Friday, May 5, 2017

MAJOR LEAGUE FOUNDERS: BOB FERGUSON 1876-1976

The next pioneering Major League ballplayer in the spotlight in my long-running “founders” thread is former infielder & manager Bob “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson, whose career started before the National Association formed in 1871 and ran through to 1884:


A defensive whiz in that era, his rather unique nickname was because any ball hit in the air was caught by him, thus “Death to Flying Things”.
He started his career in the amateur days in his native Brooklyn, NY, playing for powerhouse teams like the Brooklyn Atlantics and New York Mutuals in the 1860’s before the first pro-league, the N.A. Mentioned above was formed.
During the five year run of the league, Ferguson also acted as league President between 1872-1875, as elected by the players themselves because of his unquestioned honesty and integrity.
On the field, he was mainly a third baseman who was solid in the field, a bit light at the plate as evidenced by his consistent batting averages between .240 and .280.
When the new Major League started in 1876, Ferguson found himself as a member of the Hartford Dark Blues, where he’d play for two seasons before moving on to the Chicago White Stockings for a single season in 1878.
He’d have his finest year in ‘78, batting .351 while playing shortstop, a new position for him after nine years as a professional.
He’d play another five seasons in the league, four for the Troy Trojans before capping off his career in the American Association with the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1884 at the age of 39.
Throughout it all he managed as well, acting as player-manager for every team he played for during his career, before becoming a straight-up manager for the New York Metropolitans in 1886 and 1887.
But his success as a manager wasn’t exactly exemplary, finishing his career as a big league skipper with a 417 and 516 record, never finishing higher than third, but generally near the bottom of the league.
But he wasn’t done yet! Though he’d umpire occasionally throughout his career when the position wasn’t exactly an “official” hired job, he became a full-time ump after his managing career was over, and at one point umpired more games than anyone in the early days of the league by the time he retired in 1891 at 804 games.

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