Born: February 16, 1897
Died: April 26, 1976
James Alexander Ferguson was born February 16, 1897 in Montclair and grew up in Bloomfield. Tall and thin with an electric throwing arm, the boy everyone called Alex gravitated toward pitching as a boy and quit school to work, making some extra money pitching for local semipro clubs. Alex was 19 when he caught the attention of all-time great Joe Kelley, who was scouting for the Yankees. The team signed Alex and, after bouncing around the minors for the better part of three seasons, Alex earned a promotion to the big leagues near the end of the 1918 campaign. Unfortunately, he was drafted shortly after his debut.
World War I ended before Alex saw any action, and he returned to the minors in 1919 and 1920. He added an outshoot (or screwball) to his repertoire and made the Yankees as a relief pitcher in 1921. He pitched 56 1/3 unremarkable innings for New York and did not participate in the World Series that fall. Over the winter, the Red Sox acquired Alex on waivers. The team was in decline after four pennants in the ’teens, and Alex was inserted into the starting rotation. He went 32–46 over the next three seasons, often struggling with his control.
In 1925, Boston traded him back to the Yankees, who later dealt him to the Washington Senators. After years as a so-so hurler, he came alive down the stretch for the Nats, winning 5 of 6 decisions, including a pennant-clinching victory over the Indians. Player-manager Bucky Harris moved Alex behind Walter Johnson and Stan Covaleski in the team’s World Series rotation, and he beat the Pirates 4–3 in Game Three. He returned to the mound for Game Six with a chance to close out Pittsburgh, but lost 3–2. The Pirates staged a dramatic comeback to win a wild Game Seven, 9–7. Despite the postseason disappointment, the town of Bloomfield honored Alex with a banquet that winter.
Unfortunately, Alex was never able to recapture the magic of 1925. The Senators sent him to the minors in 1926 and he landed with the Phillies in1927. From pitching in cavernous Griffith Stadium, Alex now had to contend with the tiny Baker Bowl, and he did not fare well. Even so, he remained with the club into the 1929 season, when the Dodgers plucked him off the waiver wire. He pitched three more years in the minors before calling it quits at age 36.
Alex opened a bar in Bloomfield after he retired from baseball. He and his wife moved to California in the 1960s and he died there in 1976.