13 July 2012

joe ferguson doesn't give two shakes about friday the 13th

or so i assume.  see how proudly joe ferguson wears the 'unlucky' number on his 1981 fleer card?
fergie was the very first los angeles dodger to wear 13, and the first dodger since jim hughes in 1955.  the number was previously worn by the likes of ralph branca and burleigh grimes, and has since been worn by oscar robles and cesar izturis, among others.  but to me, it's all joe ferguson.

in addition to being the guy i think of when the number 13 comes up, ferguson may well be near the top of the rankings of my favorite non-infielders from the team of my youth.  i really dug how he could play catcher and outfielder so well.  the only problem is, he wasn't a dodger for the first season or so that i followed the team, having been traded away during the 1976 campaign for reggie smith.  he returned during the 1978 season, and instantly became my favorite dodger double dipper ever.  yes, i'm going to turn this into a double dipper post.

[this is the thirty-eighth installment in the double dippers posts.  here are the previous posts - brett butler, omar daaleric young, nick willhitechris gwynn, mickey hatcherdave anderson, don zimmerrafael landestoy, dave hansen, jose vizcaino, hideo nomo, greg maddux, mike madduxjon garland, chan ho parkvicente romogene mauch, denny lewallyn, von joshua, joe moellerdioner navarro, rudy seanez, bart shirleyrandy wolf, ismael valdes, bobby castillo, mike devereaux, pete richert, jay johnstone, jesse orosco, lee lacy, giovanni carrara, jeff weaverted sizemore,  orel hershiser, and tom goodwin.]

ferguson was part of the dodgers' legendary haul in the 1968 draft.  he was selected in the 8th round of the june draft, after the dodgers had already picked bobby valentine, billy buckner, and tom paciorek, and just one round ahead of doyle alexander.  the dodgers also drafted steve garvey and ron cey in the june secondary draft after getting davey lopes in the january secondary draft.  yes, 1968 was a very good year for the dodger brain trust. 

fergie made his debut in september of 1970 against the giants as a pinch hitter.  in his first big league at bat, he hit a sacrifice fly off of skip pitlock.  here's ferguson's 1973 topps card - the second card topps issued of him
ferguson's first card came in the 1972 topps set.  here's a copy that ferguson signed for me through the mail (just as he signed that 1981 fleer card up top)
that's a nice looking card.  his 1974 card is also a nice one, and he signed a copy of it for me as well
i should note that i have selfishly (and probably annoyingly) sent a few ttm requests ferguson's way.  to his credit, he has returned them much to my appreciation.

1974 was a big year for the dodgers and for fergie.  i was only 3, so i didn't know what was going on, but ferguson was spending about a third of his playing time in right field that year.  then, in game one of the world series against the a's, he famously cut in front of center fielder jimmy wynn to catch a reggie jackson fly ball and proceeded to nail sal bando at the plate to prevent a run.  unfortunately, the dodgers lost that game.  they won game 2, however, and ferguson was the offensive star with a two-run homer off of vida blue.  fergie was rewarded with his return to the dugout immortalized on a 1975 topps card
although i don't count the 1975 set among my favorites, that card is probably in my top 25 favorite dodger cards, thanks to ferguson and the lurkers (alston, rau, wynn, etc) and the significance of it.  so, it was a no-brainer to ask ferguson to sign it.

when i started collecting seriously in 1978, i quickly began buying dodger cards from previous years, and discovered what i feared would be ferguson's last card as a dodger - his 1976 topps card
but, instead of new cards showing him in dodger blue, i was pulling cards of ferguson as an astro.

every time the dodgers played the astros in 1978 and ferguson came up, my dad would mention that he wished fergie were still with the team and i, while not understanding that reggie smith was a dodger because ferguson was not, blindly agreed.  now, my dad may have felt that way not because he thought ferguson to be a better catcher than steve yeager, but rather because it seemed like ferguson would destroy dodger pitching every time the teams played each other.  in fact, 4 of ferguson's 7 home runs as an astro in 1978 were hit against the dodgers.  still, i quickly developed an appreciation for ferguson and lamented the fact that he was no longer a dodger.  here's the card that i was finding in my 1978 topps packs, a card that i liked and disliked at the same time
i had a bunch of them and i am pretty sure that i scribbled 'dodgers' on one of them when he returned to the team in july of 1978. before we get to that, though, here's his 1977 o-pee-chee card, just because it is so fantastically bad.
and yes, he signed one of those for me, too.
while he was away from los angeles, ferguson hit 27 homers and drove in 104 runs for the cardinals and astros, and he threw out 40% (99 of 247) of the base runners who tried to steal against him.

here's a clean shaven ferguson during his second go-around with the dodgers on his 1981 topps card
by now, you know the drill.  he signed one of those for me
along with his 1979 topps card
and his 1980 topps card
i also received a 1981 donruss card signed.
back with the dodgers, ferguson had two hits in the 1978 world series in 4 at bats - both doubles.  then, in 1979, he played in 122 games and hit 20 home runs.  he played less in 1980, and then made only 17 appearances for the dodgers in 1981 before they released him in august.  i was happy when he was quickly picked up by the angels, although disappointed when the dodgers decided that they needed another backstop later in the season and he was no longer available.  they went with jerry grote instead, and he earned a ring that may well have been joe ferguson's.

the last card i will show off, but not the last one that fergie signed for me, is a copy of his 1978 topps card that should have been.
one of my favorites from my 1978 topps burger king dodgers/update set.

ferguson returned to the dodgers a third time (not as a player, but as a coach) in the early 1990's and then spent some time as a minor league manager for the orioles later that decade.  i'm not sure what he's doing now, but i am really happy that he took the time to sign a bunch of cards for me.

thanks joe, and a job well done as a dodger double dipper!

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