Ernest H. “Doc” Ferris won 20 games twice over eight seasons in the low manors between 1913 and 1923, and posted a respectable 109-86 record. The otherwise forgotten right-hander also pitched one of the most efficient games in baseball history.
Ferris was born on September 7, 1887 in Blue Ash, Ohio; the youngest of 13 children. There is little information about his early life on his father Solomon’s farm, with the exception of a few brief mentions in Cincinnati newspapers of his being active in the Hamilton County Ohio Farmer’s Alliance.
The first reference to him related to baseball was when the 25-year-old signed a contract with the Durham Bulls of the North Carolina State League in 1913. After two sub .500 seasons –10-12 in 1913, 9-16 with the Asheville Tourists—he had his best season in 1915, when he won 27 games (he lost 12) for Asheville.
In 1916 he was signed by the Columbia Comers of the South Atlantic League. The Highlight of Ferris’ 18-15 season was during a 3 to 1 victory over the Albany Babies on July 18. The Columbia State said:
“Doc Ferris probably made a new record for the league by going through the game with only 73 pitched balls, 14 of which were balls and 59 strikes…the Columbus pitcher did not issue a pass…Ferris set up a record that will probably stand for many moons. To go through nine innings pitching only 73 balls is a remarkable feat. The smiling hurler was seldom in the hole, going to three balls on only one batter.”
The game was completed in 78 minutes.
(Charles “Red” Barrett of the Boston Braves set the major league record for fewest pitches in a game, when he shut out the Cincinnati Reds 2-0 in Crosley Field on August 10, 1944–he threw just 58 pitches–Barrett’s game was also three minutes shorter than Ferris’ effort.)
After pitching for and managing the Asheville Tourists and Hagerstown Terriers in 1917 and 1918, Ferris quit baseball for two years, and according to The Durham Morning Herald accepted “a responsible position with a manufacturing concern.”
In 1921 he returned to the diamond, pitching three seasons for the Greensboro Patriots in the Piedmont League—after going 20-9 in his first season, he slipped to 6-9 and 4-5, before retiring for good after the 1923 season.
After baseball Ferris operated a company that manufactured and installed canvas awnings. When he started the business he told The Greensboro Daly News:
“During the eight years I sweated in the blazing sun, I often thought of the advantage it would be to have and awning overhead, so when I finally decided to quit the diamond I naturally gravitated into selling the things that looked so attractive to me while I was pitching.”
Ferris died in Greensboro on November 11, 1964.
Malbourne Addison “Shorty” Angier was a teammate of Doc Ferris with the Durham Bulls in 1913. Angier was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1892, but grew up in Durham. His grandfather, and namesake, was a prominent Durham merchant.
Angier made a name for him himself as a teen in the Piedmont League—before 1920 various quasi-professional/industrial league incarnations of the Piedmont operated; he played for Durham Hosiery in 1911 and 1912.
When he was signed by the Durham Bulls in 1913, The Charlotte Evening Chronicle said he “hit around .400 in the Piedmont League last year,” and had turned down offers from two other North Carolina State League teams, the Charlotte Hornets and Greensboro Patriots. The expectations were high:
“Those that have seen Angier play predict that he will make good in the league and that the next few years will see him in the big company.”
The Charlotte Observer described his physical appearance:
“(S)tocky torso, the hefty underpinning, and abbreviated neck.”
Whatever ability he had with the bat in the Piedmont League left him as a professional. Angier hit just .199 during his first season at Durham in 1913. After a hot start the following season—he was hitting nearly .400 in July—he finished with a .268 average. In 1915 he hit .175.
Although a weak hitter, he was one of the best athletes in the North Carolina League—during the league’s “Field Day” activities in 1914 The Charlotte News said he “easily won” the distance throwing competition and his 15 and 1/5 second time circling the bases was the league’s best.
He split the 1916 season between the South Atlantic League Columbia Comers (where he was again teammates with Doc Ferris) and Jacksonville Tarpons; he hit a combined .175 for the year.
The following spring The Durham Morning Herald reported that Angier was in a local hospital in critical condition after “the young man swallowed poison.”
The Greensboro Daily News said Angier drank from a bottle that he was not aware contained “poisonous medicine,” but the paper said “attempted suicide was discounted,” by his friends.
Whether the poisoning was a contributing factor or not, Angier did not play in 1917, and went to work at a tobacco store he co-owned in Durham.
After volunteering for military service in the fall of 1917—he was a second Lieutenant in the cavalry, stationed in Columbia, South Carolina—he returned to his business in Durham.
Each season from 1919 through 1921, North Carolina newspapers reported that Angier would be joining the Durham Bulls; although he does not appear in any surviving team records, Angier played in a handful of games for the team in September of 1921.
He never played again after his brief return to the diamond in 1921. Angier owned several tobacco and grocery businesses in and around Durham and later relocated to Green Cove Springs, Florida where he died in 1937.