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- Charlie Ferguson Takes Charge
In the fourth year of franchise existence, the Phillies finished 28 games over .500, but a distant 4th behind the Chicago White Stockings who were 56 games over.
Charlie Ferguson became a star, as the Phillies won 71 games. Ferguson started 45 of the teams’ 119 games, completing 43 for a 30-9, 1.98 ERA season with four shutouts.
Chicago (18-4) and the Detroit Wolverines (20-4) blazed through the first month of the season in the eight-team National league which now included the Kansas City Cowboys and the Washington Nationals who took the place of the Providence Grays and the Buffalo Bisons. Shortstop Arthur Irwin of the Grays came to Philadelphia to help stabilize the infield. Nothing helped in the first month of the season as the Phillies sputtered to a 9-12 start including six losses to Chicago and Detroit.
If not for a Detroit lefty named Lady Baldwin, the 1886 season might have been a different story for the Phillies. Baldwin went 11-9 in 1885 and 13-10 in 1887, but in 1886 he was phenomenal, way more than his teammate, the self-named Phenomenal Smith (more about him later). In 1886 Lady Baldwin won 42 games, lost 13, and pitched seven shutouts, five against the Phillies, the only shutouts suffered by the team that year.
Fan interest continued to increase, and Philadelphia continued to outpace the league; in 1886 the Phillies drew 175,623 spectators for 60 games while the league average was 119,968. As the season neared the end in the first week of October, Detroit and Chicago were battling for the championship, and even though the Phillies were not in the race, the knowledgeable Philadelphia baseball cranks were excited that Detroit was in town for a season ending doubleheader that would decide the pennant; 7,500 fans showed up at Recreation Park on October 9 to watch the show. The White Stockings at 89-34 were in Boston for one final game; the Wolverines at 87-34 were in Philadelphia for two.
Two weeks earlier, the Phillies had tightened the race with a four-game sweep of the visiting White Stockings; Charlie Ferguson beat the Stocks on September 25 and 29, and on the 27th, pitched to a darkness-called 2-2 tie. For this crucial season-ending series in Philadelphia, Detroit manager Bill Watkins made some odd pitching choices. In game one on October 7th he sent out Phenomenal Smith to face Charlie Ferguson. Smith pitched in only three games for the entire season so why was he out there for a game the Wolverines must win? But Smith delivered a phenomenal performance and though he did not win, neither did he lose; another darkness-called 1-1 tie game. On October 8, Lady Baldwin blanked the Phillies for the fifth time, 11-0, as Phillie righthander Cannonball Titcomb took one for the team.
Charlie Ferguson pitched both games of the final day doubleheader and won both,5-1 and 6-1 to make an also-ran of the Wolverines, and become the first Phillies 30-game winner. In the end, the sweep did not affect the final standings as the White Stockings beat the Boston Beaneaters to take the flag.
When the Phillies faced the Washington Nationals on September 11, a skinny catcher named Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy made his Major League debut. No, seriously, it was really Connie Mack who eight years later in 1894 began a managerial career that ended in 1950 after 3,731 wins and 3,948 losses, both Major League records. After four years in Pittsburgh, Mack came to Philadelphia in 1901 to take over the A’s.
In 2011 the Philadelphia chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) is called the Connie Mack chapter.
By max blue