Nostalgia reigns supreme at baseball benefit - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Fergie and Friends game Nostalgia reigns supreme at baseball benefit

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Posted: Sunday, March 13, 2011 6:30 am

Dust off that shoebox full of baseball cards you left in your old bedroom closet at your mother’s house.

Nostalgia will reign supreme during a baseball benefit fundraiser featuring a lineup of at least six Hall of Famers and stars from a bygone era that will return to the diamond in hopes of shining from the pitching mound or home plate

even if it is for one magic inning.

Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson “Fergie” Jenkins’ foundation and the Mesa Hohokams are hosting the 4th Annual Fergie and Friends Celebrity Baseball Game at Hohokam Park, 1235 N. Center St., Mesa and are hoping for large turnout of fans.

Before the game starts fans can rub shoulders with former major leaguers as they are suited in uniforms that amazingly still fit. Many of the players also include past Cy Young Award winners and Most Valuable Players, who haven’t played the game for keeps in nearly three decades.

“It’s all for a good cause,” said Jenkins, who lives in Anthem. “The players get out there to have fun and a lot of good organizations benefit from the money we help raise. It will be a thrill for fans to watch. A lot of people will have fun seeing the players they remember watching when they were younger.” 

In addition to Jenkins, the Hall of Famers participating in this year’s event include Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Rickey Henderson, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry and Rollie Fingers.

Other stars suiting up include former Houston Astro J.R. Richard, one of baseball’s greatest pitchers during the 1970s and early 80s, who suffered a stroke on the field in 1980, and Cubs sluggers Dave Kingman and Bill Buckner. 

Marichal, 73, is featured in a recently-released book, “The Greatest Game Ever Pitched: Juan Marichal, Warren Spahn and the Pitching Duel of the Century” by renowned baseball writer Jim Kaplan.

The book chronicles the 16-inning duel between Marichal of the San Francisco Giants and Spahn of the Milwaukee Braves at San Francisco’s windswept Candlestick Park on July 2, 1963.

The game was won for Marichal and the Giants by a walk-off home run by Willie Mays after a four-hour showdown.

Marichal and Spahn each threw more than 200 pitches and went 16 innings without relief.   

Proceeds from Wednesday’s game will benefit the Fergie Jenkins Foundation both in the United States and Canada (where Jenkins was born) and the Mesa Hohokams to help support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Special Olympics, Make a Wish Foundation, American Cancer Society and other youth baseball organizations.

Many of the players participating in the game already are in town for spring training and have been signing autographs for a fee at Jenkins’ booth

behind the stands along the third base line at Hohokam during Cubs’ spring training games.

Carl Kovacs, director of the Fergie Jenkins Foundation, told the Tribune that the crowds of autograph seekers haven’t been as apparent as they have been in the past, likely due to a slow economy.

“This is a great lineup to come and watch play,” Kovacs said. “It’s not that often this caliber of players are in one place at the same time to play baseball.” 

• Contact writer: or (480) 898-6533

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