Iron Elf: Ferrell signs off on big day with speech for ages

Will Ferrell stormed through his Arizona spring training odyssey and emerged — well — just like Will Ferrell.

“Ruth, Musial, Mantle, Will Ferrell,” he said Thursday night, addressing the crowd at the Peoria Sports Complex shortly after completing that odyssey. “Who would have thought that one day those names would be synonymous? Show of hands — scratch that, never mind.”

That speech — likely (or perhaps not) to go down as one the sport’s all-time greats — was a fitting end to a marathon day for the star of classics such as "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy," "Elf" and "Step Brothers."

Ten teams, five ballparks. All in the name of charity.

“‘When I embarked on this journey way back at breakfast,” Ferrell said, “I thought to myself, ‘Could I do it?’ The answer is yes.”

And when that journey took Ferrell to his first ballpark, he refused to talk to reporters.

Would it be the sign of a long day ahead? Well, it sure was busy. His schedule:

Before his odyssey began, Ferrell told a radio interviewer that he expected to raise $1 million to be used for college scholarships for cancer survivors. The entire tour was being chronicled by HBO for an upcoming special. Memorabilia from his journey is to be sold at auction on MLB.com with proceeds going to Cancer for College and Stand Up to Cancer. In his farewell speech, Ferrell introduced Craig Pollard, the founder of Cancer for College, saying the organization had given 2,000 scholarships to children with cancer over the past 20 years.

Ferrell decided to coincide the benefit with the 50th anniversary of the time Bert Campaneris became the first player in major-league history to play all nine positions in the field in one game.

Yes, Ferrell himself played all nine positions on Thursday.

Let’s cover his day:

After he brushed off the reporters and got in uniform, he played a little shortstop for the A’s.

Despite a heroic effort, Billy Beane traded Ferrell to the opposing team, the Mariners.

And he made his debut later that game at second base.

Then he headed for the Cubs-Angels game where he took Mike Trout’s spot in center field.

And saw some action on a liner from Wellington Castillo. The technique, flawless. The arm, astounding. The 47-year-old prospect held the Cubs catcher to a single.

But then, in a shocking move, Ferrell was traded to the Cubs for a washing machine.

And did a bang-up job as third base coach for Chicago.

And even got an at-bat.

And some time at first.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon even talked about how much he enjoys Ferrell’s movies. But then, another stunner.

And was immediately put to work in left field, exhibiting his famous crow hop and running around like a frantic gazelle.

After mastering left field without a problem, he was again shipped off. This time to the Reds.

But his time with the Big Red Machine was also short. Soon he was on to the White Sox.

Ferrell served as the DH for the White Sox, and had some pretty good incentive to deliver at least a ball in play.

But he struck out swinging once again and was promptly traded to the Giants.

As a member of the World Series champions, Ferrell got a turn behind the plate at catcher.

Then came his final stop, in Peoria, the Dodgers-Padres game.

Ferrell wore No. 19 for every team except his last one. He didn’t want to wear the late Tony Gwynn’s number, so he donned No. 20 for the Padres.

But first, it was Dodger blue.

He took the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers and got San Diego’s Rico Noel, the only batter he faced, to bounce out to the pitcher.

“Is there life in this 47-year-old arm?” he said.

Was Noel nervous about facing the middle-aged rookie? Try scared.

Then he walked off the mound toward second base in dismay when manager Don Mattingly came out to replace him.

“Mattingly already cut me,” Ferrell told Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda outside the dugout.

Then the Dodgers’ Twitter feed bid a stunned farewell as San Diego’s classiest anchorman was heading home.

And finally . . . eight-and-a-half hours after he first took the field at shortstop for the Oakland A’s, Ferrell played in right field for San Diego in the ninth inning. And in a 0-0 game, no less. At least he had a great view for the game winner; Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson launched a homer deep into right over Ferrell’s head for the game’s lone run.

He had done it. As he walked off the field, Ferrell waved his cap and gave a security guard a high five.

When it was over, he took the public-address microphone to the infield and recounted his day. A speech likes of Lou Gehrig’s farewell address to Yankee Stadium? Not even close. But unforgettable, nonetheless.

“There’s no doubt I turned some heads today, even if it was just for a moment,” Ferrell said. "I brought passion to the field, dedication, ability and a lot of ignorance. The ball moves fast out there, a lot faster than it looks on television. It’s like a speeding bullet. It’s horrible, terrifying.”

Clearly the crowd was impressed. When’s the last time a Padres player got an MVP chant?

He continued: “They say there’s nothing more American than grabbing a hot dog, heading to the ballpark, and watching nine guys from the Dominican Republic,” he said. “. . . But you know what, today I learned that was wrong. They had eight Dominicans, and one guy from Irvine, California.”

At the end of his remarks, he dropped out of character.

“On a serious, real note, what a day,” he said. “Thank you all, thanks to MLB, thanks to my family, to our production team and especially to Craig Pollard.”

This was the latest, perhaps most ambitious, of Ferrell’s forays into sports and the injection of his character into the world at large.

In 2010, he pitched, albeit briefly, for the Triple-A Round Rock Express, wearing a fake mustache in the guise of “Rojo Johnson,” a pitcher with a fiery temperament. He threw one pitch behind the Nashville batter. As he left the field, he ripped off the mustache and waved triumphantly to the crowd.

Two years later, he and fellow actor Zach Galifianakis invaded a Cubs game, throwing out the first pitch then hilariously butchering the introduction of the lineups.

The rapid baseball journey also commemorated the time, 50 years ago, that Bert Campaneris played all nine positions in a game.

“Was I the best player on the field today?” Ferrell said. “Maybe, maybe.”

Then he led the crowd in a chant — “May-be, may-be, may-be.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.