Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Joe Ferguson

Anyone who has ever heard Tommy Lasorda speak, knows that the Los Angeles Dodgers' Hall of Fame manager is a master salesman, a pitchman extraordinaire.

He could sell ice to an Eskimo, fleas to a dog, and a comb to the folicly impaired.

He could sell anything to anybody.

Years ago, Lasorda tried to convince a promising young minor league outfielder by the name of Joseph Vance Ferguson to switch positions and become a catcher.

You see, although "Fergie" could hit the longball and had a strong throwing arm, he was not blessed with much foot speed and thus lacked adequate range to play the outfield.

"Heck, he runs like a catcher," Lasorda must have thought. "So, let's make him one!"

Ferguson was resistant at first. No surprise there. After all, who in his right mind would willingly don the tools of ignorance?

Lasorda then gave Ferguson the hard sell. He told him that Ernie Lombardi, Gabby Hartnett and Mickey Cochrane struggled as minor league outfielders, switched positions to catcher, and went on to have Hall of Fame careers.

It wasn't true, of course. But, the truth seldom mattered to Lasorda when he was trying to make a sale.

As expected, Ferguson bought Lasorda's sales pitch; hook, line and sinker.

And just like that, a catcher was born.

A northern California native, Ferguson played in the major leagues for 14 seasons with four different teams, including two separate stints with Los Angeles.

Ferguson was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals along with two minor leaguers for outfielder Reggie Smith on June 15, 1976, and was reacquired by the Dodgers from the Houston Astros for Rafael Landestoy and Jeffrey Leonard on July 1, 1978.

Although Ferguson played catcher for the majority of his career, he is best remembered for throwing out Sal Bando at home plate with a perfect throw from right field in Game 1 of the 1974 World Series against the Oakland A's.

[1] Murray, Jim. "Lasorda Improved His Lie and Ferguson Didn't Catch It." LAT, March 22, 1974, D1.


At 9:35 PM, Anonymous Ed Wright said...

Watching Joe throw out Sal Bando is one of my most treasured childhood memories - right up there with neighborhood Fourth of July fireworks and whiffle-ball home runs. Whenever we see a really good defensive play, my kids all break into "That was nice, but not as nice as that play Joe Ferguson made against the A's, right Dad?" I could never bring myself to root for Yeager, and don't get me started on Reggie Smith. Garvey, Lopes, Russel, Cey - and Ferguson. That's the team of my childhood - the best ever!

At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a highlight the Dodgers should show over and over. One of my favorites!

At 8:44 PM, Anonymous Roland Burgess said...

I was 14 years old when I witnessed Joe Furgeson step in front of Jimmy Wynn (very weak arm for an outfielder) and pick Sal Bando off at home plate. It was unbelievable. I about had a heart attack. It was by far the greatest play in any world series (gibson home run up there) for a little kid to see. I'm 52 years old now and I tell that story all the time. To this day I still ask myself, "Steve Yeagar"?

At 2:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe was catching when Hank Aaron hit his record breaking 715th home run off Al Downing on April 8th,


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