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
With Harry Wright still the team’s manager and with second-year pitcher Charlie Ferguson becoming a rising star, the Quakers/Phillies would begin 1885 attempting its first serious run at the National League pennant, with a chance to meet the winner of the other recognized major league, the American Association, in a post season playoff system, which would be a precusor to today’s World Series, which was first established in 1884, where the National League Champions Providence Grays would end up defeating the American Association Champions New York Metropolitans, 3-0, in a best of three games series.
The Phillies would face a National League that would be slightly different from the one that they had joined in 1883, as the Cleveland Blues franchise would fold early in the year, while the New York Gothams would change their name to the Giants, based on a comment that was suppose to have been said by their player/manager Jim Mutrie, after a victory over the Phillies in the previous season: “My big fellows! My giants!” The franchise that would replace the Blues in the NL would be the best team from the failed third major league of the previous season, the Union Association Champions, the St. Louis Maroons. Along with the Maroons, the Giants and the ‘World Champions’ Grays, the Phillies in 1885 would face the Beaneaters, the Bisons, the Wolverines and the White Stockings.
The Phillies would begin the 1885 season with a twenty-three games home stand that would cover all of May and their first game in June. During this long home stand, they would play a game with the league champs Grays, followed by two with the Beaneaters, another game with the Grays, then two more with the Beaneaters, before playing eight straight two-games series with the Wolverines, the White Stockings, the Wolverines again, the White Stockings again, the Maroons, the Bisons, the Maroons again, the Bisons again, and then a single game with the Giants. The Phillies would start the season off on a sour note as they would lose their first three home games by scores of 8-2, 2-0 and 9-8, before going on a six-games winning streak, which would include a 15-5 crushing of Boston, followed by 10-3 and 17-8 drubbings of the Wolverines. After dropping two straight games to their western nemesis, the White Stockings, they would then win two straight games against the Maroons, winning the second game by the lop-sided score of 12-1, before losing the first game in their two-games series with the Bisons. The Phils would then go on a five-games winning streak, thus ending May with a winning record of 14-8, the team’s best start in its short history.
The Phillies would start off June, and end their home stand, with a lost to the Giants, giving them a 14-9 home stand. This game would be the start of a four-game, Philadelphia to New York and back again series between the two clubs. After defeating the Giants in New York, the Phillies would drop their second home game with New York, before dropping the second game in NY. The Phils would then go on an eight-games road trip to the east coast, meeting the Grays for two-games, the Beaneaters for two, and then going to Providence, Boston, Providence and then Boston again for the last four games of the trip. The Phillies would lose both of their games with the Grays, before finally breaking their four-games losing streak with a victory over Boston. After losing their second game with Boston, they would defeat the Grays, before losing the next two games in Boston and Providence. They would then end their nine-games road trip with a victory over the Beaneaters, thus ending their Eastern trip with a 3-7 record. After splitting another Philadelphia to New York series with the Giants, losing at home and winning in New York, the Phillies would go on their first trip to the west, planning to meet the White Stockings, the Maroons, the Bisons and the Wolverines for several four-games series, for the rest of June and the start of July. After losing the first two games, the Phillies would end their visit to Chicago with a series split, as they would win the last two games. Going to St. Louis for the first time in the organization’s existance, their would lose the first three games of the series, thus ending the month with a sour record of 7-14, while having an overall record of 21-22 for the season.
July would begin with the Phillies winning the final game of their first road series in St. Louis. After losing the first game of their series with the Bisons, the Phillies would sweep a July 4th doubleheader from them by the scores of 10-5 and 7-2, the first doubleheader sweep in the franchise’s history. The Phils would then lose the last game of their series with the Bisons, then lose their first two games with the Wolverines, before splitting the last two games, thus ending the road trip with a 6-10 record. The Phillies would then come home to play a twenty-games home stand for the rest of July and early August, in which they would play seven straight two-games series with the Beaneaters, the Grays, the Wolverines, the Maroons, the Wolverines again, the Maroons again, and the White Stockings, before playing a single game with the Bisons, followed by two more games with the White Stockings and then three more games with the Bisons, before they would go on another east coast road trip. The Phillies would start the home stand by splitting their series with Boston, before being swept by Providence. After splitting the next two series, they would sweep their second two-games series with Detriot, including a 19-2 rout, before being swept themselves by both the Maroons and the White Stockings, with the later two games being 2-0 and 9-0 shut outs. The Phillies would thus end July just as badly as they had ended June, with a 9-14 record, while their overall record would now be a somewhat respectible 30-36.
After starting August by defeating the Bisons, the Phillies would be swept once again by the White Stockings, before ending the home stand by winning two of their three games with the Bisons, thus ending the home stand with an 8-12 record. The Phils would then visit Boston, Providence and New York for three straight two-games series on the road. The Phils would sweep the Grays, then spilt their series with the Beaneaters, before being swept by the Giants, to end up with a 3-3 road trip. They would then participate in a six-games home stand with the Beaneaters for two games, the Grays for three and the Giants for one. After splitting the series with Boston, the Phillies would then proceed to sweep the Grays, starting it with a 2-0 blanking in the series’ first game, and ending it with Charlie Ferguson pitching a 1-0 no-hitter against the Grays on August 29, the first no-hitter in the franchise’s history. The Phils would then end their home stand by losing to the Giants for a 4-2 home stand and ending the month with an 11-11 record. The team’s overall record would now be at 41-47.
The Phillies would start off September by visiting the Giants, before playing against them at home for two more games. After losing the game in New York, the Phillies would sweep New York at home, which would be their last home games of the year, as they would now spend the rest of September and all of their October games on the road. With their two wins over the Giants, they would end the year with a 29-26 mark at home, while their overall record at this point would be 43-48. Their long twenty-games road trip would include two straight two-games series with the Grays and the Beaneaters, before ending with four four-games series with the four western teams, the Bisons, the Wolverines, the Maroons and the White Stockings. After splitting the series with Providence, they would sweep the two-games series with Boston. After losing the first game in Buffalo, they would win the next three games against the Bisons, before going to Detroit and losing the series with the Wolverines, 1-3. The Phillies would then go to St. Louis, where they would win their last game in September, to end the month with a 10-6 record, and an overall record of 51-53, now just two games under .500.
The Phillies would start October with a 3-3 tie against the Maroons, before sweeping the next two games to take the series at 3-0-1. In their last series of the year, against Chicago, after losing the first game, they would win their last three games of the season, to end the month with a 5-1-1 record, and the road trip at 13-6-1, as they would end the season at 56-54-1. This would land them in third place for the first time in the team’s history with a .509 winning percentage, three games ahead of the fourth place Grays, 28 games behind the second place Giants and 30 games behind the 1885 NL Champs, the White Stockings. The team’s road record would end up being 27-28-1.
The Phillies would meet the other teams in the National League sixteen times each, except for the Grays, whom they would meet fifteen times. They would have winning records against five of those teams (Beaneaters, Bisons, Wolverines, Grays and Maroons) with their best record being against the Bisons at 11-5. Their worst records would be against the White Stockings and the Giants, both ending up at 5-11. The Phillies would be 10-9 in shut outs, 13-12 in 1-run games and 17-19 in blowouts. The Phillies would play 55 games at home before 150,698 fans.
In 111 games played, Phillies batters would end up being second in doubles (156), fourth in walks (220), fifth in at-bats (3893), runs scored (513) and home runs (20) and sixth in hits (891), triples (35), strike outs (401), batting average (.229), slugging percentage (.302) and on-base percentage (.270), while also having 327 rbis. Among pitchers, the team ended up second in hits allowed (860), third in ERA (2.39), wins (56), complete games (108), shut outs (10), runs allowed (511), home runs allowed (18), walks given up (218), fourth in innings pitched (976), fifth in saves (0) and strike outs (378) and sixth in loses (54), while also finishing three games, giving up 259 earned runs, throwing 63 wild pitches and being called for three balks.
Individually, the team leaders in offensive categories would be Joe Mulvey at Batting Average (.269), Slugging Percentage (.393), Hits (119), Total Bases (174), Doubles (25), Triples and Home Runs (6 each) and RBIs (64), Ed Andrews in on-base percentage (.318), runs scored (77) and singles (94), Sid Farrar and Jim Fogarty in games played (111), Jack Manning in at-bats (445), total plate appearances (482) and walks (37) and Charlie Bastian in strikeouts with 82. Among pitchers, Charlie Ferguson and Ed Daily would be tied for the team lead in wins with 26, becoming the first pitchers to win 20 or more games in the same year in franchise’s history, while Daily would become the team’s second twenty-games winner. Daily would also lead the team in ERA (2.21), games pitched (50), innings pitched (440), home runs allowed (12), walks (90), hits allowed (370), loses (23), earned runs allowed (108), and wild pitches (40), while Ferguson led the team in strikeouts (197), shut outs (5) and games finished (3).
The Phillies’ third place finish would, for the moment, place them among the league’s elite, while they prepare to compete for a league pennant in 1886.
Sources: Wikipedia, Baseball Almanac.com, Baseball-reference.com, Baseball History: 19th Century Baseball.com