Ferguson's 1885 no-no was Phillies' first

July 12th, 2017

First in a series of the first four no-hitters in Phillies history that happened a long, long time ago. Next month: Red Donahue's no-no, July 8, 1898).
Four Phillies tossed no-hitters in the first 23 years of the franchise, 1885, 1898, 1903 and 1906. There was a long dry spell until Jim Bunnng's perfect game in 1964. Since then, there have been seven, including a gem in 2014 in which four pitchers combined on a no-hitter. Through social media, the entire world knew in seconds about that gem.
Little was known about the first four Phillies no-hitters until newspaper accounts the next day. Phillies archives were empty when it came to these gems. But, with the help of the Baseball Hall of Fame library, we were able to add some depth to the stories.
Charlie Ferguson, a 22-year-old right-hander, authored the Phillies' first no-hitter, Aug. 19, 1885, the second season in franchise history. He shut out the Providence Grays, 1-0, at Recreation Park, home of the Phillies. Ferguson's catcher was Jack Clements, whose claim to fame is that he's the greatest left-handed throwing catcher to play for the Phillies.
Phillies alumni
Here's the New York Times account of the gem:
"Ferguson, the Philadelphia pitcher, accomplished the feat today by retiring the Providence team without a hit in a full nine inning game. Eight of the visitors went out on strikes, one on a foul tip, and seven on short infield flies, only five balls being hit by them to the outfield, all of which were caught. His pitching was very steady, except in the fourth inning when he gave two men their bases on balls. The only run of the game was made by Mulvey in the ninth inning, when he reached first on a hit, stole second, went to third on Fogarty's out and came home on a wild pitch."
Keep in mind during this era the mound was 50 feet from home plate. Pitchers threw from a flat surface and seven balls were needed for a walk. Batters were allowed to request where they wanted a pitch to be thrown.
Signed for $1,500 in 1884 after playing for the University of Virginia, Ferguson won 22 games as a rookie on a team that had only 39 wins. His season record in 1885: 26-20, 2.22 ERA. Ferguson died from typhoid fever on April 28, 1888, two weeks shy of his 25th birthday. In four seasons with the Phillies, he compiled a 99-64 record, 2.67 ERA. A gifted athlete, he also played the outfield and finished with a .288 career average and 157 RBI.