Garage,’” McCormick said, only slightly tongue-in-cheek.

Eventually, McCormick conveyed the idea to Kevin Runion, vice president for facilities management at Indiana State University. Runion designed a 4-foot-by-4-foot cast metal marker with Brown’s image and personal history on one side and his major-league statistics on the other. Its cost, $2,000, was covered by the scrap resale of aluminum cans dropped off at the ISU Recycling Center. Its official dedication – at 10 a.m. June 5 – coincides with the debut weekend for the new Terre Haute Rex baseball franchise, which is owned the ISU Foundation.

Its significance is strong.

“We thought opening weekend would be the best fit, having one of the most noted names in American baseball and Terre Haute history connected to it,” said Gene Crume, ISU Foundation president.

Players from the Rex – a fledgling club in the Prospect League, which uses promising collegians – should consider “Three Finger” Brown a role model. “The opportunity’s there, waiting for them,” Crume said.

Brown’s legacy allows those young players no excuses. At age 5, Brown caught his right hand in a corn chopper, losing his index finger and mangling the others. Five weeks after that accident, he fell into a rain barrel, breaking six bones. Instead of feeling abnormal, Brown kept being a boy and then a man. Using that misshapen claw, Brown developed one of the nastiest curveballs in baseball history. A coal miner, “Three Finger” didn’t begin his major-league career until he was 26 years old. Despite all that, from 1903 to 1916, he won 236 games, threw 55 shutouts and starred for the Cubs’ last two championship teams.

“And to think he maintained a 2.06 ERA is just amazing,” Crume said.

In fact, Brown is the all-time National League ERA leader at 1.93. (Near the end of his career, he spent two seasons in the old Federal League.) Better than Seaver, Koufax, Marichal and Gibson.

After his playing and coaching career ended, that same guy earned his living as proprietor of a Texaco station at 101 N. Seventh St. in Terre Haute. Multimillion-dollar contracts were light years away for ballplayers of his era. Still, Brown also owned some stock in Indian Refining Co. in Lawrenceville, Ill., according to the 2006 book “Three Finger: The Mordecai Brown Story” by distant cousins Scott Brown and Cindy Thomson. In that biography, Brown is quoted in a Sporting News interview as saying, “I haven’t got much, but they’ll never have to give a benefit for old Brownie. And I don’t owe anybody a dime.”

Atop his two-bay, one-story gas station was his name “Mordecai Brown” spelled in large letters. According to the biography, Brown came to work as a businessman, dressed in a three-piece suit, and employed attendants and mechanics. Sometimes, though, he tossed the jacket, rolled up his sleeves and serviced cars himself.

Imagine Nolan Ryan doing that.

During the Depression, Brown’s station and others were social hangouts, according to the book. He talked with customers and told baseball stories. He even put the infamous corn chopper on display there. A couple blocks away, Brown and his wife, Sarah, lived in an apartment at 331 N. Seventh St. Decades earlier, he led the 1901 Terre Haute Hottentots to the Three-I League title. In 1919 and 1920, he served as player-manager of that same Three-I club — renamed the Terre Haute Browns, in his honor.

This city looms large in “Three Finger” Brown’s colorful life.

“Hopefully in years to come,” Runion said, “this marker will let people know Terre Haute has a rich connection to baseball.”



Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or mark.bennett@tribstar.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Top Story 3
  • Ukraine 10 Things to Know for Thursday, April 17

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Auto Show-Mustang 50t_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Wednesday, April 16

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • America 4 Boston Pray_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Tuesday, April 15

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Masters Golf 10 Things to Know for Monday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, April 14:

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mushroom2 (2).jpg Morels: Foragers can now go off-trail

    Rain that pounded Brown County State Park in early April dampened the number of hikers and mountain bikers in Indiana’s largest state park, but foragers of the property’s 15,000 acres of forest welcomed the weather.

    April 13, 2014 2 Photos

  • jake owen.jpg Jake Owen coming to Hulman Center in September

    Nashville recording artists Jake Owen and the Eli Young Band will perform in concert Sept. 13 in Hulman Center at Terre Haute, according to the concert calendar website pollstar.com.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX California Bu_Ter (2).jpg 10 killed in California school bus crash

    ORLAND, Calif. (AP) — A FedEx tractor-trailer crossed over a grassy median on a Northern California freeway and slammed into a bus carrying 44 high school students in an explosive crash that left 10 people dead, authorities said.

    April 11, 2014 2 Photos

  • Rock and Roll Hall of_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Friday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, April 11:

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • China Jar of Clean Air 10 Things to Know for Thursday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, April 10:

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Philippines M_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Wednesday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, April 9:

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • waltmansmile Waltman remembered for integrity as much as coaching ability

    Royce Waltman — the coach who turned a 17-year drought of winning seasons into a NCAA Tournament-caliber program for Indiana State University men’s basketball — has died.

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

  • Ukraine_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Tuesday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, April 8:

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET 040714 SEX HOTEL.jpg Where we house released sex offenders

    A convicted sex offender who reportedly grabbed a 5-year-old child last week and allegedly molested the child at a Terre Haute motel faces multiple felony charges.

    April 7, 2014 2 Photos 1 Story

  • APTOPIX Obit Mickey R_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Monday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, April 7:

    April 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET 122213 BRETT POINT.jpg Prism of modern country on display at ACM Awards

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The new artist of the year category at the 2014 Academy of Country Music Awards is a primer in Modern Country 101 with three nominees who perfectly capture the genre’s 21st century sound: Brett Eldredge of Paris, Ill., Justin Moore of Arkansas and  Kip Moore of Nashville.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

  • TV-Letterman Retiring_Ter .jpg Letterman’s departure will reshape late-night

    NEW YORK (AP) — Jimmy Fallon’s fast start replacing Jay Leno on the “Tonight” show the past two months had a secondary effect: David Letterman suddenly seemed old.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • Afghanistan Photograp_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Friday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, April 4:

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • Chile Earthquake_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Thursday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, April 3:

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fort Hood_Tayl.jpg UPDATE Officials: 4 dead, including gunman, at Fort Hood

    A gunman opened fire Wednesday at Fort Hood in an attack that left four dead, including the shooter, law enforcement officials said.

    April 2, 2014 4 Photos

  • CORRECTION General Mo_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Wednesday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, April 2:

    April 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • Casey's CEO Bob Myers.JPG UPDATE: Casey’s investing $30M in new distribution center

    Casey’s General Stores will locate a new distribution center in Vigo County, creating up to 185 new jobs by 2019.

    April 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Venezuela Rationing_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Tuesday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, April 1:

    April 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Australia Missing Pla_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Monday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, March 31:

    March 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • China Malaysia Plane_Morg.jpg 10 things to know for Friday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday:

    March 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Colts Owner Arrested _Ter .jpg Police: Colts owner had $29K in cash when arrested

    CARMEL, Ind. (AP) — Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay had $29,000 in cash and bottles of prescription drugs in his vehicle when he was arrested on suspicion of intoxicated driving, according to a police arrest report.

    March 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Davies, Chris.jpg CHRIS DAVIES: Important cornerstones to fitness and longevity

    Weight loss secrets they don’t want you to know about: genius marketing. Fraudulent? Yes. Genius, nonetheless. Look at the droves of people who were betting their weight loss hopes on a quick fix. It happens all the time.

    March 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Vatican Pope 10 Things to Know for Thursday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, March 27:

    March 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Australia Malaysia 10 Things to Know for Wednesday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, March 26:

    March 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Nabors at Indy 500.jpg Nabors to sing ‘Indiana’ one last time at IMS

    INDIANAPOLIS — Beloved actor-entertainer and legendary Indianapolis 500 icon Jim Nabors will sing “(Back Home Again in) Indiana” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the final time prior to the start of the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 25. Watch YouTube Video

    March 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • I70 crash putnam county.jpg Vigo County man injured in I-70 crash

    A Terre Haute man was seriously injured in a crash this morning on Interstate 70 in Putnam County.

    March 25, 2014 2 Photos

Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Passengers Abuzz After Plane Hits Swarm of Bees Raw: Pro-Russian Militants Killed on Base Captain of Sunken South Korean Ferry Apologizes Raw: Royal Couple Visits Australia Mountains New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Disbanding Muslim Surveillance Draws Praise Hundreds Missing After South Korean Ferry Sinks Raw: Urinator Causes Portland to Flush Reservoir Miley Cyrus Still in Hospital, Cancels 2nd Show Raw: Blast at Tennessee Ammunition Plant Kills 1 Ex-California City Leader Gets 12 Year Sentence Boston Bombing Survivors One Year Later Raw: Ferry Sinks Off South Korean Coast Hoax Bomb Raises Anxiety in Boston Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Sister of Slain MIT Officer Reflects on Bombing Raw: Three Rare White Tiger Cubs Debut at Zoo Pistorius Trial: Adjourned Until May 5 Diaz Gets Physical for New Comedy Today in History for April 17th
NDN Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity