Page:America's National Game (1911).djvu/225

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195
AMERICA'S NATIONAL GAME

Just here a word should be spoken in justice to the memory of the man who for the greater part of its existence was President of the National Association of Base Ball Players. Robert Ferguson was not only one of the best ball players of his time, but he was a man of sterling integrity and splendid courage. He knew all about the iniquitous practices which had become attached to the game as barnacles to a ship, and he was sincerely desirous of eradicating them. But he lacked the essential qualifications of a reformer. It was written and widely published at the time, that, upon occasion of one of the notable contests in which the club that he headed as captain-manager was engaged, he went among the members of the gambling fraternity, who, as usual, were practicing their nefarious calling on the grounds, and, in the presence of a great throng attracted by the vehemence of his language and actions, berated the gamblers with fierce invective, charging them with having conspired to debauch the honor of his players, and threatening them with personal chastisement if they did not at once desist.

Had Ferguson at this time been surrounded by men such as later on took control of the game, much of humiliation might have been spared to players in coming years, and the game itself would never have suffered the disgrace that came to it from failure to act along sane lines at this important juncture.

The trouble with Ferguson—as with many other players in those days—was not lack of intelligence, courage or integrity; but, rather, a want of diplomacy. He was no master of the arts of finesse. He had no tact. He