Dave “Boo” Ferriss, Mississippi’s greatest ever Major League Baseball player, has passed away at his home in Cleveland at the age of 94 less than a mile away from the field that bears his name.
From his days as a young athlete in Shaw to becoming one of Mississippi’s greatest baseball players and coaches, there was always something special about “Boo.” Out of a frame that produced a Hall of Fame career with the Boston Red Sox flowed a magnetism that brought everyone he encountered into a life-long bond with “Coach.” His ability to connect with whomever he was interacting with was his gift. As much as he loved the game, it was the relationships that came from it that mattered most.
» READ MORE HERE from the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame…
His exploits on the baseball field are well-documented, but simply stated, the influence he had in the lives of others is his greatest legacy.
As a teammate, teacher or coach, his primary focus was always on the betterment of individuals. He built his program on the principles of hard work, faith and education. Out of that recipe came some of the state’s greatest players and coaches. It can be said that no single individual has played a larger role in the growth of baseball in Mississippi, than Coach Ferriss.
Funeral arrangements are still being made.
Story below comes from Rick Cleveland at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
This was 53 years and several months ago at the old Mississippi Southern College baseball field just off U.S. 49 in Hattiesburg. Delta State College was about to play MSC in baseball. I was 9.
My dad was on the field talking to a tall, broad-shouldered man in a gray flannel uniform with a green cap. Dad waved me out onto the field.
“Rickey,” my daddy said, “I want you to meet the greatest baseball player in Mississippi history. This is Coach Boo Ferriss.”
Understand, I was a baseball nutcase. Knew every starting line up in the Big Leagues. Learned to read by reading the sports page. Learned to do math figuring batting averages. Played baseball every waking hour and then dreamed about it, too.
The greatest player in Mississippi history… Dad said. That got my attention.
Coach Ferriss could not have been more kind. He asked me what position I played. And when I answered, catcher, he said, “Well that’s the quickest way to the Big Leagues. Good catchers are hard to find.”
Coach made me feel like a million dollars. He’s been doing it ever since.
Delta State beat Southern 1-0 that day. Funny the things you remember when you can’t remember where you put your keys or the score of last year’s Egg Bowl.
Gift who keeps on giving
What my dad did not tell me that day — and what I have learned in the more than half a century since — is that Coach Ferriss not only is the greatest baseball player in Mississippi history, he is one of the greatest men. At 93, he has touched more lives than we can scarcely imagine. In Mississippi baseball, he is the gift that keeps on giving.
You see, Boo Ferriss taught his players about more than baseball. He taught them how to carry themselves, how to treat people, how to make others feel better about themselves.
“At first I thought I was special because he cared so much,” says Jimmy Newquist, one of Ferriss’s many successful players. “After a while, I figured out he treated everyone like that. Everybody thought they were special.”
Coach’s players learned so much — and were so inspired by him — many became coaches themselves. And they taught their players how to play the game and how to reach people. From the Boo Ferriss baseball tree, the branches keep producing more limbs. His shadow is cast over all.
This past weekend, on a wind-chilled, “goosebump” day in the Delta, people gave back.
The ‘great encourager’
Brookhaven sculptor Kim Sessums’ handsome, eight-foot, bronze statue of Boo Ferriss, unveiled Saturday, captures Ferriss vividly and in mid-clap. Perfect. Ferriss was forever nurturing his players from the third base coaching box and from the dugout, usually with a loud clap.
“Coach kept things so upbeat,” says Mike Kinnison, who went from manager to All-American under Ferriss and has become a coaching institution himself. “The games were important and we wanted to win, but we never felt any pressure because of his demeanor. He was always so encouraging.
“He still is,” Kinnison continues. “I’ll be fuming about a player who is one for his last 25, and I’ll look over and Coach has his arm around him, telling him to keep his chin up, that he’s done it before and he’ll do it again. I call him the great encourager.”
Among the players Ferriss inspired and encouraged is Tim Harvey, a Laurel native, who went on to a splendidly successful career in hotel management. Harvey gave the lead gift for the renovation of the baseball stadium, dedicated Saturday along with the statue. Tastefully modernized Tim and Nancy Havey Stadium/Ferriss Field, is now the centerpiece of a Boo Ferriss baseball complex that includes the stadium, an indoor practice facility, a clubhouse, a Boo Ferriss museum and one of the most appropriate statues in Mississippi — or anywhere.
BEFORE YOU GO…
… we’d like to ask for your support. More people are reading the Mississippi Business Journal than ever before, but advertising revenues for all conventional media are falling fast. Unlike many, we do not use a pay wall, because we want to continue providing Mississippi’s most comprehensive business news each and every day. But that takes time, money and hard work. We do it because it is important to us … and equally important to you, if you value the flow of trustworthy news and information which have always kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.
If those who read our content will help fund it, we can continue to bring you the very best in news and information. Please consider joining us as a valued member, or if you prefer, make a one-time contribution.Click for more info