Former players help Ferebee celebrate 99th birthday
By Sandy Hatley
For the Salisbury Post
ALBEMARLE — Coach Joe Ferebee, retired Pfeiffer University athletic director and baseball coach, still impacts his former players, even at 99 years of age.
A resident of Spring Arbor Assisted Living in Albemarle, the beloved coach, was treated to a birthday celebration on Feb. 17, with some of his best players in his 31 years at Pfeiffer.
The players included a former major leaguer, Billy Wynne, who pitched for
the New York Mets, Chicago White Sox and California Angels.
A native of Mocksville, Ferebee began his coaching career in 1947 at
Salisbury High School, after service in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
In 1955, Ferebee coached Salisbury to the state 3A championship. The same year, his
Salisbury-Rowan American Legion team won the state crown, finishing third in the
national playoffs. Ferebee led them to three North Carolina state titles, four second-place finishes and 15 area championships.
In 1969 and 1971, Coach Ferebee received the Governor’s Award for his
contributions to youth baseball; in 1988 he was honored by the Raleigh Hot Stove
Including 13 years as a professional baseball scout, Ferebee spent a
total of 41 years in the game of baseball.
He is the winningest baseball coach in North Carolina history with 1,438 victories. He coached Pfeiffer’s baseball program from 1956-1987, winning 677 games, and an
additional 694 with various American Legion teams.
While at Pfeiffer, Ferebee led the Falcons to 10 conference championships and five NAIA District crowns; in 1968, Pfeiffer’s baseball team was ranked No. 2 in the nation. Over the course of his career, he coached 42 Pfeiffer players to professional contracts.
Ferebee has been elected to eight Sports Hall of Fames, the last one being the North Carolina Hall of Fame. He was in the inaugural class of the Pfeiffer Sports Hall of Fame in 1990. Other halls that have inducted Ferebee include Catawba College,
North Carolina American Legion Baseball, National Association of Intercollegiate
Athletics, American Coaches Association, Stanly County and Salisbury-Rowan.
Ferebee and Sam Moir, Catawba College’s legendary basketball coach, may be the only two North Carolina residents who have been inducted into eight Halls of Fame.
In May 2013, Pfeiffer University officially retired Ferebee’s No. 23 baseball
Bob Gulledge, class of 1968, spearheaded the annual gathering of the athletes with their former coach.
“The older I got, the smarter he got,” the Camden, S.C., resident
explained. “He positively impacted the lives of hundreds of boys and young men
from the late 1940s to the 1990s.”
Those in attendance came from four states to help celebrate the legacy
of a man they all fondly refer to as “Coach.”
Tommy Eaton, of Salisbury, who played for Ferebee in high school, legion
ball, and college, acknowledged his beloved coach’s longevity. “He’s in better
shape than any of his players,” said Eaton.
Wynne, of Jacksonville, Fla., explained, “We have been doing this since he was 90.”
All praised their former coach for his mild mannered approach to the game.
Griggy Porter, of Matthews, class of 1969, played in the Chicago Cubs’ organization. Said Porter: “He was a great man to play for. He knows so much about the game of baseball. Thanks to him, I got to play professionally.”
In 2005, nine of the players took Ferebee to Cooperstown, N.Y., to
visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. As their small group toured the facility, the coach
would elaborate on the lives of those immortalized in bronze. Soon spectators
gathered to hear Coach’s narratives.
“He knew more than anyone there,” Gulledge admitted.
During the birthday celebration, Ferebee was presented a baseball signed
by all the players in attendance.
“Says a lot about the man for guys to attend his birthday party up to nearly 60 years from when they played for him,” added Gulledge.
Salisbury Post sports editor Dennis Davidson contributed to this article.