A newly uncovered photograph now up for auction seems to bring a new name into the discussion about the earliest knuckleball pitchers.
That conversation always seems to start with Eddie Cicotte as the inventor—and he may be just that–but RMY Auctions is offering a 6×8” news photograph from 1908 showing a young Pittsburgh Pirates prospect with a grip that may be the first image of any pitcher tossing a knuckleball.
The newly uncovered silver gelatin photograph is part of RMY’s February Collectors Auction.
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.
Pittsburgh 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.
Brandom made his debut on September 3, 1908, finishing the season with the Pirates. He also spent 1909 with the club and was a part of the World Series championship team, although he didn’t see a lot of action in a deep bullpen. Brandom went back to the minors in 1910, was signed by the Newark Peppers of the Federal League in 1911 but never made it back to the majors.
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.”
The auction, which includes more than 300 original news photographs, continues through Sunday at RMYAuctions.com.