ALBEMARLE, NC -- Names and numbers are important in baseball. They’re how the sport remembers its past.
At Pfeiffer University you’ll see the name Joe Ferebee all over the diamond. And the number 23.
The coach won 677 games for the Falcons and 694 more in American Legion. He coached 42 pro players like Billy Wynne and Brack Bailey.
But this story is focused on the name Joe Ferebee and the number -- 99.
Today, Feb. 24, is coach's birthday.
"I was born in 1919," he said.
At an assisted living home just down the road from Pfeiffer, Ferebee visits with several of his former players.
His mind still as sharp as the ground balls he used to rap at them in practice.
He recounts games, scores, situations and players.
"We were playing the No. 1 team and Monty Montgomery was my pitcher,” he recounted to a few of his players in attendance.
He remembers the names of players hear heard about growing up. Players who know from books and legends.
"My idol was Lou Gehrig, the Iron Horse of the Yankees," said Ferebee, who saw Gehrig and the Yankees play in person at the Washington Senators.
Ferebee became an Iron Horse in the world of coaching, racking up well over one thousand wins, and enshrinement in to eight Hall of Fames.
He planted the trees that align the current Pfeiffer baseball stadium, and built three of the university's fields himself.
"I wore out a dozen rakes and a dozen shoulders," he jokes.
His players steadily stream to his side still…including here on his birthday.
"My wife and I are fortunate enough that we are able to come to two or three baseball games every season," said Griggy Porter, an infielder who went on to a minor league career with the Chicago Cubs, "and throughout the year we come down to visit him.”
Added second baseman, Bob Gulledge, Class of '68: "It's a way for all of us and the ones who come to say thank you coach. And think about it, some of those guys played for him 60 plus years ago.”
And as he reaches the number 99, coach is focused on the names that he still holds close.
"These names to me are just," he said while looking at a bat and ball with dozens of signatures of players past, "they’re my heroes.”