Bob Ferguson (infielder)

Bob Ferguson (infielder) bigraphy, stories - Major League Baseball player, manager, umpire, executive

Bob Ferguson (infielder) : biography

January 31, 1845 – May 3, 1894

Robert Vavasour Ferguson (January 31, 1845 – May 3, 1894) was an American infielder, league official, manager and umpire in the early days of baseball, playing both before and after baseball became a professional sport. In addition to playing and managing, he served as president of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players from through , the sport’s first entirely professional league. His character and unquestioned honesty were highly regarded during a period in baseball history where the game’s reputation was badly damaged by gamblers and rowdy behavior by players and fans. However, his bad temper and stubbornness were traits that created trouble for him at times during his career, and caused him to be disliked by many. His nickname, "Death to Flying Things",Reichler, Joseph, ed. (1982). The Baseball Encyclopedia (5th ed.), p. 50. MacMillan Publishing. ISBN 0-02-579010-2. was derived from his greatness as a defensive player.

Umpiring career

Ferguson had, on numerous occasions during his playing and managerial career, served as a substitute umpire, but did not start doing it full-time until after his departure from Philadelphia. In , he became a full-time professional umpire, working in the American Association, and later in the Players’ League in . By the end of the 1890 season he had passed Kick Kelly to take over the record for career games as an umpire with 650; John Gaffney surpassed his final total of 786 in . Ferguson officially umpired 804 games if his National Association games are taken into account, and his career came to a close after the season. On his umpiring philosophy, he once stated "Umpiring always came as easy to me", he said, "as sleeping on a featherbed. Never change a decision, never stop to talk to a man. Make ’em play ball and keep their mouths shut, and never fear but the people will be on your side and you’ll be called the king of umpires."

Early career

A native of Brooklyn, Ferguson played for two of New York’s earliest semi-professional clubs in the late 1860s and early 1870s, the Atlantics and Mutuals. On June 14 , Ferguson provided the hit that created the tying run and he later scored the winning run in a match against the famous Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first team that was composed entirely of professional players. This win brought to an end the Red Stockings’ 81 consecutive game winning streak. He is credited with being the first player to bat from both sides of home plate, known as switch-hitting, but the practice was not popular at first. Among the explanations for this, it is claimed that, due to his personality, players did not want to emulate him. Managers, however, recognized the practice’s importance soon after, and began to play their players according to the opposing pitcher that day, known today as platooning, and the advantages that switch-hitting posed would later become accepted strategic baseball philosophy, and many players began to experiment with the idea.


Ferguson died in Brooklyn of apoplexy at the age of 49. Initially buried in the Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn, he was later reinterred in Cypress Hills Cemetery, also in the borough of Brooklyn. Despite his career that was filled with incidents of turmoil between him and his players and other baseball people, his funeral, which was held at his home, was quickly crowded, as was the front stoop. Eventually, they had to turn people away.

American Association

Ferguson’s last two managerial positions were in the American Association. He was player-manager for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, who later became the Pittsburgh Pirates, in and later took over the managerial role for parts of two seasons with the New York Metropolitans. Overall, as manager, his teams won 417 games and lost 516, for a winning percentage of .447, and never finished higher than the third place finishes his Trojans achieved. The totals reflect his time in the National Association as well as the National League and American Association.