As 1888 dawns, Harry Wright was starting his fifth year as the Phillies’ manager, leading a team that hoped to use their momentum from the previous season where they went 17-0-1 in their last 18 games, lead by their pitcher-second baseman Charlie Ferguson, to finally win the organization’s first pennant.
The 1888 National League would contain no changes among its membership. The Phillies’ opponents for the season would still be the Beaneaters, the Giants and the Nationals in the east and the Alleghenys, the Wolverines, the Hoosiers and the White Stockings in the west. The Phillies would continue to play their home games in the Philadelphia Base Ball Grounds.
But, before the season would officially start, the Phillies’ pennant chances would be struck a major blow, as their star player, Charlie Ferguson, would be struck down by tyhoid fever in spring training, and would die in late April, after the start of the 1888 season. The Phillies would spend the rest of the season wearing a black crepe upon their left shoulders in honor of their fallen comrade, as would their east coast opponents, the Giants, the Nationals and the Beaneaters. Ferguson’s place on the team would eventually be taken by future Hall of Famer, Ed Delahanty, who would be the oldest of five brothers who would all play the game professionally by the end of the 19th Century.
(For more information on Charlie Ferguson, go here: Philadelphia Phillies – The Players: Charlie Ferguson, the Phillies’ unknown first star.)
The Phillies, without Ferguson, would begin the 1888 season on April 20 at home with a four-games series against the Beaneaters, which would see the Phils being swept by Boston by scores of 4-3, 9-3, 3-1 and 7-1, with the Phils’ opening day pitcher being rookie pitcher Kid Gleason, who would later be the manager of the infamous 1919 Chicago White Sox. The Phils would then go to New York for four games with the Giants. After winning the first game 5-3, they would lose the next three, ending their short road trip, 1-3. They would then come back home for another short four-games series, this time with the Nationals, for the last day of April and the beginning of May. The Phillies would begin the series by winning the first game by the score of 3-1, ending April with a record of 2-7.
The Phils would begin May by continuing their short home stand with the Nationals. They would win the next two games, giving them a three games winning streak, before losing the final game in the home stand, giving them a 3-1 series win. The Phillies would then go west for a ten-games western road trip, playing against the Alleghenys for two games, the Wolverines for three, the Hoosiers for one and then their main western rival, the White Stockings, for four games, before going on to Boston for three more games for a thirteen-game road trip. Their two games series with their cross-state rival would end up being a two-games series win. The Phils would then move on to Detroit, where they would win the first game with the Wolverines, before losing the next two games, losing the series 1-2. They would then go into Indianapolis, losing the only game in that short series, before going on to Chicago, where they would lose the first game in their four-games series. The Phillies would then win the next two games, including the May 22 game which would feature the major league debut of Ferguson’s replacement, Ed Delahanty, thus breaking their four games losing streak, before losing the away game in their series, splitting their series with the White Stockings, 2-2. The Phils would then go to Boston, where they would sweep the three-games series from the Beaneaters, ending their road trip with a record of 8-5. The Phillies would then go home for a fifteen-games home stand for the last day of May and most of June, against the Wolverines (3), the White Stockings (4), the Alleghenys (4) and the Hoosiers (4). The Phillies would begin the home stand by playing a doubleheader with the Wolverines, which they would split, losing the opener by the score of 6-2 and then winning the ‘nightcap’ by the score of 5-4, thus ending May with a winning record of 11-7 and an overall win-lost record of 13-14.
The Phillies would then lose the final game of their series with the Wolverines, winning the series, 2-1. They would win the first game of their four-games series with the White Stockings, before being swept by them for three straight games, losing the series, 1-3. They would then win the next six games, sweeping their series with the Alleghenys, then winning the first two games with the Hoosiers, before splitting the final two games in the series, winning the series, 3-1, and the home stand, 10-5. The Phillies would then go to Washington for a four-games road trip, which they would lose to the Nationals, 1-3. They would then come back home for a two teams, seven-games, home stand with the Giants (4) and the Beaneaters (3) for the last days of June and the first day of July. The Phils would split their four-games series with the Giants, before winning the first two games of their series with Boston, ending the month with a winning record of 13-10, and an overall record of 26-24.
The Phillies would start July off by winning the final game of their series with Boston, sweeping the Beaneaters, and winning the home stand, 5-2. The Phils would then go on another western road trip, this time for twelve-games, for four three-games series with the White Stockings, the Hoosiers, the Wolverines and the Alleghenys, until the middle of the month. They would start the road trip off with a July 4 doubleheader with the White Stockings, losing the first game by the score of 10-8, ending their four-games winning streak, then winning the second game by the score of 6-5. They would then lose the away game, thus losing the series, 1-2. They would then go to Indianapolis to face the Hoosiers, losing that series, 1-2. They next went to Detroit, where they would end up being swept by the Wolverines, before going on to Pittsburgh, where they would sweep the Alleghenys, thus end the road trip with a record of 5-7. They would then return to Philadelphia for a six-games home stand of two three-games series with the Giants and the Nationals. After defeating the Giants in the opening game of their series, the Phillies would be defeated in the next five games, losing two in a row to the Giants and then being swept by the Nationals, ending the home stand with a 1-5 record. The Phillies would then go on an east coast road trip to face the Giants (3), the Beaneaters (3) and the Nationals (3), for the end of July and the beginning of August. The Phillies would start off the road trip by being swept by the Giants, with their losing streak going up to eight games, before finally ending the month by defeating the Beaneaters for the first two games of their series, thus snapping their losing streak, while ending the month with a losing record of 9-15 and an overall win-lost record of 35-39.
The Phillies would begin August by winning the final games of their series with the Beaneaters, thus sweeping the series. They would then go on to Washington, where they would lose the first game of the series, then win the next two games, winning the series, 2-1 and ending the road trip with a 5-4 record. They would then go back to Philadelphia for a sixteen-games home stand, which would include a two-games series with the White Stockings, three straight three-games series with the Wolverines, the Hoosiers and the Alleghenys, a two-games series with Boston and a three-games series with the Giants. The Phils would begin the home stand by splitting their series with the White Stockings, before sweeping their series with the Wolverines and the Hoosiers. The Phillies would then lose their series with the Alleghenys, 1-2, before being swept by the Beaneaters in their short two-games series. They then ended the home stand by losing their series with the Giants, after winning the first games in the series, 1-2, thus ending the home stand with a 9-7 record. The Phillies would then end the month by playing four of their next five games with the Nationals, two games in Washington and three more in Philadelphia. The Phillies would start things off by winning the two-games series in Washington, then winning the first game played in Philadelphia before having their three-games winning streak snapped by losing the final game to be played that month, thus ending the month of August with a 15-9 record and having a win-lost record of 50-48.
The Phillies would start off September by ending their road-home series with Washington, beating the Nationals, winning the series, 4-1. They would then go onto the road for twenty-one games for most of the month, facing the Giants (3), the Alleghenys (4), the Wolverines (4), the White Stockings (3), the Hoosiers (3) and the Beaneaters (4), They would start off their road trip by playing the Giants to an 0-0 tie, then losing the next two games for an 0-2-1 losing record. The Phillies would then split their series with the Alleghenys, before losing their series with the Wolverines, 1-3. They would then sweep their two three-games series, first with the White Stockings, including the September 18 game where their starter Ben Sanders would miss throwing a perfect game as he would give up a single in the ninth inning to Chicago pitcher Gus Krock in a 6-0 shut out, and then the Hoosiers, before losing their series with Boston, 1-3, ending the long road trip with a record of 10-10-1. The Phillies would then spend the rest of their season at home, facing the Alleghenys for two games in September and two more in October, followed by a three-games series with the Hoosiers, then two two-games series with the Wolverines and the White Stockings. The Phillies would end the month, and start the home stand, by losing the first two-games of their four games series to Pittsburgh, ending the month with an 11-12-1 record and with an overall record of 61-60-1.
The Phillies would then rebound and win their next two games with the Alleghenys, splitting the series. The Phillies would then sweep the Hoosiers, before splitting their series with the Wolverines and then ending the season with a sweep of their main western rivals, the White Stockings, with the last game being won via forfeit. The final home stand would end up a winning record of 8-3 and an overall season record of 69-61-1 for a .531 winning percentage, landing the Phillies back into third place, five and a half games behind second place Chicago and fourteen and a half game behind the league champ, the New York Giants.
The Phillies would play a total of 131 games, with a home-road record of 37-29 at home and 32-32-1 on the road. The Phillies had winning records against all but two of their opponents, with their best record being a 14-6 record against the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, followed by a 13-4 one with the Hoosiers. Their two losing records would be against the league champion Giants (5-14-1) and the Wolverines (7-11). The Phillies were 16-8 in shut outs, 28-16 in 1-run games and 19-17 in blowouts. The Phillies’ home attendence for 1888 would be 151,804 patrons.
The Phillies’ offense would in 1888 be ranked among the bottom of the league, being fourth in doubles (151), fifth in walks (268), sixth in runs scored (535), strikeouts (485), on-base percentage (.269) and slugging percentage (.290), seventh in hits (1021), triples (46), home runs (16), batting average (.225) and stolen bases (246) and eighth in at-bats (4528), as well as having 418 RBIs and having 51 hit batsmen. The Phillies’ pitchers would end the season being number one in saves (3), second in ERA (2.38), shut outs (16), hits allowed (1072), runs allowed (509), home runs allowed (26) and walks (196), fourth in strike outs (519), seventh in complete games (125) and eighth in innings pitched (1167), as well as finishing seven games, giving up 309 earned runs, throwing 50 wild pitches, hitting 25 batters and throwing 2 balks.
Among the team’s batting leaders, Jack Clements would lead the team in batting average, hitting .245. Jim Fogarty would lead the team in on-base percentage (.325), walks (53), strike outs (66) and stolen bases (58). George Wood would lead in slugging percentage (.342) and home runs (6). Sid Farrar would lead in games played (131), total bases (165), doubles (24), triples (7), RBIs (53) extra-base hits (32) and hit by the pitch (13), while being tied with Ed Andrews for the team’s lead in total plate appearances with 552. Andrews would also lead the team in at-bats (528), runs scored (75), hits (126), and singles (105). Among the team’s leader in pitching, Ben Sanders would lead the team in ERA (1.90), win-loss percentage (.655), and shut outs (8), also being tied for first in the league lead in that category with Tim Keefe of the Giants, as well as being tied with George Wood for the team’s lead in games finished with two. Wood would lead the team in saves with 2, also being the league leader in that category. Charlie Buffinton would lead the team in wins with 28, being the team’s only 20-game winner, games pitched and started (46), innings pitched (400.3), strikeouts (199), complete games (43), walks (59), hits allowed (324), wild pitches (15) and batters faced (1586). Rookie Kid Gleason would lead in home runs allowed (11) and hit batters (12). Dan Casey would lead the team in losses with 18 and earned runs allowed with 100.
The Phillies would end the season still among the league’s elite teams while still looking for their first team pennant. Meanwhile, the Giants would face the American Association winner, the St. Louis Browns, in a post-season series, which the Giants would win 6 games to four.
Sources: Wikipedia, Baseball Almanac.com, Baseball-reference.com
I’m sure that most Phillies fans have probably never even heard of Charlie Ferguson, or if they have, know very little about him. Well, to be rather frank, I was among those who have never even heard of him, until I’d started doing my year-by-year look at our loveable losers and discovered him for the very first time, while also discovering that before his untimely death in 1888, at a very young age, from typhoid fever, he was developing into the team’s first true pitching star, way before the more well known Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander.
Ferguson was born on April 17, 1863, in Charlotteville, Virigina, the home of American Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe, and located near the strategic Shenandoah Valley, an area that during his youth would be constantly fought over by Northern and Southern troops during the country’s Civil War, while the city would itself be spared. Going to the University of Pennsylvania for his college education, where he would learn to play baseball, Ferguson would come back home after graduation and proceed to play for the Virginia member of the Eastern (now International) League in 1883. His team would win the Eastern League pennant that year, while his pitching would catch the eyes of the Philadelphia Quakers (now Phillies), who were preparing for their second year as a member of the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, or the NL. After signing a contract, he would make his Major League debut on May 1, 1884, pitching against the Detroit Wolverine in Philadelphia at Recreation Park. He would be the game’s winning pitcher, as the Phillies would trounce the Wolverines 13-2. During his rookie season, he would pitch in 50 games, starting in 47 of them, and completing all but one of his starts, while finishing up three more. His record would be 21-25, thus becoming the franchise’s first twenty-game winner, as well as saving one other game, and throwing two shut outs, as he ended the season with an ERA of 3.54. Ferguson would pitch in 416.7 innings that year, giving up 297 runs, 164 of which would be earned, on 443 hits, as he struck out 194 batters while walking only 93 and giving up 13 home runs. In his rookie season he would be among the NL leaders in games (6), games started (6), complete games (6), games finished (3), wins (7), loses (2), saves (2), shut outs (10), innings pitched (6), strikeouts (7), hits allowed (6), walks (7), earned runs allowed (1), home runs allowed (7) and walks (7).
After helping lead the team to a 6th place finish in 1884, he would lead them to a third place finish in 1885, as he would have his second straight twenty-win season, as he would go 26-20 that year, with an ERA of 2.22. Ferguson would this time pitch in only 48 games, starting and completing 45 of them, of which five were shut outs, while finishing three other games. He would pitch in 405 innings, giving up just 197 runs, only 100 of which would be earned, on just 345 hits, as he would rung up 197 strike outs while walking just 81 batters and giving up only 5 home runs. On August 29, 1885, in Philadelphia, he would pitch the first Phillies’ No-Hitter, as he would blank the Providence Grays, 1-0. In his second season as a Phil, he would be among the league leaders in games (8), games started (9), complete games (8), games finished (1), wins (5), win/lost percentage (8), ERA (7), shut outs (6), innings pitched (7), strikeouts (6), hits allowed (10) and walks (10). He would also hit .306 for that year, in which he would play 15 games in the outfield for a grand total of 61 games.
1886 would be his breakout season, as he would become the Phillies’ first thirty-game winner as he would go 30-9, with a 1.98 ERA, in 48 games pitched, of which 45 would be starts, completing 43. He would also pitch four shut outs that year, while he would finish two other games, and collect two saves. In 395.7 innings of work, he would give up just 145 runs, of which 87 would be earned, on only 317 hits, while striking out 212 batters and walking only 69, while giving up 11 home runs. In his junior year as a Phil, he would be among the leaders in games (7), games started (9), complete games (7), games finished (7), wins (6), win/lost percentage (2), saves (1), ERA (2), shut outs (2), innings pitched (7), strikeouts (8), and home runs allowed (6). Although his efforts would help to improve the team’s overall record, the Phillies would end the year in fourth place in the National League.
In 1887, his pitching record would drop as he would end the season going only 22-10 with an ERA of 3.00, in just 37 games, of which 33 would be starts, he would complete 31 of them, with 2 of them being shut outs, while he would finish four out other games, collecting a save. In only 297.3 innings of work, he would give up 154 runs, of which 99 would be earned, on 297 hits, while he would strike out 125 batters, while walking only 47 and giving up 13 home runs. In his fourth season as a Phil, he would be among the league leaders in only games finished (2), wins (8), win/lost percentage (3), saves (1), ERA (3), shut outs (5) and strikeouts (5).
The main reason for his pitching drop was because the Phillies’ manager, future Hall of Famer Harry Wright, an early strategist of the game, had decided to place Ferguson’s strong bat into the Phils’ regular lineup for the pennant run, as Ferguson would end up playing six games in the outfield, five games at third base, and twenty-seven ballgames at second base, playing that position for the final eight weeks of the season, as he would replace the bats of a couple of second baseman who were hitting a combine total of only .214. In 72 games, Ferguson would hit .337, going to the plate 264 times, knocking in 85 runs on 89 hits, while scoring 67 runs, Ferguson would hit 14 doubles, 6 triples and 3 home runs, while stealing 13 bases. He would walk 34 times while striking out only 19. He would miss out being the team’s leading batter for that year, because he would not have enough plate appearances. He would, though, end up leading the team in RBIs. Ferguson’s strong bat would help the Phillies end up a strong second to the Detroit Wolverines.
The Phillies’ strong finish at the end of the 1887 season, going 16-0-1 in their last seventeen games, would make the team confident of being able to challenge for their first NL pennant when the team entered spring training in 1888. Sadly, it was not to be as they would be struck an early blow in camp as Charlie Ferguson would be struck down by typhoid fever, dying to the dreaded disease on April 29, at the young age of 25. Ferguson would be sent back home to Charlotteville, Virginia, where he would be buried in Maplewood Cementery. During the 1888 season, in which the Phillies would drop to third place in the standings, the Phillies, the Giants, the Beaneaters and the Washington Nationals would all commemorate his passing by wearing a black crepe on their left shoulders of their team uniforms.
During his four years as a Phil, Charlie Ferguson would pitch in 183 games, starting in 170 and completing 165, while finishing 12 others. He would have a winning record of 99-64, with a winning percentage of .607, having 13 shut outs and four saves. In 1514.2 innings pitched, he would give up only 793 runs, 450 of which would be earned, on 1402 hits. He would strike out 728 batters while only walking 290, while giving up only 42 home runs. His career ERA would be 2.67. His career batting average would be .288 in 257 total games played, getting 191 hits in 963 at-bats, knocking in 157 runs while scoring 191. He would have a career total of 37 doubles, 13 triples and 6 home runs, while stealing 22 bases. Ferguson would walk 113 times while striking out 119. His 99 wins would land him in 8th place on the all-time Phillies’ win lists, trailing the likes of Hall of Famers Steve Carlton, Robert Roberts and Alexander, as well as Chris Short and possible future Hall of Famer Curt Schilling, while his 64 losses would have him tied for 24th place on that list. His ERA would place him 6th. Ferguson would also be 17th in games started, 4th in complete games, 11th in innings pitched and strikeouts and tied for 14th in shut outs, as well as be among the top 50 in several other pitching categories.
With Ferguson’s death, the Phillies would lose a chance to win a NL pennant before the turn of the century. Although the team would remain a member of the first division, except during the period 1895-97, they would not reach second place again until 1901. His early death would also deny Ferguson a place among baseball immortals at the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y., as it would be more than likely he would have won enough games, based on his winning 99 games in just four years with a then good Phillies team, to get the nod via the Veterans Committee, if not for his being stricken down by typhoid.
Main sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Ferguson_%281880s_pitcher%29 – Wikipedia page
http://www.19cbaseball.com/players-charlie-ferguson.html – Biography at Baseball History: 19th Century Baseball.com
http://www.baseball-reference.com//f/ferguch01.shtml – Stats at Baseball-reference.com
http://www.thedeadballera.com/Obits/Obits_F/Ferguson.Charles01.Obit.html – Charlie Ferguson’s Philadelphia Inquirer obit – TheDeadballEra.com
Other sources: Wikipedia, Baseball Almanac.com, Baseball-reference.com, Phillies.com: Team History, Baseball History: 19th Century Baseball.com