Sometime soon, Barry Bonds is likely to break Hank Aaron's record of 755 home runs and by doing so will include a cast of incidental characters in the historic moment.
When Aaron belted his record-breaking home run on April 8, 1974, surpassing Babe Ruth's mark of 714, Joe Ferguson was behind the plate, catching for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and became an incidental part of baseball history.
Ferguson, who spent 14 seasons in the major leagues, is the new manager of the Camden Riversharks, an independent minor-league team. And like much of the country, he is watching Bonds, who had 744 career home runs going into last night's game against the visiting New York Mets, chase Aaron.
"I think it's a tremendous record," Ferguson said last week, referring to Aaron's mark. "I don't get involved in all that other stuff."
Ferguson was referring to allegations that Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs to aid his quest in passing Aaron. Bonds has told a grand jury that he never knowingly used them.
"I know what it takes for an athlete to do something like that," Ferguson said of the homer record. "To play that many years, you have to be consistent."
He said he hoped Bonds' breaking Aaron's record "gets the notoriety and gets celebrated the right way."
Ferguson's recollections of being behind the plate that day at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium make for an interesting story he does not mind retelling.
Ferguson was 27, and he and his teammates knew something big was about to happen. Aaron was looking to surpass Ruth when the Dodgers traveled to Atlanta for a series.
"We knew it was coming," Ferguson said. "It was the second series of that season. We were going to play in Atlanta, and he had just tied the record in Cincinnati against Jack Billingham. So we knew there was a very good possibility that history could be made during that series."
It happened on a pitch by the Dodgers' Al Downing.
The chance of seeing the record-breaking homer was not talked about much before the game, Ferguson said, but most of the Dodgers were rooting for Aaron to hit No. 715.
"Although nobody ever voiced the opinion that we were hoping he would hit the home run against us, we all wanted him to hit a home run," Ferguson said. "It's not like he had never hit home runs against us before."
When Aaron connected with the pitch, Ferguson knew it was gone immediately.
"Oh, definitely," he said. "I had seen Hank hit enough to know it was gone."
The scene was forever etched into Ferguson's mind as he watched Aaron round the bases.
"I couldn't even get close to him," Ferguson said with a laugh. "By the time he got to home plate, I was going to shake his hand. But there were so many people at home plate, I got pushed almost to the dugout."
Being linked with Aaron is hardly the only memory Ferguson has of the major leagues.
After he became the Dodgers' regular catcher in 1973, he set a record by committing only three errors that season. In 1974, he was replaced by Steve Yeager but still came up big in the World Series. Against the Oakland A's, he hit a two-run homer off Vida Blue to account for the deciding run in the Dodgers' only victory of the Series.
He also had stints with the St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros before the Dodgers reacquired him in 1978. He helped them win another National League pennant.
After his playing career ended, Ferguson served as a coach with the Dodgers, who won the World Series in 1988.
Those stories are the kind that are helping him connect with the Riversharks, whom he is still getting to know.
"He was telling us the 1988 Kirk Gibson Game 1 story," said pitcher Greg Powell, referring to the time the injured Gibson slammed a dramatic pinch-hit, game-winning homer off A's closer Dennis Eckersley.
"He seems like he's really trying to get to know everybody," Powell said. "He's really enthusiastic."
The Riversharks opened their home season at Campbell's Field last night, against the York Revolution, to start a six-game homestand.
"This will be my 40th year of baseball," Ferguson said. "I've been exposed to a lot of different levels, and I was exposed to the major leagues for 25 years. What I've learned - hopefully, I can help some of these players realize their hopes and dreams and get to or get back to a major-league organization.
"I've told them all I feel like that's part of my responsibilities. From a team standpoint, it's to get this team to win."