Sid Salter Column

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 19, 2008

Salter: Cleveland’s ‘Boo’ Ferriss book a must for Santa’s list

When one reaches a certain age — particularly when there are children and grandchildren around — the whole Christmas gift dynamic changes.

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Suffice it to say that at the end of five decades of Christmas mornings, I worry a lot more now about what I give than what I get. My late father would chuckle to see that I have become him — the old, bald guy with enough reserve after shave from Christmases past to float a battleship who actually likes getting socks.

But one of the nice things about being the old, bald guy is that once in a blue moon you still find something interesting enough that you just decide to give Santa some help. As a lifelong Mississippi State and Boston Red Sox baseball fan, I treated myself to a copy of my friend Rick Cleveland’s new book Boo: A Life in Baseball, Well-Lived (Pediment Publishing, $24.95).

John Grisham, a man Ferriss once cut from the Delta State University baseball team after a 1974 tryout, wrote the foreword. The book’s available in bookstores around the state and copies are available at

For fans of MSU or Boston Red Sox baseball, Cleveland’s book on one of Mississippi’s most fascinating and respected sports figures is like taking in a spring day in the Left Field Lounge at Dudy Noble in Starkville or watching a fielder take his chances with The Green Monster at Fenway Park in Boston.

A little perspective for younger MSU fans — former MSU athletic director and head baseball coach Dudy Noble coached Ferris at State. Cleveland gives the reader a feel for the man who rose from Shaw High School to become Mississippi State’s first full scholarship baseball player in 1938.

After MSU and a stint in the U.S. Army during World War II, Ferris joined the Red Sox, where he turned Beantown on its ear  during the 1945-47 seasons.

Ferriss won 21 games for the Red Sox in 1945, winning his first eight major-league starts and pitched 22 scoreless innings to begin his career.

Ferriss won 13 straight games in 1946 at Fenway. That year, he pitched six regular season shutouts and another in the 1946 World Series. He later served as the team’s pitching coach.

After playing and later coaching in the majors, Ferris returned to the Mississippi Delta and took over the fortunes of the baseball program at Delta State — where he became one of Mississippi’s most beloved sports icons.

Ferriss led DSU to a 639-387 record and three appearances in the NCAA Division II College World Series before retiring in 1988. He’s been inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, the Mississippi State University Sports Hall of Fame, the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame.

In 2003, MSU retired Ferriss’ jersey — joining him with MSU greats Jeff Brantley, Will Clark, Paul Gregory and Rafael Palmeiro.

Much has been written about Ferriss and his playing and coaching days. But there is no one better qualified by experience and temperament to chronicle the life of Boo Ferriss than Rick Cleveland.

Earlier this month, I watched Forest and Baldwyn play for the state 2A football championship at Veterans Memorial Stadium. There, on the sideline, was Rick — who understands better than most that among these kids playing high school sports in towns like Forest or Baldwyn or, yes, Shaw, may well be the next Boo Ferriss.

Cleveland’s talent isn’t telling the story of Ferriss’ remarkable life. His talent was getting Ferriss to trust him enough to help him tell it and tell it with Cleveland’s reliable style, grace and honesty.

Ferriss, now 87, still lives in Cleveland — not far from where he played high school baseball in Shaw during the Depression.

(Contact Perspective Editor Sid Salter at (601) 961-7084 or e-mail Visit his blog at