Anyone who knew my dad, John A. Ferguson, Jr., understood two things about him. He would never intentionally hurt anyone and he was a determined journalist.
It may seem those two traits could not exist together, but dad made it work for 48 years at the Tulsa World.
He stuck to stories until the facts were found. He researched back in the day when Google had not yet been invented.
Research books on his desk were everywhere on the subject of baseball…his first love. When any Hall of Fame player long past his career came to do a Tulsa baseball promotion, dad did the research, wrote the story and usually introduced that player over the public address system.
One time former pitcher Bob Feller came to town. Dad spent more time listing all the accolades of Feller than Feller did walking to the mound to wave to the crowd.
Our family was once told, Feller had remarked, “Who did that introduction?”
Dad was remarkable. He lived his job 24/7. He was always looking for a story – even on vacation.
Dad was the Tulsa minor league baseball writer for 32 years, but also covered hunting and fishing, figure skating, tennis, wrestling, college football, high school sports and recreation running.
Dad treated the winner of the Cherry Street Mile the same way he treated Feller, Keith Hernandez, Ted Simmons, Pudge Rodriguez, Casey Stengel and many more.
No sport was too small or too big to write about for my dad.
When Warren Spahn took over as manager of the Tulsa baseball team, he learned quickly of dad’s love of baseball. After some time, Spahn asked why my dad was still working in such a small media market in Oklahoma.
I don’t know dad’s response, but he most likely laughed as he would when put on the spot about any subject. Dad probably responded he loved what he did and loved seeing the ball players coming up through the minor league ranks.
Dad even gave up vacation time to cover certain events. Even though the paper had other reporters, he once gave back four weeks of vacation to make sure the end of the year 5K runs were covered.
His wife, Emma Frances, knew of his passion. When dad died in 2000, she wondered what it would take to nominate him for the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame.
My dad was nominated twice after his death. When mom passed in 2008, one of her last requests was to continue to nominate him.
Mom also said, “Who worked more hours and did more than your father?”
Dad was nominated three more times since 2008. Finally, with the support of my sister, Jill Wilkis, and help from Ralph Schafer, Bob Lewis and others who wrote nomination letters, it was finally done.
John A. Ferguson, Jr., will be inducted posthumously into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame on April 24 during the 50th anniversary of the state’s highest journalism honor.
I know my dad would be honored and humbled by this. I also know he earned this award as a hall of fame individual, too.