Gathering in the St. Robert’s auditorium on Tuesday, former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Al “The Bull” Ferrara spoke to an audience about growing up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan and how his dreams of playing for his favorite team came true. He talked about winning two World Series titles with the Dodgers, as well as how he has seen the sports world, and society around, him change.
At 78 years old, Ferrara calls himself a “real Brooklyn Dodger,” growing up in Brooklyn and knowing only the Dodgers. He spoke on how he learned how to play baseball on the streets, on the concrete using cars and sewers as bases. It was not until he attended his first major league baseball game at seven years old that he saw grass for the first time. Ferrara described seeing the Dodgers for the first time, with the classic white uniforms, Dodgers logo written across the front, and said, “Right there and then, that’s what I want to be, I want to be a baseball player.” As well as being his first major league baseball game, it was also, according to him, the debut game for legendary player Jackie Robinson. There, he witnessed the first African American player play in a major league game on April 15, 1947. He remembered the first time legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully was introduced into the broadcast booth.
Ferrara’s talk was filled with rich baseball knowledge and firsthand history that is hard to come by. He recalled the Dodgers being the only major league team to offer him a contract out of high school, playing in his first game as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1963 after having dreamed of playing for them for much of his life. For Ferrara, his Dodger dream came full circle when he heard Scully calling his own hits and home runs.
Despite not playing a significant role on the team until 1966, he was grateful to be a part of two championship teams, saying that defeating the Yankees in 1963 was the “greatest thrill of his life.”
In a room filled with Dodger fans, it was an unforgettable experience to listen to Ferrara recount his life from growing up as a fan, to playing on his favorite team and winning two World Series championships. Although he enjoyed success with his favorite team, he eventually suffered a broken ankle, resulting in a move to the San Diego Padres. Ferrara became an original member of the Padres, an expansion team at the time. Ferrara ended his baseball career playing one year with the legendary Pete Rose on the Cincinnati Reds.
Ferrara discussed his African American teammates and how they were treated, he mentioned how “they broke the color line in baseball, but we haven’t broken the color line in the world, in our community.”
Additionally, the evolution of baseball was evident as Ferrara spoke of the game and business during his days compared to today. Free agency as we know it today was implemented during his tenure as a Dodger where players, including himself, could not move to other teams due to the reserve clause in the player’s contracts. Additionally, there was no draft system during his time, as players who were offered contracts by major league teams could choose where to go depending on who offered the most money. Today’s game implements analytics more into the game whereas back in his day the game was all about the eye test.
It was a special experience to listen to Ferrara’s stories and history. He was one of the early Los Angeles Dodgers and a player that Vin Scully, years later, still remembers watching. He encouraged the audience to follow their dreams, as he was just a kid from Brooklyn who grew up to live his dreams and now can inspire others to dod the same. An hour of listening to Ferrara speak felt like experiencing Dodgers history up close, with the highs and lows of his career set down in front of us. Today, he says how he is having a great time, as he’s “able to talk to children” and tell them his stories, passing down his history to the next generation of Dodger fans.
This is the opinion of Miles Thomas, a freshman communication studies major from Los Angeles, CA. Tweet comments to @LALoyolan, or email email@example.com.