Furniss jersey to be retired Friday
BATON ROUGE - Friday evening will see the jersey of all-American first baseman Eddy Furniss retired by LSU in a ceremony scheduled for 6:45 p.m. Friday night just before the Tigers take to the diamond to play the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Alex Box Stadium.
Furniss’ No. 36 jersey is set to join the hallowed ranks of retired LSU baseball jerseys that include coach Skip Bertman’s No. 15 and the No. 19 sported by pitcher Ben McDonald.
“It’s a company where you don’t even feel like you belong,” said Furniss, who recalls being moved to tears when LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva called to tell him about the jersey retirement. “I wasn’t a great athlete. I didn’t run well; I could hit a little bit. I went to the park and gave what I had, and many times it was good enough. The biggest deal with me, I had so many good players and good teammates around me. I was just in the right place at the right position at exactly the right time to do what I did.”
Furniss, who became a physician in his hometown of Nacogdoches, Texas following the end of his collegiate and minor league careers, is to become the 10th LSU athlete or coach to have his jersey retired. Basketball players with retired numbers include Bob Pettit, “Pistol” Pete Maravich, Rudy Macklin and Shaquille O’Neal. LSU Tigers football players include Billy Cannon and Tommy Casanova. Siemone Augustus is the only LSU women’s athlete to have her jersey retired.
Furnish says he’ll be joined on Friday by 35 of his family members, including his wife and three children.
Furniss was dominant when at bat for a four-year stretch from 1995 to 1998. He still leads the SEC in hits with 352, home runs with 80, RBI with 308, doubles with 87 and total bases with 689, according to LSUsports.net. The NCAA record book places the player at the No. 3 position in all-time total bases, No. 4 in home runs and doubles and No. 5 in RBI.
He also excelled off the field, appearing as a three-time Academic All-American during his schooling as a zoology major at the university. Most Tiger fans will remember him most though for his efforts to help lead LSU to consecutive NCAA championships in ’96 and ’97. He was SEC Player of the Year during the season that saw the first championship. Furniss would go to be selected in the fourth round of the 1998 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates where he’d go on to play five years in the minors before hanging up his bat and glove to pursue a career in medicine.
“I absolutely would not have been the baseball player I was without Coach Bertman drawing every ounce of ability out of me,” Furniss said. “I really think that is true for all the players that have been through the program under his coaching. He has a gift to know when he can push a player, when young men need a stern hand to get back on track, and the ones that need a kind word at the right moment to make it through a downturn.”
It’ll be a full weekend ahead for Furniss as he’ll also join the rest of that 1996 national championship winning team for a reunion on Saturday.
“I found that the character of the ‘96 team was the most memorable,” Furniss said. “We came from behind in an amazing number of games that year and were not expected to do as well as we did. That year couldn't have happened to a better group of people.”
Regardless of how the next few days go for Furniss, his tenacity on the diamond will surely allow him to go down as one of the best hitters in the annals of NCAA history.
“More than anything else, playing baseball at LSU taught me to perform under pressure, whatever the task may be,” he explained. “If you can stand alone on the field with the hopes of 7,000 people in the stands – along with countless others watching on TV and listening on the radio --riding on your next swing, catch, hit, or pitch, you know you can pretty much do anything.”