He was known as "Big Jeff" to his players and called the "Edison of Baseball" by no less an authority than William W. Whitney himself, but to Philadelphia baseball fans he was always "Boss Edgerton."

Jefferson Yates Edgerton was born in Lehigton, Pennsylvania on January 5, 1840. Edgerton came from humble beginnings - his father was a blacksmith. The senior Edgerton named his son for Thomas Jefferson because the Edgerton clan had originally come from Virginia and Jeff's grandfather had been a clerk for Mr. Jefferson during the famous man's term as vice-president.

Luckily for Jeff, his father was also a proponent of his only son (Jeff did have a sister) becoming something "better than a blacksmith" and he was determined to see that the youngster get a quality education.

Edgerton worked as a conductor on a Philadelphia horse car to support his parents when his father fell ill with tuberculosis while Jeff was just a teen. He still managed to enroll in Liberty College and planned to become a lawyer. Those plans were derailed when the Civil War broke out. Edgerton, just 21 years old, received a referral from his former boss on the horse car line and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Pennsylvania volunteers. It was while serving in the Union Army that he met the man who would change the course of his life: William Whitney.

Whitney, a West Point-educated Army engineer, worked with Edgerton while the latter was serving as an adjutant between Union General George McClellan and the Army Corps of Engineers working on the fortifications of Washington, D.C. Whitney was impressed with Edgerton and soon had finagled a transfer that made the young man his aide-de-camp. By war's end the two men had created a lifelong bond - and they had also both become enamored of the game of base ball, which had become a popular pastime with Union soldiers in and around the national capital during the war.

When the war ended in 1865, Whitney returned to Illinois to found his produce empire and Edgerton returned to Philadelphia where he started a business of his own - making baseballs. With several different models, the Edgerton Sporting Goods company quickly became the top maker of balls in the northeast. It was Edgerton's continued work on "perfecting" the baseball and other innovations that included a protective mask for the catcher that caused Whitney to eventually refer to his former aide as the "Edison of Baseball."

In the late 1860s Edgerton put together a traveling team, often playing himself, despite a bad leg he had earned falling into a trench while in the Army. With a career as a player unlikely in the extreme, Edgerton settled comfortably into the role he would fill for the rest of his long life: that of team owner.

When Whitney came calling in 1875 with his idea of a professional base ball league, Edgerton was enthusiastic and quickly agreed to field a team in Philadelphia. Thus was the Centennial club was born. The Centennials would eventually be renamed the Keystone Club, Edgerton's team joined Whitney's Chicago Chiefs as the only original club to make it through the turbulent and often chaotic years of the early Century League and emerge unscathed as a charter member of the Federally Aligned Baseball Leagues.

Unsurprisingly, when the FABL launched, the official provider of baseballs to the organization was the Edgerton Sporting Goods company - a distinction that continues to this day.

Edgerton's Philadelphia clubs were particularly strong in the early days of the Century League, winning the first league title in 1876 and two others in 1880 and 1882. A decade-long drought ended with the club winning the Federal Association pennant in 1892 - the last year before the start of the World Championship Series. Those early clubs were built around one of the game's biggest early stars in 1B Zebulon Banks. Big Zeb and Big Jeff didn't always see eye-to-eye as both tended to be stubborn. This ultimately resulted in Banks leaving the Keystones, but the two men later reconciled and Banks returned to the organization as a front-office employee in 1917, before his final retirement after the 1920 season.

The 20th century was not kind to Edgerton. After finishing second in 1899, the Keystones fell on hard times, finishing in the second division for nine straight seasons and eighteen of nineteen, finishing 2nd in 1909 and 3rd in 1919. That 1919 season was followed by five straight last-place finishes. The only real success for the Keystones in this era was the construction of the "new" Broad Street Park, a lovely concrete and steel ballpark that replaced the dilapidated wooden structure on the same site in 1910.

Edgerton's last full season as owner was 1927 - and what a season it was. The Keystones rose from a fourth-place finish the season before to win the pennant and then the World Championship over the Brooklyn Kings. Edgerton, frail and thin at 87 years old, sat in his box right beside the home dugout as the Keystones won game five, and the series, 6-0 to win their first FABL title.

Edgerton never married. When asked about it he said that he was "far too busy to provide the kind of attention and care a spouse deserves." As a lifelong bachelor with no children, for many years there was some question as to who would take over the Keystones and the Edgerton Sporting Goods business. Edgerton answered this in 1915 when he made his sister's son Edward Meachum the sole heir to both the ball club and the sporting goods business.

Jefferson Edgerton fell ill with respiratory issues in the spring of 1928 and passed away on May 1st at the age of 88. The club would wear a black stripe on their right sleeves in his memory for the rest of the 1928 season. Meachum also announced that the club would rename the Broad Street Ballpark as Edgerton Field in his uncle's honor.

Zebulon Banks was baseball's first superstar; although that term would not be used for quite some time, Banks checked off all the boxes we today would use to measure superstardom. He was the elite player of his era, which covered the entire 19th century portion of professional baseball history, was well-known throughout the country and set a slew of records that the greats of the future, playing a different style of baseball (and with longer seasons) would eventually surpass. He was born in Des Moines, Iowa on February 19th, 1856, made his debut as a member of the Philadelphia Centennials (today's Keystones) at the age of 20 in 1876 and played until 1898. He earned the nickname "Hawkeye" both for his Iowan-roots and for his discerning eye at the plate, where in his 23 seasons as a player he failed to hit over .300 just three times and finished with a career .328 average.

The father of the Century League, William Washington Whitney, was born April 14, 1840 in Boone County, Illinois. The son of a farmer, Whitney was highly intelligent and driven and this led him to successfully obtaining a nomination and ultimately, admission to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Whitney was pragmatic and went to West Point with a goal of becoming an engineer - the Army was merely a means to an end for him.

Link Trease was one of the first great stars of the old Century League. A versatile player who starred at five different positions, Trease was one of a pair of brothers who left an indelible stamp on the game, albeit in different ways. 

Born Lynwood Killeen Trease to Irish-born immigrant parents in Torrington, Connecticut on November 11, 1850, Trease began playing base ball at an early age. By the time he was 20 he had earned a strong reputation as one of the best players in New England. Playing for a variety of clubs throughout Connecticut and neighboring New York and Massachusetts, Trease was one of the first players signed by Century League founder and Chicago Chiefs owner William Whitney in the early spring of 1876. Signed to play centerfield for the Chiefs, the 25-year-old Trease quickly established himself as the best player on the team. In 1876 he led the Chiefs in batting (.294), home runs (4), stolen bases (12) and walks (14) while driving home the second-most runs on the team.