As a kid growing up in northern Kentucky, Terry Poe of Gilbert has fond memories of playing basketball with actor George Clooney before he was famous.
But he said that didn't compare to the memories evoked during the 3rd Annual Fergie and Friends benefit baseball game at Mesa's Hohokam Stadium on Wednesday that featured five baseball Hall of Famers and nearly 40 stars from the 1970s and '80s whom Poe remembers watching play when he attended baseball games with his father in Cincinnati.
The Fergie and Friends game, hosted by the Fergie Jenkins Foundation and the Mesa Hohokams and benefiting numerous charities, drew a crowd of about 3,000 on a night that was triumphant for the national pastime, nostalgia seekers and even love. Never mind that the team of former major leaguers shellacked the Arizona All-Stars, consisting mostly of media personalities, 14-4. The game took fans back to a bygone era.
Poe, 48, reveled with former Boston Red Sox players Bernie Carbo and Rick Miller during the pregame festivities that allowed fans to meet the game's participants.
"I saw Game 4 of the 1975 World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox with my dad at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati," said Poe, who has a copy of the box score from that game autographed by Miller. "The game was in October, but it was about 20 degrees in the upper deck. It was cold up there. The tickets cost something like $25 each, and the Reds won.
"Getting to see these guys you grew up watching play is neat," Poe said. "You don't get to see old-timers' games very often anymore. These players have aged a little bit, but when these events are held, you get to see a different side of them."
Hall of Fame pitcher Rollie Fingers gave his daughter a kiss through the net of the backstop behind home plate during the game, Carbo shared the message of Jesus Christ to Christian groups on the field before the game, and former major leaguer and master of ceremonies Jon Warden - aka "Crazy Heart" - wore many hats, one being a green leprechaun cap in the shape of a beer mug commemorating St. Patrick's Day.
At age 91, Hall of Famer Bob Feller threw out the first pitch to Chandler resident Dave Minchella, owner of Kokopelli Winery. Feller understandably didn't have the heat he used to in the late 1930s and '40s, but he still had the range and hurled the ball into Minchella's catcher's mitt. Minchella wound up with a true treasure: Feller signed the ball and handed it back to him as they walked off the field.
In addition to the Hall of Famers - Jenkins, Feller, Fingers, Billy Williams and Gaylord Perry - the introduction of players itself lasted about 40 minutes and sounded like a who's who of former Chicago Cubs and all-stars - Bill Buckner, Dave Kingman, Randy Hundley, Jody Davis, Bob Dernier, Pete LaCock (son of television personality Peter Marshall of "Hollywood Squares" fame), Jay Johnstone, Rich Nye and Keith Moreland. Other stars who played in the game included Ron Robinson, Bert Campaneris, Ozzie Virgil Jr., Duke Sims, Amos Otis, Dennis Leonard and John Mayberry.
After the sixth inning, Bill Pollard of Chicago, a partner in the fraud investigations division of Deloitte and Touche who played in the game, proposed to his girlfriend, Yui Viriyasakdana, at home plate as thousands of fans looked on.
As Pollard got down on one knee, fans couldn't hear what was being said, but the scoreboard flashed the words, "Will you marry me?"
Yui's answer was out of the park: She nodded her head yes before the couple kissed to applause.
"I figured I had the luck of the Irish on my side," said Pollard, who was confident Yui would say yes. "We've been together for 15 months and it's been perfect."
For one magic inning, former Houston Astros pitcher J.R. Richard, who dominated the National League for nearly a decade before suffering a stroke on the field before a game in 1980, also was perfect. Richard, who turned 60 on March 7, pitched a scoreless inning in the sixth.
"This was a lot of fun," the 6-foot-9 Richard said after the game. "I got to see a lot of old friends and tell some tall tales."
During the game, Jenkins thanked everyone for coming and offered fans some light-hearted insight: "It's a fun time. You can feel like a kid again. It was fun to play when I was 19 or 20 years old, but at 67, it's a toil."
As Feller was whisked away earlier that night, he said, "This was very enjoyable. I hope I can make it back next year. This is for a very good cause."