Dec 24, 2019
Al Ferrara: Former Italian / American Player & Hollwood Actor (1963-1971)
Alfred John Ferrara was born on December 22, 1939 in Brooklyn, New York. The muscular Italian American was known as “The Bull” way before Philadelphia’s Greg Luzinski took the moniker in the seventies.
His father Al Sr. was a New York fireman & then in retirement worked the gate at Jackie Gleasons Country Club in Miami Florida. His mother died when he was 17 & his grandmother raised him & his twin siblings. As a child he was an accomplished piano player but he loved baseball more than piano.
Quotes: Al Ferrara- “I never wanted to play the piano, I wanted to play baseball. But a first-generation Italian woman like my grandmother didn’t know anything about baseball, so I had to play the piano, starting at age eight. I learned the classics. I read music and play the pieces as they were written by Beethoven and Bach. I got pretty good and I learned to use piano to do what I wanted to do. I had a deal with my grandmother that after playing for an hour she would give me a quarter to go to the Bat Away at Coney Island. In those days you could hit about 25 balls for a quarter".
"After a while I got a reputation as a pretty good hitter and men would come around when I was hitting and put more quarters in the machine so I could hit for maybe a half-hour. Finally, I got my grandmother to agree that if I were to become Mr. Morvillo’s number one student I could give up piano and play baseball."
"He would have showcase recitals at Carnegie Hall, and the number one student would play last. When I was 16, I went on last as the number one student, kissed my grandmother, and never touched the piano again".
Ferrara attended Lafayette High School in Brooklyn, the same school MLB players: John Franco, Sandy Koufax, Pete Falcone, Bob & Ken Aspromonte, Sal Campisi, Kevin Baez, Mike Fiore & Luis Lopez attended. Other notable alumni are: Fred Wilpon, Larry King, Paul Sorvino & artist Peter Max.
Al got signed by his favorite boyhood team, the Dodgers who were now relocated in Los Angeles, in 1959. In 1963 he batted .321 earning him a call up to the 1963 World Champion Dodgers team going 7-44 in 21 games played.
He was back at AAA Spokane for the entire 1964 season hitting 24 HRs while batting .280. He made the Dodgers in 1965 out of Spring Training, and hit his first career HR in May a three run shot against the Cubs. By the end of June he was only hitting .179 & was sent back down to the minors until his return in September.
In 1966 he had a better year, batting .270 with 5 HRs and 23 RBIs playing in 63 games. These were the glory days of the 1960’s Dodgers, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Tommy Davis, Maury Wills and the likes, Winners of two World Series and three pennants.
1966 World Series: Ferrara managed to get one at bat in the 1966 World Series vs. Baltimore. In the final fourth game of the Orioles sweep Ferrara got a pinch hit base hit off Dave McNally in the 8th inning.
In 1967 he had one of his biggest years as fourth outfielder, behind Ron Fairly, Willie Davis & Lou Johnson. He batted .277 with 16 HRs 16 doubles & 50 RBIs. Ferrara enjoyed playing in Los Angeles, because he also had other talents & made himself a second career as a part time Hollywood actor.
Classic Television Shows: He got to play two small parts in the original classic Batman television series. First he played one of the Black Widows (Tallulah Bankhead) henchmen and later played "Atlas", one of Minerva's (Za Za Gabor) muscle man villains in the original Batman sixties TV series' final episode.
He also played a head hunter, along with team mate Jim LeFebvre in the Gilligan’s Island 1967 episode "High Man on the Totem Pole". Ferrara also appeared in Riot on the Sunset Strip & made cameo appearances in other television shows. He was also an excellent piano player, who once played at Carnegie Hall.
After playing in only two games the next season, he was left unprotected, and got drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 1968 expansion draft.
He was an original Padre in 1969 would see the most playing time of his career over the next two seasons. In 1969 his .952 fielding % was 5th best in among all left fielders in the NL. He hit 14 HRs with career highs in RBIs (56) & doubles (22) while batting .260. His 103 hits were a career high in 1970 matching his career best .277 batting average.
In a historic Mets game on April 22, 1970 at Shea Stadium, Ferrara hit a HR off Tom Seaver for the only Padres run in a Seaver classic. That afternoon Seaver struck out a record 19 batters, including a record ten straight. Ferrara was the first of the ten in the sixth inning, then was his last victim, making the final out of the game.
After hitting .118 in 17 a game in 1971 he was sent to the Reds finishing his career there. In his 8 season career he batted .259 with 358 hits 51 HRs 60 doubles & 198 RBIs in 574 games.
Retirement: After his playing days he made other television appearances, once as a contestant on Match Game 74, as well as a 1975 appearance on Robert Blake's classic show- Baretta.
He also had recurring parts on two lesser known shows; Mansion of the Doomed & Dracula’s Do.
He worked at Martoni Marquis in Los Angeles as a greeter then went into the home improvement business. He eventually started his own business lasting 30 years. After the recession of 2008 he needed money & called the Dodgers they gladly put him back to work.
The Dodgers used Ferrara to work in community relations right through recent times. He talks to students about the angers of drugs & tobacco. He also reads books to elementary students in schools. Ferrara was also frequent visitor to Vero Beach, Florida's old Dodgertown Spring Training Facility.