By: Bob Carskadon, HailStateBEAT
Photo Gallery: Boo Ferriss Visits Starkville
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Over Homecoming weekend, John Cohen's baseball team had a unique merge of history and present, an icon of baseball past next to a rising star.
Boo Ferriss, former Bulldog and member of five Halls of Fame, both professional and collegiate, spoke to the Mississippi State baseball team Saturday before they practiced, all while 2012 first-round MLB Draft pick Chris Stratton, a winner of the Ferriss Trophy, watched from the back of the locker room as the namesake of his award shared stories from his time at MSU, in the MLB and serving in World War II.
"I could keep y'all here all afternoon," Ferriss told the team.
And they would've enjoyed every moment.
Few have the lifetime of stories that 92-year-old Ferriss does, as he was able to share the experience of being recruited by "Coach Dudy," whose name is painted on the walls of Dudy Noble Field.
"He had a gruff voice, but a heart of gold," Ferriss recalled.
Ferriss was graduating high school during The Depression, and his sights were fairly set on playing college baseball at Alabama, but on the way back from a visit to Tuscaloosa, he was convinced to stop in Starkville.
MSU hadn't recruited him much, but Coach Dudy offered Ferriss a full scholarship on the spot.
The young player told the coach he'd think about it and talk to his parents, but when he got home and told them, Ferriss' dad was ready to thump him in the head for not saying yes right away.
And so he did, eventually enrolling and playing at MSU and going on to an illustrious career in the pros.
The message Ferriss shared with MSU Saturday was one he learned while playing and coaching with the Boston Red Sox alongside one of his favorite players.
"I was blessed to play against Ted Williams," Ferriss told them, "the best hitter in baseball. Ted always said, 'Guys are just as good as I am, but they don't work as hard or study as much as I do.'"
Such was the point Ferriss wanted to make to the Diamond Dawgs as he congratulated them on their College World Series run, while also reminding them not to rest on that success.
"Where's Jonathan Holder?" Ferriss asked as the World Series came up. "I wish I had a curveball like you. Though you left that one hanging in Omaha. Luckily that Renfroe boy made the catch."
He continued in a similar vein, making jokes and talking to players about having played or coached with their fathers, grandparents or other family members.
He talked about squeezing in a summer of baseball one year, because he knew he'd be drafted soon. Not by a team, but by the U.S. Armed Forces after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
"Sure enough," Ferriss told them, "Uncle Sam called at the end of the summer."
The experience for most of those players was genuinely a one-time opportunity, listening to a legend, a member of the Mississippi State Hall of Fame, Red Sox Hall of Fame, Delta State Hall of Fame and the owner of one of the longest and most-polished resumes in sports.
And there he was, sitting in their locker room, telling them stories about baseball's all-time greats.
A man who still moves well and speaks with the sharpness of someone with much fewer years under their belt, Ferriss was in town as the Grand Marshall of the Homecoming parade, and as the oldest-living Kappa Sigma on the planet, the MSU chapter honored him by re-naming their courtyard after him.
Ferriss is a legend and a treasure not just to MSU, but to the state of Mississippi and baseball at every level.
Cohen's collection of 18-22 year-olds were lucky enough to spend an afternoon with a man such as him.