Historical Story of the Week

One of the 19th Century Super Stars: Charlie Ferguson

 

CHARLIE FERGUSON was the Philadelphia Phillies’ first star pitcher but his untimely death in 1888, allowed Ferguson only four National League seasons. Born on April 1, 1863, Charlie Ferguson made his debut on May 1, 1884, for the then Philadelphia Quakers. He would win 99 games in his career, never winning less than 21 games in any season. Ferguson would strikeout two and one half batters for every one that he walked, and finished with a career earned run average of 2.67. He twice pitched over 400 innings in a season, including his rookie season and would average 378½ innings per year.

On August 29, 1885, he pitched the first no-hitter in Phillies history with a 1–0 win over the Providence Grays. In 1886, the year before many major pitching rule changes were instituted, he had his finest season. Ferguson won 30 games and lost only nine. His ERA of 1.98 was second best in the National League and the Phillies won 15 more games than the previous season.

In Ferguson’s final season the Phillies would finish in second place, 3.5 games behind the eventual “World Series” winners, the Detroit Wolverines. His 22 wins in 1887, were not the only reason for the teams’s great finish. Philadelphia’s manager, the legendary player and strategist Harry Wright, saw the hitting potential of Ferguson. Towards the end of the season, Wright decided that Ferguson was too good a hitter to play only when he pitched. Wright decided that Ferguson would play second base for the final eight weeks of the season, replacing two players who hit a combined .214.

Philadelphia would win 16 and tie another in their final 17 games to move ahead of the Chicago White Stockings into second place. Playing every day allowed Ferguson to drive in a team-leading 85 runs in only 264 at bats, or one RBI for every 3.1 at-bats. He would hit .337, which also led the team and was fourth best in the National League.

During spring training in 1888, Charlie Ferguson contracted typhoid fever. He died on April 29th. Charlie Ferguson was 25 years old.

The First Real All-Star Game

At the convention of 1858, the Brooklyn teams challenged the New York teamsto three game match with each team selecting their best players for the game in what would be the first All Star games on record.  The Brooklyn team would consist of players from the Atlantic, Eckford, Excelsior and Putnam clubs.  New York would be composed of players from the Eagle, Empire, Gotham, Knickerbocker, and Union Clubs.  Expecting a large crowd to gather to witness the game, they made plans for the games to be played at the Fashion Race Course which was near Flushing on Long Island.  The first game of the “Great Base Ball Match” as it was called, was postponed because of a storm.  It was then played on July 20 before a crowd of 4,000 as the New York team took the first game from Brooklyn by a score of 22-2.  Playing for the Atlantic was Obrien in left field, Mathhew O’Brien pitching, and Price at first base.  The second game was August 17 and this time the Brooklyn team was victorious 29-8.  The third and deciding game was played on September 10 and the New York team took the match 2 games to 1 with a 29-18 win over Brooklyn and were declared the champions for the 1858 season.  The umpire for the 3rd game was the legendary “Doc” Adams from the original Knickerbocker Base Ball Club.

In 1861, the famous “Silver Ball Match” took place on October 21, 1861.  Frank Queen of the Clipper Club of New York offered a Silver Trophy Ball to the winner of the the New York-Brooklyn All Star Challenge.  New York would have players from the Gotham, Mutual, Eagle and Jefferson Clubs while Brooklyn’s team consisted of members of the Atlantic, Excelsior and Eckford Clubs.  15,000 people came to the Elysian Fields to witness the match.  While New York jumped out to an early lead, the Brooklyn team came back and won 16-8.  Since the Atlantic players scored the most runs in the match, their club was designated as keeper of the Silver Ball.  In that game, the third baseman for the New York Club was Harry Wright while the first base ball superstar, Jim Creighton, pitched for Brooklyn.  Al Reach was the right fielder for Brooklyn. (All 3 are currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame).

 

AL “OLD DUTCH” DIECKMANN

April 12, 1946- June 9, 2001

From the very first time he encountered vintage base ball, “Old Dutch” knew he had to be an active participant. He knew all about the origin of base ball, and about the rules of the early years. “Home plate should be round”, he said. He informed us of the things we were doing wrong and helped us correct them so that we were presenting the vintage game properly. Then he put on a uniform. “Old Dutch was the consummate vintage base ball player. He looked the part. He knew all the vintage rules, and taught us all how to look at the rules to properly understand them. He was probably the leading expert on vintage base ball rules in the country. And he just loved to talk about the game. His utmost joy was playing in a vintage game with his kids- John, Rob, and Candice.

Al was a trustee of the VBBA, a member of SABR, and President of the HBBA. He engineered the HBBA Festival ’98, in which teams from all over the country gathered to play base ball by the rules of 7 different eras. It was all his wonderful idea to exhibit the early years of base ball in this unique manner. Al was one of the founders of the Atlantics, and one of the captains. From the beginning, he primarily was the Atlantic pitcher, and occasionally played second base. He was the master of the fair/foul hit. In his last game with Atlantic he had 5 hits, and stole a bunch of bases. Old Dutch missed playing many games because he would fill the role of umpire. He enjoyed umpiring as much as he enjoyed playing.

Al brought the concept to us that playing the game was the important part, and if you enjoyed the game, and had fun playing it, then you won. It shall never be “Win one for Old Dutch”, but rather “Enjoy one for Old Dutch”. There is no doubt that he is smiling down on us from that great base ball field in the sky. “Old Dutch” will be missed, and remembered, for all he did for our re-creation of vintage base ball.

1867 Washington Nationals Tour

By Eric Miklich

The Nationals of Washington were formed in 1859 and were comprised mostly of government employees. Their home games were played across from the White House on a field called the President’s Grounds. In late August of 1865, the Nationals and the Athletic Club of Philadelphia organized a tournament in Washington. The Atlantic Club of Brooklyn also took part in the event and beat the Nationals 33–19 after the Athletics manhandled the Nationals 87–12. The Atlantics and Athletics never had a chance to play each other as the Athletics had another commitment to play the Pastimes in Baltimore, but a second event was arranged for October of 1865. Once again the National and Athletic organized the event but the Atlantics did not attend. Instead the Excelsior Club of Brooklyn made the trip. The Nationals were furious that the Atlantics did not come and claimed that they wasted thousands of dollars in anticipation of their visit. The Atlantics decided primarily not to go because the grounds that were used for the event were not enclosed and the only admission that was charged was for the spectators who sat in the raised platform section generally reserved for ladies. Anyone who stood outside the roped area surrounding the field saw the games for free. The Atlantics had enclosed their home field, Capitoline Grounds and were used to receiving large “gate receipts,” and may have also been annoyed that they did not have the chance to play the Athletics in August.

 

In 1865, Arthur Pue Gorman, who was 26-years old and an outfielder on the Nationals, was the Nationals President. Gorman had greater aspirations toward politics than baseball and had become a friend of Andrew Johnson the previous year. According to When Johnny Came Sliding Home by William J. Ryczek, Gorman arranged for the champions of the August tournament to meet with President Johnson. This is the first account of a United States President becoming involved in the game of baseball.

The Nationals arranged a tour in 1866 and first played in Philadelphia on July 2nd. The largest crowd in the seven-year history of Philadelphia, an estimated 12,000, gathered at 15th and Columbia Streets to see the Athletics beat the Nationals 22-6. On July 3rd the Nationals beat the Keystones of Philadelphia at their field, 11th and Wharton, 26-9. Although Washington was the capital of the Union, they were considered a southern club in “New York” baseball terms. Ironically the Union Club of Washington was denied matches against clubs from Virginia because they were considered “Northern Clubs.” The Nationals traveled north to New York and played and lost to the Unions 22-8, on July 4th. The Excelsior Club of Brooklyn beat the Nationals 46-33 on July 5th at Capitoline Grounds. On July 6th they lost to the Gotham Club of New York but beat the Liberty Club in New Brunswick, New Jersey on their way back to Washington.

George Wright. Click to enlarge.

In September the Excelsior Club traveled to Washington and beat the Nationals 33-28 in a game that was witnessed for a short time by Presdient Andrew Johnson. In October of 1866, the Nationals toured Virginia and were allowed matches against “southern clubs” and were received fairly.

Along with their new President, former Union officer Colonel Frank Jones, the Nationals had assembled a strong club in 1867 prior to their monumental tour. The starting “nine” consisted of pitchers Will Williams, considered by many as one of the swiftest pitchers in the country and also a member of the Nationals since 1861 and Asa Brainard, later of the famed Cincinnati Red Stockings. Harry Berthong did the catching. The infield was manned by first baseman Ed Parker, second base was occupied by George Wright (who was also the best player not only on the Nationals, but at the time perhaps in the country), third base was played by George Fox, a former member of the Eckford Club of Brooklyn and the shortstop was Frank Norton. The outfield consisted of leftfielder George Fletcher formerly of Excelsior Club of Brooklyn, centerfielder Andrew Gibney and the right fielder was Sy Studley. The team traveled with two substitutes who were Ed Smith, the shortstop on the 1865 club and a Mr. Hodges also on the 1865 Club. All the players had government jobs and the new president for the 1867 season was Co. Frank Jones, who worked for the Treasury Department. Jones was a former member of the Excelsiors.

 The National Club left Washington on July 11th by train and was comprised of the starting nine, eight reserves from the second nine and nine additional club members. Henry Chadwick also accompanied the club and reported the monumental journey. They arrived in Columbus, Ohio on the 12th. The Nationals and the Capitals played the next day starting a little after 10:00 AM. The score was 7-4 after one and a half innings, but the Nationals scored 14 runs in the bottom of the second and later scored 18 runs in the bottom of the seventh and won the seven inning game easily 90–10.

 The next day the Nationals took on Harry Wright’s Cincinnati Red Stockings at Cincinnati’s Union Grounds. The game was 6-6 going into the fourth inning but the Nationals pulled away and achieved a 53–10 victory. This would be the Red stockings only loss of the 1867 season.

Against the Louisville Club the Nationals won 82-21 and then beat the Indianapolis Club 106-21, with George Wright hitting five homeruns in the contest.

Washington Baseball Club. Click to enlarge.

On July 21st, in 104-degree heat, the Nationals played the Union Club of St. Louis and won 113-26, scoring 28 runs in the second inning. The next day the Nationals beat the Unions rival club 53-26, in a six inning game.

The next opponent for the Nationals was to be the Forest City Base Ball Club from Rockford, Illinois. The Forest City Club had traveled about 100 miles to play host to the Nationals and featured 17-year-old pitcher Albert Spalding and Ross Barnes. The game was played at Dexter Park in Chicago and featured two 15 minute rain delays, in the sixth inning and in the ninth inning. The Forest Cities refused to play after the rain delay in the sixth hoping the score would revert to the previous inning when they were ahead 16–11. The Umpire Mr. Dietrick, of the Bloomington Club, informed the Forest Cities that they if they did not continue the game would be forfeited to the Nationals. They returned and eventually won 29-23. The time of the game was two and one half hours.

The Nationals loss to a less experienced club gave the other two Chicago clubs that were to play the Nationals a boost of confidence. On July 27th, about 8,000 spectators turned out to watch the powerful Excelsior Club of Chicago play the Nationals. The Nationals had regrouped and took a 33–0 lead in the third inning and finished with a 49-9 win. The Excelsior Club was in shock as was all of Chicago. Two days later the Nationals destroyed the Atlantics of Chicago 78–17.

// //

The 1867 tour was a huge success, helped strengthen baseball’s popularity and showed the mid-west the east coast style of play.

Washington Nationals 1867 Tour


Date Result Score Location, Field and Opponent Record
7/13 Win 90–10 at Columbus, OH; Capital Club of Columbus (7 innings) 1–0
7/14 Win 53–10 at Cincinnati, OH; Union Grounds – Cincinnati Club (Red Stockings) 2–0
7/15 Win 88–12 at Cincinnati, OH; Cincinnati Buckeyes (6 Innings) 3–0
7/17 Win 82–21 at Louisville, KY; 4–0
7/19 Win 106–21 at Indianapolis, IN; 5–0
7/21 Win 113–26 at St. Louis; Union Grounds – Union Club of St. Louis 6–0
7/22 Win 53–26 at St. Louis; Empire (6 Innings) 7–0
7/25 Loss 23–29 at Chicago, IL; Dexter Park – Forest City BBC of Rockford 7–1
7/27 Win 49–9 at Chicago; Chicago Excelsiors 8–1
7/29 Win 78–17 at Chicago; Chicago Atlantics 9–1

A publication of the Society for American Baseball Research Business of Baseball Committee

Volume X, Issue 4 Winter 2005

The Business of Baseball in Small Towns: The Eastern Shore of Maryland

By Marty Payne

In 1867 George Gratton owned the Baltimore Base Ball

Emporium and supplied the thriving sport in the metropolitan

area. After the Civil War, new railroads were expanding

west to the mountains, and via steamboats, across the

Chesapeake Bay through the Delmarva Peninsula. Gratton

seized the opportunity to send his salesmen “the length and

breadth of Maryland” to sell the game and his merchandise

(William Ridgely Griffith, Amateur Base Ball in Maryland,

1858-1871 [Baltimore, MD, 1897], 19-20). It was no coincidence

that in the fall of 1866 an advertisement appeared

in a local paper for a meeting to promote baseball as good

exercise and a way to gain social standing (Easton Gazette

[September 29, 1866]).

Gratton and his salesmen radically changed what was still

an informal game in these areas. They took it out of the

pastures and into small towns of a few hundred to four

thousand people. In 1867 baseball exploded onto the pages

of local newspapers. Teams now formed as representatives

of their community – complete with uniforms – and were

eager to travel the new steam-driven transportation network

to neighboring towns to display their skills.

Paying for uniforms, equipment, and travel by steamboat

or railroad was more than most young players could afford.

By the early 1870s newspapers persistently acknowledged

the main sponsors of the town team. One form of sponsorship

was to provide a lot or a field to serve as the team’s

“grounds.” Sponsors were usually prominent men of the

community eager to promote their town through baseball.

As baseball continued to grow in popularity, the temptation

to use “foreign” or “imported” players increased. By the

mid-1890s the region was in an economic boom. The Pennsylvania

Railroad had bought up and connected all of the

once independent lines. Bumper crops of peaches and

wheat shipped to nearby cities. New canning techniques

created an international market for the cherished seafood of

the Chesapeake Bay. With money flowing, teams cast aside

all pretense of not using professional players.

Between 1886 and 1921, nearly fifty major league players

stepped onto the fields in these small towns of the region.

Major, minor, independent, and the best metropolitan semipro

teams of Baltimore and Philadelphia fell victim the

quality of baseball on the rural Eastern Shore of Maryland.

With additional expenses, the whole town rallied behind

the seasonal baseball effort.

A core of sponsors still put up the initial investment in the

spring and exercised their right to select the management of

the team. Local businesses were expected to contribute, not

once, but as the need arose through the season. Many considered

a good baseball team the best advertisement available

for a town. Subscriptions were also sold. This was like

owning stock and gave the individual choice seats where he

could cheer his favorite players, and of course, berate the

umpires.

There were ladies’ auxiliaries which hosted dances, sold

box lunches, and held bake sales to raise additional funds.

Admissions started out as a “request” for a 10-cent fee, but

by the 1880s a big game attracting a crowd in excess of a

town’s population might charge the same amount as a major

league game. Local governments were also expected to

contribute.

In 1885, an Easton paper lamented the absence of a local

team: “Suitable grounds ought to at least be provided for

them. There is hardly a town in the country that does not do

that” (“Base Ball” Easton Star [7 July 1885]). Within a few

years, most of the larger towns in the region provided fields

for their teams at the local fairgrounds. Later, local baseball

grounds would find more suitable independent locations

where they didn’t have to compete for field time with

county fairs, horse races and shooting matches.

During the off season there would be touring minstrel

shows, vaudeville shows, and plays brought in to raise

money for the town team. The Chamber of Commerce was

a new and growing entity of the era and local newspapers

indicate that many felt their main purpose was to raise

money for the local nine. In addition, exhibitions with barnstorming

teams like the Nebraska Indians, the Cherokee

Nationals, and the Chinese Nationals, or women’s teams

like the Chicago Stars and the Bloomer Girls were popular

fund raising events.

Private sponsorship was rare for most of the era. An individual

sponsor like local politician Col. John E. George

who sponsored the Sudlersville team in 1902 was an exception.

There were times when newspapers would foot the

bill for a local club, but this practice declined by the

late1800s.

This began to change about 1910 with an unexpected innovator.

In 1907 the first generation Chinese American, Lee

Fong, was known as the “star rooter” of the Cambridge

Club and led the opening day parade down the main street.

However, there is evidence that the owner of the local laundry

was more than a “mascot,” the good luck token popular

for dead ball era teams. In 1910 Fong sponsored the Fong

All-Stars as a means to advertise his business. It was a

practice he continued in years when there was no town

sponsored professional team. In 1914 the Chinese

Nationals toured the peninsula. This was a

team composed of Asian Americans from Hawaii.

It was casually mentioned that Fong accompanied

other local baseball magnates on

trips to see “fellow countrymen” play. Most individual

business sponsorships were relegated to amateur or youth

teams until later years. Through the 1921, the best baseball

was still community funded.

But the business of baseball in these small towns wasn’t

just about raising and spending money. It was an opportunity

to make money. Baseball teams rarely made a profit

themselves, but they often served as a loss leader for the

business community.

Even in the early years, local amateur teams often brought

a contingent of hundreds of fans with them along with the

local brass band. Whether rollicking along by rail or paying

the excessive price of a one-dollar fare for steamboat passage

(sometimes with the overflow towed behind in a

sloop), these prospective consumers brought a commercial

windfall to the little towns. Particularly coveted was a top

team from Baltimore. This would draw a combination of

hundreds of city tourists along with country folk coming

into town for the event. Civic leaders recognized the economic

impact of these crowds on their town, although there

were occasional complaints about the pickpockets and

other riff raff that followed the city spenders. In the word

of one contemporary scribe,

“A ball team such as we have this year will be a credit to

our town. Base Ball does more towards advertising a town

than most other mediums, and the businessmen should give

what assistance they possibly can so as to keep a good team

in the field the entire season.” (“Base Ball News,” Dorchester

Democrat-News [June 13, 1908]).

Some towns on the bay existed exclusively as resorts for

tourists from the cities looking to escape the oppressive

heat of the Maryland summer. They offered summer

breezes, beaches and swimming, a boardwalk, amusement

rides, fine hotels and restaurants. But their main draw was

baseball. The town of Betterton offered a top-notch baseball

team playing some of the best clubs in the region. Betterton

was considered the best place to watch baseball for

the “suitableness of the grounds” – and the fare at the local

hotel. Betterton would widely circulate its schedule so

those potential tourists from Baltimore and Philadelphia

would know when their favorite teams were visiting the

resort.

Tolchester alternated between fielding its own team and

renting its grounds for match games to teams from metropolitan

areas. They might offer a split purse on the Fourth

of July with a game to be followed by fireworks. In 1895

Betterton rented its grounds to the Western Maryland Railroad

Club against a team from Hanover, Pennsylvania,

which drew 1,500 avid excursionists to the little bayside

resort.

Still, the annual financial demand to field the quality baseball

team that fans came to expect was a burden. The 1921

season stands out as an example. By the middle of July,

several meeting had been held in Cambridge and the ladies

had helped raise several hundred dollars determined to “…

give the fans just what they were willing to pay for”

(Cambridge Daily Banner [July 19, 1921]).

One local newspaper put some numbers to the yearly dilemma

in 1921. In July the team in Salisbury, Maryland,

needed an additional $2,000 to keep the team in the field

just through the end of the month and an emergency meeting

was called at the Chamber of Commerce to raise additional

funds. A recent game with Dover, Delaware, had

grossed $313. $33 of this went to the war tax, $70 to the

visitors, $5.50 to ticket seller and collector, and $1 to each

of the three policemen. Another $12 went for six new baseballs

and $10 to advertising and circulars. They were left

with a mere $180.50 for salaries. (Wicomoco News [July

28, 1921].) The guarantees of the last three games had

barely made payroll and the estimated weekly expenses for

the club reached $600. By the end of August another $600

was needed to upgrade the grounds, while another $160

went to new uniforms. Only $458 had been taken in on new

subscriptions, so three players were released. (Wicomoco

News [August 25, 1921].) When the financial manager of

the club left town on an extended business trip, only because

he left $300 to 400 of his own money did the team

stave off its demise. (Wicomoco News [September 1,

1921].) It was business as usual.

There is a tendency to focus on the economics of the pastime

in terms of organized baseball. Certainly major and

minor league baseball warrant such attention. What is also

important is the social, cultural, and economic impact that

baseball once had on the most parochial and rural regions

of the country. Before mass media and modern transportation,

every town had its team of heroes and rarely let

money stand in the way of putting a good club together.

Local governments and businessmen realized, as in metropolitan

areas of today, that a good team and “suitable

grounds” were an economic boon to their community.

Marty Payne specializes in the history

of early baseball on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Baseball in Small Towns (Continued from page 4)

Winter 2005 Outside the Lines

Thank You to Our Contributors

Gary Gillette Yoshihiro Koda Maury Brown Marty Payne Steve Walters

Outside the Lines is published quarterly. Contributions should be sent to jruoff@bellsouth.net.

© Copyright 2005 by the Society for American Baseball Research and the Business of Baseball Committee. By-lined articles are

copyrighted by their authors

Society for American Baseball Research

Business of Baseball Committee

812 Huron Rd E #719

Cleveland, OH 44115

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