If you read our pre-Christmas post about who invented the knuckleball, you know that the answer can’t be pinned down with exactitude. What’s safe to say is that the pitchers who sometime around 1900 invented, co-invented, or contributed to the early development of the pitch include Lew Moran, Nap Rucker, Eddie Cicotte, Ed Summers, Frosty Thomas and Toad Ramsey.
And now it seems we have another player to add to the pantheon: Chester “Chick” Brandom, shown in a “newly uncovered silver gelatin photograph [that] is part of RMY’s February Collectors Auction.” Rich Mueller reports at Sports Collectors Daily:
The knuckleball was spreading about the time Brandom was purchased by the Pirates in September of 1908. Nap Rucker, Lew Moran and Cicotte have been mentioned as among the earliest users, all in the 1907-1909 era timeframe during which Brandom was also apparently using the pitch.
PChick Brandomittsburgh spent $5,000 on the young hurler from Coldwater, KS, quite a sum at the time. A local newspaper report carried a photo of Brandom and also referenced his propensity for the spitball….
RMY officials say they researched the photo extensively and “while we are in no way claiming that Brandom invented the pitch, we are making the assertion that he was indeed a knuckleball thrower (previously not known) and that this is the earliest photograph showing the pitch in action.”
RMY Auctions is “an online/catalog auction site owned and operated by Rhys M. Yeakley.”
It was a Rumbunter post by David Hill that alerted us to the discovery. He recalls that Brandom
was a pretty solid pitcher on those rare occasions when he was able to get on the field for the Pirates. Spending part of the 1908 season, and the entirety of 1909 with the Pirates, Brandom posted a 2-0 record with three saves, a 0.94 ERA and a 1.04 WHiP in 57.2 innings. However, because of the strength of Pirates staff, he only appeared in 16 games.
Even with his success with the Pirates, Brandom was not destined for a long career. He was back in the minors after the 1909 season, making it back to the majors with the Newark Pepper of the Federal League in 1915. After a decent season where he posted a 3.20 ERA in 50.1 innings, Brandom was out of baseball, only reappearing as the manager of the Corpus Christi Seahawks in the Gulf Coast League in 1926.
Hill’s proposal—that “Former Pirate Chick Brandom May Have Invented the Knuckleball,” as the headline puts it—isn’t echoed by RMY, according to whom the photo supports only the claim that Brandom was an early knuckleballer, not that he might have been the first to come up with it.