. Nicknamed "The Bull
", a home-run
hitter's name, for in his large (for that era) frame lay the promise of homers galore. In reality, he became a journeyman National League outfielder
in the 60's (can you say "late-inning replacement"? I knew you could)
. He mostly kept the benches warm
, when at the major league
level, for the Los Angeles Dodgers
, playing a (very) small part in their 1963
, and 1966
NL championship seasons -- he probably didn't do enough to qualify for Dodgers World Series
rings in '63 and '65, having only 125 combined at-bats. In his only post-season
appearance, he had a pinch-hit
single in the '66 Series.
He gained significant playing time in 1967 (though none in '68), but this was the beginning of LA's post-Koufax, post-Drysdale descent into utter mediocrity. Ferrara was rescued by an even worse fate -- he became one of the original members, in 1969, of the San Diego Padres expansion team. Since even your grandma could have played for the Padres, the superior Ferrara garnered a regular outfield gig (in left), essentially marking time until youngsters like Dave Winfield were ready for the big time.
By 1971, Winfield was ready. Ferrara was shipped, mid-season, to the Cincinnati Reds, traded for Angel Bravo, the Venezuelan Al Ferraro. This was the year in which "The Big Red Machine" sputtered as if cursed by some angry, drunken baseball gods brandishing solid-gold tire irons. By the time the team returned to championship form in '72, Ferrara's career was over; he received a front-office job with the Dodgers. His lifetime batting average was .259; he hit 51 homers total, spread out over nine seasons -- hitting a career-high 16 in 1967. The Bull.
His one claim to fame might be that he batted third for the Padres on June 12, 1970, when they were no-hit by the Pittsburgh Pirates' Dock Ellis, who, as legend has it, was tripping on LSD that day.
My only real enduring memory of him was that I must have had at least five or six Al Ferrara Topps baseball cards. I'd stand there, on school mornings, outside a candy store across from Van Cortlandt Park, crunching on the bubble gum that came with the Topps pack, going through the cards before heading on my way, in hopes of finding a Willie Mays or Henry Aaron in there -- "Steve Hargan, Sam McDowell, Joe Foy, Andy Etchebarren... aw, rats! Another Al Ferrara! Dick McAuliffe..."
His original Dodger uniform number (20) has been retired -- but only because hall-of-famer Don Sutton was the next to wear it.