Blugold Hall of Fame set to induct Furrer

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Friday, September 23, 2011

John Furrer is looking forward to a homecoming, of sorts, at his alma mater UW-Eau Claire this weekend.

The Janesville Craig High School graduate is being inducted into the Blugold Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Furrer was a standout baseball player at UW-Eau Claire from 1980-1983. Before the expanded college schedules, he held the Blugold season records for at-bats (1214), hits (46), RBIs (37), doubles (10) and home runs (10).

His .404 batting average and .754 slugging percentage helped the Blugolds earn their first winning season of 16-14 in 1983.

Furrer, now a financial planner for M&I Bank in Menomonee Falls, knew he wanted to attend UW-Eau Claire while a member of a Janesville Babe Ruth team that went there for a tournament.

He could not recall if it was the 15- and 16-year-old all-star team that won the state championship, or the Senior Babe Ruth squad that won the state title. But Furrer does remember seeing Carson Park for the first time.

“I loved that field, and I loved Eau Claire,” Furrer said in a phone interview earlier this week. “I knew that is where I wanted to play. I have no regrets.”

Furrer batted .318 in 116 career games. He hit 21 homers and 24 doubles and stole 37 bases in 45 attempts.

In many games in his senior season, nearly half of the Blugolds’ starting lineup was players from Janesville. Furrer was in right field, Craig graduate Ross Kingsley was at shortstop, Parker grad Randy Lewis was in left field, and Craig graduate Lonnie Merchant pitched.

After graduation, Furrer used his marketing degree for a job with the minor-league Tucson Toros, before hooking on with the Chicago White Sox.

Furrer says playing in the Major Leagues, not marketing for a team, was his No. 1 dream.

“My passion always was baseball,” he said. “My dad (Ernie) played third base in the Home Talent League, and I was very blessed to be coached by Mr. (Dick) Kingsley in Babe Ruth, and obviously Coach (Bob) Suter. They taught me the fundamentals.

“Everyone who plays baseball wishes they would get drafted, but that

wasn’t to be.”

Furrer spent 10 years working with the White Sox.

“Going to work at a major league park every day was a dream come true,” he said.

Furrer just attended a wedding reception for a former co-worker at U.S. Cellular Field.

Furrer has been working for Marshall and Ilsley since 1999.

He also spends time as a youth coach in Menomonee Falls. In addition, he is highly regarded as both a high school and college basketball referee, and as a softball umpire.

One of his greatest thrills as a referee came in the 2002 WIAA girls state basketball tournament. He joined his father, Ernie, to become the first father-son referee team to work a state tournament game.

Ironically, Janesville Parker was in the tournament. John and Ernie were scheduled to work the Division 1 championship game. But the Vikings were defeated in the state semifinal game by Waukesha South.

The original officiating crew slated for the title game included a referee from Waukesha. When South made the championship game, the Waukesha referee pulled out. The Furrers then worked the Division 1 title game.

Ironically, too, John was a Craig classmate and a longtime friend of Parker coach Tom Klawitter.

Furrer works Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference games. He has worked the WIAC conference tournament championship game in 2008 and this past season.

Furrer and his wife, Cheri, have two sons, Ryan, age 19, and Michael, 17.

Last updated: 6:17 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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