On Sept. 8, 1965, Oakland A’s manager Charlie O. Finley decided — in an effort to draw crowds — that the MLB team’s young shortstop, Bert Campaneris, would do something no other Major Leaguer had done before: play every position on the field in one game.
Inspired by the historic event 50 years later, Will Ferrell replicated the act and then some.
Over the course of one day of Major League Baseball spring training in Arizona, Ferrell played all nine field positions, plus designated hitter, for 10 different teams in five different games, traveling to each new game by van or helicopter.
He did so for charity, raising money for Cancer for College, an organization that gives college scholarships to cancer survivors. The stunt was filmed for an HBO special from Funny or Die in partnership with Major League Baseball, and came complete with the hashtag #ferrelltakesthefield.
In an interview on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike,” Ferrell joked about what he could bring to the table. “It just dawned on me that with the transient nature of sports today, with a lot of players changing teams all the time, that a lot of these clubs now are really looking for a clubhouse presence — a 47-year-old journeyman to provide the intangibles,” Ferrell said, quickly adding, “and by journeyman, I mean someone with no baseball ability whatsoever.”
While he’s no professional athlete, Ferrell has a history of stepping up to the plate for a good cause, having supported Cancer for College since it was formed in 1993. In addition to raising an estimated $1 million through the baseball stunt alone, in 2014 the actor launched a crowdfunding campaign for the charity with a grand prize offering the chance for some one-on-one time playing videogames with Ferrell — incentive enough for nerds everywhere.
Ferrell has also served as the celebrity host for Cancer for College fundraising events since 2002, including the organization’s annual Golf Classic, while his wife, Viveca Paulin, has played auctioneer.
Since its inception, the charity has granted nearly $2 million in scholarships to more than 1,000 cancer survivors around the country. Craig Pollard, the founder of the organization and a two-time cancer survivor, has known Ferrell since they were fraternity brothers at USC.
“I get asked to support a lot of causes, but Cancer for College is one of the purest charities I’ve encountered,” Ferrell said in an interview last year. “It’s a very small operation with a mom and pop feel to it, and the mission is simple. They help cancer survivors realize their college dreams.”
By the time the ballpark marathon ended, Ferrell had suited up for the Angels, Athletics, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Padres, Reds and White Sox.
As for his performance on the field, it’s safe to assume his MLB prospects aren’t looking so hot, although he did experience some peaks. On the mound an opposing player sympathy-bunted for an easy out, keeping Ferrell’s ERA at 0.00, but at the plate the actor went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts.
In an appearance on “Late Show With David Letterman,” Ferrell explained, “There were moments that were terrifying, I’m not going to lie to you. Trying to hit a 90 mile-an-hour fastball — it’s next to impossible.”
But all told, the moral of the event was clear: Sometimes in order to hit a home run for a good cause, you have to be willing to strike out. You stay classy, Mr. Ferrell.