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Charlie Ferguson Dies, A City and a League Mourns
Baseball became somehow less important when 25-year-old Charlie Ferguson died of Typhoid Fever at 2512 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, the home of team captain Arthur Irwin on Sunday, April 29, 1888, nine days after opening day. The mind state of the team was somewhere besides the ball park on the day before he died as the Phillies went through the motions in a 14-1 loss to Cannonball Titcomb and the New York Giants. Ferguson was mourned not only in Philadelphia, but throughout the league as black arm bands in memory of the fallen Phillie were worn by the Washington Nationals, the New York Giants, and the Boston Beaneaters, and of course, the Phillies.
Phillies’ games were not as much fun without Charlie Ferguson, and attendance slipped below the league average as 100,000 fewer fans found their way to the ballpark as the year before. The physical and spiritual absence of the man labeled 43 years later by Hall-of-Fame manager Wilbert Robinson as the fifth best player in baseball history, took a quick and telling toll on the dazed Phillies. Without Ferguson’s potent bat in the lineup, the team scored 366 fewer runs than the year before. Catcher Jack Clements led the team with a .245 batting average. Jim Fogarty stole 44 fewer bases than the year before.
In late September and early October the Phillies once again mounted a late-season winning streak to slip ahead of Boston and Detroit for a third place finish, 14 ½ games behind the winning New York Giants, and nine games behind Cap Anson’s always tough Chicago White Stockings.
A bright spot, hardly recognized at the time, was the May 21 purchase of 20-year-old Ed Delahanty from Wheeling of the Tri-State league. Delahanty was one of six players tried at 2nd base by manager Harry Wright in 1888. Easily over six feet tall, “Big Ed” hit only .228 in 303 plate appearances.
On October 16, after the season was over, the Phillies purchased 28-year-old Samuel Luther “Big Sam” Thompson from Detroit for $5,000. In four years with the Wolverines, Big Sam averaged .304, hit 32 homeruns, and drove in 339 including a league-leading 166 for the pennant winning 1887 team. With the team getting bigger the Phillies prepared to move on without Charlie Ferguson.