Charlie Ferguson
Resting at his second-floor apartment near Broad and Cumberland streets on a late April afternoon, Charlie Ferguson waged his final battle against typhoid fever before succumbing to the virus that evening. 

Ferguson was a 25-year-old pitcher for the Phillies and one of baseball's greatest players when he died on April 29, 1888. 

The Phillies originated as the Quakers in 1882 and played in the League Alliance before joining the National League in 1883. That first season saw the club win just 17 of 99 games while posting a .183 winning percentage, the worst figure in franchise history. 

Ferguson made his mark following that inaugural season and became the first impactful player in franchise history. 

"With due respect to [Honus] Wagner, [Ty] Cobb, and [Babe] Ruth, I believe [Charlie] Ferguson would have been remembered as the king of them all," said former National League President John K. Tener.

The 6-foot, 165-pound right-hander began his baseball career playing with the University of Virginia nine as a non-matriculated student before joining an independent team in Richmond in 1883. Phillies owner Al Reach came across the Charlottesville native and inked him to a deal before the 1884 season for $1,500. 

Ferguson made his Philadelphia debut on May 1, 1884, at Recreation Park and kept the Detroit Wolverines in check, leading the Phils to an impressive 13-2 victory to open the National League schedule. He hit cleanup in the win collecting three hits, including a triple, scored twice, and led the club with five total bases on the day. 

Ferguson was a bright spot for an otherwise lackluster year for the Phils, tossing 417 innings that season while posting a 3.54 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP. His 21-25 record on the hill wasn't poor, considering the Phils finished the 1884 campaign 39-73-1. 

A year later, Ferguson improved to 26-20 and posted a 2.22 ERA, the seventh-best mark in the National League. The Phillies also improved, finishing third in the NL with a 56-54 record, a 17-win improvement over the year prior. 

Ferguson also showcased skill at the plate in 1885, posting a .306 batting average and a 145 OPS+ over 235 at-bats; he would play in the outfield when he wasn't on the hill. He also tossed the franchise's first no-hitter in 1885, shutting down Providence on August 29 in a 1-0 victory at Recreation Park. 

Now a budding superstar, Ferguson improved again in 1886 and pieced together the best season of his young career. His 11.7 WAR, per Baseball Reference, is more than double that of his closest teammate from that season. His 1.98 ERA ranked second in the National League, while his 0.98 WHIP, 212 strikeouts, and 30 victories all marked career highs. 

Ferguson became a dual threat in 1887, excelling not just on the mound but also playing second base when not pitching. He led the Phils' offense with a .337 batting average and 85 RBIs. 

The 75-48-5 finish in 1887 was the best in franchise history and included a streak of 16 wins over the final 17 contests. Ferguson pitched in all 17 of those games, posting a 7-0 record to go with a 1.75 ERA during that span. 

Reach had an opportunity to sell Ferguson following the 1887 season but realized his star power could equate to increased attendance figures for the franchise, so he kept him. 

Unfortunately, Ferguson became infected with typhoid fever and passed away after a nearly month-long battle with the virus less than two weeks after his 25th birthday. 

Over his brief four-year career, Ferguson compiled a 99-64 record with a 2.67 ERA. He also finished with a .288 batting average with 157 RBIs. 

Ferguson's death reverberated throughout all of baseball. Multiple clubs, including the Washington Senators, New York Giants, and Boston Beaneaters, wore a black ribbon on their left sleeves during the 1888 regular season as a tribute.

His story remains one of the saddest in baseball history. 
13 stars

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