It is with great sadness that Pfeiffer University announces the death on Wednesday of Joseph S. Ferebee Sr, Pfeiffer’s beloved and highly successful baseball coach who served for over three decades. From 1956 to1987 Ferebee poured his life into the formation of students, while simultaneously setting the standard for excellence in on-the-field success to which all other Pfeiffer athletic programs would aspire.
“No one in the history of Pfeiffer University athletics has influenced the lives of more young people than Coach Ferebee," said Jack Ingram '74, who was a Pfeiffer student-athlete during Coach Ferebee's tenure. “He instinctively knew how to bring out the best in his players, who respected him and rose to the challenges of the game under his guidance.”
Ferebee, a Mocksville native who turned 101 in February, is the winningest baseball coach in North Carolina history. He won 677 games as Pfeiffer’s head coach and another 694 as the coach of several American Legion teams, four of which won state titles. All told, Ferebee won 1,438 games in a 41-year career that also included a coaching stint at Salisbury High School, which he led to a state championship in 1955.
While at Pfeiffer, where he also served as the athletic director, Ferebee led the Falcons to 10 conference championships and five NAIA District crowns. In 1968, Pfeiffer's baseball team was ranked number two in the nation. Ferebee’s Pfeiffer teams produced 42 players who secured professional contracts after their college careers; two of them made it to the majors, Monty Montgomery '69 (Kansas City Royals) and Bill Wynne '66 (New York Mets, Chicago White Sox, and California Angels).
Tributes from Ferebee’s players and several coaches have been pouring in.
Vic Worry ’69, who played for Ferebee, was drafted by the New York Mets as a pitcher and played in the Mets’ farm system.
“Coach Ferebee was all business,” Worry said. “He knew everything about everything and was well-rounded. The reason why we were so good was the fact that the fundamentals of baseball were ingrained into you.”
Worry added that, other than his father, nobody influenced him more than Ferebee.
Monte Sherrill ’87, Pfeiffer’s softball coach, played for Ferebee for four seasons. Although Ferebee’s baseball accomplishments stood head and shoulders above all others, Sherrill said, Ferebee “was proud of his title as a veteran of the U.S. Navy.”
“He was proud to show off the photos on his desk and that he was a cousin to Tom Ferebee, the bombardier on the Enola Gay,” Sherrill said. “His eyes always lit up with pride when it came to our country. He and his family were American heroes.”
Multiple coaches have praised Ferebee for his impact on baseball and the young people who played it.
Chris Pollard, Pfeiffer’s former head baseball coach, is now the head coach at Duke. He said: “Coach Ferebee was a larger-than-life figure in our sport and I will always be grateful for the way he and his wife Melba treated a first-time head coach. Rest in peace, Coach Ferebee.”
Dusty Blake '06 MSICL, also a former head baseball coach at Pfeiffer, is now an assistant coach at Duke. He said that the Pfeiffer and baseball communities have “lost a legend.”
Ferebee “set the bar for all collegiate coaches when it comes to making a positive and lifelong impact on student-athletes,” Blake said. “I always appreciated Coach attending our practices and games at Pfeiffer and the support he showed for our program and it meant a lot to our players.”
Jordan Stampler '17 MSL, Pfeiffer’s current head baseball coach, called Ferebee “an incredible man.”
“It’s an honor to have known him,” Stampler said. “He will always be a monumental part of the Pfeiffer baseball program, our university, and our community.”
Ferebee has been honored in numerous ways. For example, Pfeiffer has established two scholarships, one honoring him and another his wife, the late Pfeiffer alumna Melba Willis Ferebee ’52. The Joseph S. Ferebee Endowed Scholarship is awarded to students who exhibit academic merit, financial need, and the qualities of a campus leader. The Melba Willis Ferebee Endowed Scholarship is awarded to undergraduate students, with first preference for a Christian education-music major and second preference for a student majoring in music or English.
Coach Ferebee became a charter member of Pfeiffer’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1990. Pfeiffer’s baseball field, now popularly known as “The Joe,” is named for him. In 2013, Pfeiffer retired Ferebee’s jersey (#23). In 2019, Pfeiffer Athletics began awarding the Joe Ferebee Legacy Award to a Pfeiffer baseball player who exhibits the values and character of Joe Ferebee.
In 2002, Ferebee was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. He is also in several other halls of fame, including those for Catawba College (where he was a star baseball player), the American Baseball Coaches Association, Stanly County, and the North Carolina American Legion.
In 1989, Ferebee won the Raleigh Hot Stove League’s Will Wynne Award, which is given to a North Carolinian who contributes the most to baseball. He shared that honor with Walt Weiss, a UNC Chapel Hill shortstop who in 1988 became the American League’s Rookie of the Year.
In 1969 and 1971, Ferebee received the Governor's Award for his contributions to youth baseball.
Coach Ferebee is survived by four children, all Pfeiffer alumni: Joe Ferebee, Jr. ’78, Mark Ferebee ’84, Rick Ferebee ’81, and Jomelle Ferebee Key ’76.
A small private family service is planned for Joe Ferebee. A larger memorial service will be announced at a later date.