"Originally I was an outfielder," Ferguson says. "The organization suggested that I try catching. I agreed and talked to Del Crandall about it. Del had been a fine catcher himself, of course, and was with the Dodgers then. He asked if I was really interested. When I told him I was, he said, 'Let's get going.' I had to learn to throw differently, block balls and handle the gear and the pitchers. One day in spring training I caught three games.
"When you are behind the plate, all your thoughts are concentrated on not allowing the batter to hit. Then you have to go up and try to hit. It's hard to do that. You have to free yourself mentally to be able to change from defense to offense. I think I've learned."
No job is harder for a catcher than taking command of a veteran pitching staff, which is what the Dodgers have. But the Dodger pitchers approve of the way Ferguson handles them. "They like to have their games called for them," says Joe. "They have enough to worry about."
Maybe the Dodgers will prove again to be little more than a spring mirage. But their pitching is starting to come around, and that means trouble for the enemy. And if those youngsters can....
Dave Lopes says, "There's no pressure about leading the league in hitting because I don't expect to be doing it in September. I'm just having my fun now. This is the time of the year when guys like me lead the league." But he has stolen 17 bases in 18 major league tries, and that kind of speed will be around in September, even if his batting average dwindles off to a more reasonable .250 or so.
And the man who manages these newcomers has won with good teams as well as not-so-good ones, old clubs and young. So if you don't mind, Doc, hold off on those wake-up pills for awhile. Let's go right on dreaming.