Every once in a while you get an opportunity to live out a dream and last night’s Fergie and Friends Game was one of those times for me. Getting to play baseball and hang out with Cubs Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins, and Billy Williams, and other MLB Hall of Fame players like Rollie Fingers, Harmon Killebrew and Bob Feller, as well as former Cubs stars Ron Santo, Randy Hundley, Keith Moreland, Jody Davis, Lee Smith, Bill Buckner, Steve Trout, Dave Kingman, Jay Johnstone, and Bob Dernier was an incredible experience.
The 7 innning game was all to raise money for charity, while seeing these MLB greats of years past and having some laughs along the way. The master of ceremonies was former Detroit Tiger Jon Warden who did his part to keep the fans laughing and engaged…he’s quite the cut-up. Jon was very funny however next year he can probably cut down on the number of flatulence related jokes and not miss a beat. 90 year-old “Bullet” Bob Feller jogged to the field during the player introductions and tossed a ceremonial pitch to kick things off for the memorable evening. I was lucky enough to play in the game while my usual Public Address duties were handled by AZ Diamondbacks PA man Chuck Drago, who did a great job.
For me playing in the game was very surreal, being in the same dugout as these great players and hearing all their chatter and stories was truly a once in a lifetime experience. I played only 2 innings because we had many players on the Arizona All-Stars including Olympic gold medal swimmer Amy Van Dyken, former NHL goaltender Sean Burke and many local radio and TV personalities, so all of us saw limited game action.
My one time at bat came against former Cub Steve “Rainbow” Trout who went 13-7 in 1984, the same year I started at Hohokam. I fouled off the first two pitches and was quickly in an 0-2 hole, the last thing I wanted to do was get a called third strike, so on Trout’s third pitch which was a bit high and outside I drove the ball to right field. Playing rightfield at the time was Peoria Illinois native and former Toronto Blue Jay Pitcher Tom Gilles the youngest member of the Fergie and Friends team at age 46. As I ran to first base I could see Gilles was on his horse and might have trouble getting to the ball, he made one of the better fielding plays of the game leaping and catching it over the shoulder.
My two innings in the outfield were pretty uneventful other than a hit down the line which I made a solid throw to the cutoff man who relayed to third where a very slow moving Bernie Carbo was tagged out.
Some other highlights for me were talking to Billy Williams about how special being a Chicago Cub was to him and chatting with Keith Moreland about the 1984 Cubs division winning team. Another thrill was talking to Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller about the 104 mph fastball he threw in Chicago at an exhibition in Lincoln Park. We also talked about his 1940 opening day no-hitter against the White Sox and other highlights of his career.
By the way, Fergie and his Friends beat our AZ All-Stars 7-2. However, the only numbers from this game that really matter are the amounts donated to worthy causes and the number of great memories everyone will have from last night’s game.
The Cubs have a rare night game in Scottsdale against the Giants tonight after yesterday’s day off, and then they’re back to Hohokam tomorrow against White Sox.
AZ resident Harmon Killebrew during introductions
Fergie with his friends
Bob Feller ready for a ceremonial pitch