Ferndale to honor Buster Pidgeon on second annual Joe Oeschger Day

By Ray Hamill — The town of Ferndale will honor local baseball legend Buster Pidgeon on the second annual Joe Oeschger Day at Fireman’s Park on Saturday.

Oeschger, who grew up in Ferndale and played high school sports for the Wildcats, famously pitched all 26 innings in the longest-ever MLB game in 1920 and has long since been revered as the town’s greatest ever baseball player who enjoyed 12 seasons in the Majors.

Three years ago, the Spirit of Ferndale decided to honor the 100th anniversary of his most famous game with a special Joe Oeschger Day, but the pandemic unfortunately forced a postponement of the event for two full years.

Last spring, however, the local volunteer group, which promotes and supports community events in Ferndale, finally held the inaugural Joe Oeschger Day to remember the legendary player and it was an occasion the community relished.

“It was a blast,” said Leanne Miller McCulloch of the Spirit of Ferndale. “Everybody wanted to make it an annual event, so we’re bringing it back.”

The day will feature a pair of Eel River Little League games on the park’s Joseph C. Oeschger Field, as well as the second annual Ferndale Old-Timer’s Game and a ceremony to honor Pidgeon.

One of the goals on Joe Oeschger Day, according to Miller McCulloch, is to honor someone “who has impacted baseball in our area.”

Pidgeon certainly has done that and more.

Born in Garberville, he played youth and high school baseball in Eureka and earned two all-league selections with the Loggers.

He also won an American Legion state championship in 1968 and would go on to play for both College of the Redwoods and the Humboldt Crabs, before being drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1970 and playing three years in the Minor Leagues.

Pidgeon began coaching in 1989 and has enjoyed success at just about every stop, from Little League to Legion ball to high school, where he guided the Ferndale Wildcats to an NCS championship.

According to a press release naming him as this year’s honoree, Pidgeon “lives in Ferndale with his wife Mary and is a devoted grandpa to Tinnley, Tanner, Conner and Maddie.”

The day’s activities will feature little league games at 10 a.m. and noon, followed by the ceremony honoring Pidgeon at 2 p.m.

The Old-Timer’s Game, which will begin immediately after that, will feature teams sponsored by local construction companies DCI and MCI and is open to any player who wants to sign up.

“It’s good old-time baseball,” Miller McCulloch said. “And it’s a fun time for our community.”

Oeschger’s MLB career featured stints with five different teams, including the New York Giants, who would eventually move west and become the San Francisco Giants.

It was during his four seasons with the Boston Braves that he set the MLB record for most innings pitched in a single game on May 1, 1920 against the Brooklyn Robins (the predecessors to the Dodgers). 

Incredibly, Oeschger and Brooklyn pitcher Leon Cadore both threw all 26 innings and only allowed one run apiece, before the game was called due to fading light in days before floodlit stadiums.

Things were different back in those days.

Years later, Oeschger would tell the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that “if a pitcher couldn’t go the distance, he soon found himself some other form of occupation.”

He gave up just nine hits in the 26 innings.

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