There wasn't much scoring at Washington's Swampoodle Grounds, but there was plenty of controversy and a near riot as the Philadelphia Phillies edged the Washington Senators, 2-1, before a crowd estimated at 1,500. The Phillies scored both of their runs in the bottom of the eighth (Washington opting to bat first in this game) to pull out the win.
Washington manager John Gaffney started his ace, Jim Whitney. Phillies manager, Harry Wright, started Charlie Ferguson, who pitched as well as playing second, third and the outfield during the 1887 season. Ferguson would be at the center of all the action. So would an umpire named John Wilson.
The Senators scored their only run in the second inning. First baseman Bill Krieg singled, moved to second on a passed ball by Philadelphia catcher Deacon McGuire and scored on a double by Whitney, who batted sixth this day.
Sometime during the game, according to the Washington Post account of the game, Phillies outfielder Jim Fogarty tried to slip an extra baseball into his uniform, presumbaly to use to throw back in if a drive went past him. However, the crowd noticed and umpire Wilson made Fogarty surrender the ball. The Post writer took a dim view of such actions. "Spectators play to see clean, fair ball playing, and such tricks should be discountenanced by every honest player, whether it is done to advance the interest of his side or not."
In the eighth, the game got more heated. McGuire led off with a single. One out later, Ferguson (batting in the #2 slot) lined a shot down the third base line that apparently everyone at Swampoodle thought was foul. Except for the umpire Wilson, who called it fair. McGuire went to third and Ferguson ended up with a double. The crowd was livid as the inning before Ferguson had ruled that a fly ball down the same line by Whitney was a foul ball and not a home run. But the call stood despite the protestations of the Senators. Charlie Buffinton, normally a pitcher, but filling in at center this day, singled in both McGuire and Ferguson to put the Phillies up 2-1. Washington couldn't score in the ninth.
When the game ended, many in the crowd came on to the field and seemed to want a piece of Wilson. Although this was not uncommon in 19th century baseball, the Post seemed to think it was unusual for Washington. However, Washington's owner, Robert Hewitt, came on to the field to escort Wilson away from the crowd. Nevertheless after the game, Hewitt declared that his team would rather forfeit a game than play in one that Wilson was scheduled to umpire. For the next game the next day, Phillies reserve catcher Tom Gunning served as umpire. (Again, not an unusual practice at the time.)
Interestingly, one of Washington's reserve pitchers that day was Hank O'Day. O'Day would pitch in the majors for seven seasons and then go on to a long career as a National League umpire. O'Day was the home plate umpire at the Polo Grounds on September 23, 1908 and he ultimately made the call in the "Merkle" game, ruling that Fred Merkle had been forced out at second to end the inning instead of allowing the winning run to count.
Washington's catcher this day in 1887 was a 24-year old in his second season in the majors. His name was Connie Mack. He would play in 11 seasons and manage for 53. In 1887, Mack batted just .201. And this was in a year when walks counted as hits!
Philadelphia would finish in second place in the NL in 1887, 3 1/2 games behind pennant winning Detroit (the only NL flag ever claimed by that city). Washington was a distant seventh, 32 games out.
Charlie Ferguson, the man who hit the double that set everybody aflame, would pass away in Philadelphia in less than a year on April 29, 1888 of some form of typhoid fever or malaria at age 25.
Sources: Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Baseball-reference.com, Retrosheet