LUBBOCK, Texas - Former LSU all-America first baseman Eddy Furniss was inducted Thursday night into the College Baseball Hall of Fame at the United Spirit Arena in Lubbock. Furniss, former American League MVP George Sisler and big league All-Star B.J. Surhoff were among the 10 players and coaches comprising the 2010 induction class.
Joining them were Alan Bannister (Arizona State), Don Heinkel (Wichita State), Dave Magadan (Alabama), Charles Teague (Wake Forest) and Richard Wortham (Texas), as well as former Fresno State coach Bob Bennett and Cerritos College coach Wally Kincaid.
Furniss enjoyed one of the best four-season stretches (1995-98) in college baseball history. Though it has been 12 years since his final collegiate game, Furniss is still the Southeastern Conference all-time leader in hits (352), home runs (80), RBI (308), doubles, (87) and total bases (689). In the NCAA record book, he finished his career No. 3 all-time in total bases, No. 4 in home runs and doubles, and No. 5 in RBI.
Furniss, a three-time Academic All-American as a zoology major, helped lead LSU to NCAA championships in 1996 and 1997, and he received the 1998 Dick Howser Trophy as college baseball's most outstanding player. He hit .403 in ‘98 with 27 doubles, three triples, 28 homers, 85 runs and 76 RBI, earning First-Team All-America and All-SEC honors. Furniss earned All-America recognition in each of his final three seasons, and he was voted the 1996 SEC Player of the Year.
Furniss, a physician who recently completed his family medicine residency at the John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, joins former Tigers Todd Walker (2009), Ben McDonald (2008) and coach Skip Bertman (2006) in the College Baseball Hall of Fame. Bertman was a part of the hall's inaugural class.
Furniss, a 2007 LSU Athletic Hall of Fame inductee. was selected in the fourth round of the 1998 Major League Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates and played five seasons in the minor leagues before retiring to concentrate on a career in medicine.
Thriving under adverse circumstances is a skill Furniss cultivated on the diamond of LSU's Alex Box Stadium, where he developed into one of the best hitters in NCAA annals. He said the experience of performing as a collegiate student-athlete has helped him succeed in his medical career.
"More than anything else, playing baseball at LSU taught me to perform under pressure, whatever the task may be," Furniss explained. "If you can stand alone on the field with the hopes of 7,000 people in the stands – along with countless people 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. It really helped me react under pressure when, in the first 30 minutes of my residency, I was the only intern on the trauma surgery team and my pager went off with three trauma consults and a patient with a pulseless leg."
Bertman said Furniss was a very gifted player and a model student-athlete.
"No one in my tenure at LSU played as well as Eddy over a four-year period," Bertman said. "He truly is one of the best LSU has ever produced. His batting average over four years was magnificent and, of course, he was one of the primary reasons we won back-to-back national championships (in 1996 and 1997). Eddy's career was one of the greatest, not just in baseball, but in any sport in LSU history."
"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."
The 2010 inductees were honored on Thursday as part of the College Baseball Foundation's annual celebration of both the past and present of college baseball.
Magadan, the 1983 Golden Spikes Award winner and a former major leaguer, was the top vote-getter for this year's class as determined by a panel that includes retired and active coaches, media members and previous inductees.
The Hall, run by the Lubbock-based College Baseball Foundation, focuses solely on the achievements of players and coaches during their college careers. Last year's inductees included Rafael Palmeiro, Ron Polk, Joe Carter, Darren Dreifort and Barry Larkin.
Hall of Fame inductees are chosen based on the votes of more than 110 representatives from coast to coast. Voters include retired and active coaches, media members and previous inductees.
To be eligible for the College Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, players must have completed one year of competition at a two-year institution in the CCCAA or NJCAA or a four-year NCAA (Division I, II or III) or NAIA institution. Ballot-eligible coaches must have retired or be active and no less than 75 years old.
(Courtesy: LSU Athletics Department)