A great man beyond the baseball diamond
When it was learned that the legendary Boo Ferriss had died, at age 94, on Thanksgiving Day, there was a huge outpouring of praise and affection. It was very fitting and well deserved. I learned of Boo’s death from a friend who sent me a story, very appropriately written by columnist Rick Cleveland, a close friend of Boo who authored a book about Mississippi’s greatest baseball legend. The last time I saw Boo was at an event at Mississippi State University to honor former congressman Sonny Montgomery. Sonny was near the end of his own life and then MSU president Charles Lee had an event to honor Sonny and commemorate the renovation of MSU’s Montgomery Hall, which was named after Sonny’s grandfather. I was one of five or six speakers who were friends with Sonny and were listed in the event’s program. There was another speaker who was not listed in the program who was able to appear at the last minute. It was Boo. It was a very pleasant surprise and was great to catch up with him. I did not realize until then that Sonny and Boo had entered MSU together as freshmen. Sonny went on to a distinguished public career in the Mississippi Legislature and U.S. Congress. Boo’s career with the Boston Red Sox and as head coach at Delta State University was equally distinguished.
Boo recruited my oldest son for a baseball scholarship to DSU. My son was fortunate to have several Division 1 baseball offers and eventually eliminated Division 2 DSU from his list. However, because Boo was such a wonderful person, the hardest thing my son had to do during his recruitment was to turn down Boo’s offer. Over the years I have known many
men who played for Boo at Delta State, many of them also became coaches. Their devotion to Boo was amazing. For a number of years, I was Mississippi chairman for the United States Baseball Federation and a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association. It was my honor to nominate Boo for the ABCA Hall of Fame. Of course, he was inducted, just one of many honors that came his way during his lifetime. Also, one of my very favorite sports mementos contains Boo’s signature. When Boo starred with the Red Sox, in 1947 his fans in the Mississippi Delta chartered a Missouri Pacific Railroad train to St. Louis to see Boston play the St. Louis Browns (now the Baltimore Orioles). An “All Expense – Deluxe” ticket on the “Boo Ferriss Special” cost $42.50. My father took the special train to the game and fortunately saved his ticket. When Boo was recruiting my son, he signed the ticket and a baseball. I put both of them right next to Boo’s 1949 Bowman baseball card I was later able to purchase at a baseball card show. It is right by the picture I had taken with Boo when he was inducted into the ABCA Hall of Fame. I will always treasure these memorabilia of Boo’s baseball career. Like many others, I will also treasure the opportunity I had to know Boo. He was truly a classy and special person.