Siblings Boo, Martha Anne shared 86 years
The black and white photograph above speaks far more than a thousand words. There’s young, strapping 24-year-old Boo Ferriss, about to pitch Game Three of the World Series at Boston’s Fenway Park. He locks eyes and shares smiles with his mother, Lellie Meadow Ferriss, while his lovely 19-year-old sister, Martha Anne Ferriss, revels in the moment.
Check out the hats on the ladies. Notice the soldier over Boo’s left shoulder. See the man behind them to the right in his Sunday best. This was October 9, 1946. World War II had been over for more than year. Happy days really were here again. And baseball really was America’s pastime. Yes, and a brother, a sister and their mother, all so far from their Mississippi Delta home in Shaw, were front and center. Luckily for us, a Boston newspaper photographer captured the moment.
“Oh yeah, I remember right when that photo was taken,” Boo Ferriss said this week, nearly 67 years later. “Mama and Martha Anne had box seats right by our dugout. I had just finished talking to Dizzy Dean or having Dizzy Dean talk to me is probably a better way to put it.
“Ol Diz said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s just another game, boy, just like back in Mississippi,’” Ferriss said. “I said, ‘I appreciate it Diz, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t just another game. Look at all those flags and banners. Look at all these writers from all over the country. Look at all these cameras. Look at all these people.’
“In that picture, I was probably telling Mama and Martha Anne what Dizzy said.”
Boo Ferriss was in his second year with the Red Sox, having already won 46 Major League games. Martha Anne was a 19-year-old student at MSCW, an outstanding athlete in her own right. MSCW had wisely excused her from classes.
After all, the two were so very close. Until Martha Anne’s death at the age of 86 Sunday, never a week went by when they didn’t share phone calls and/or letters. We’re not talking short, cryptic emails here. We’re talking long letters, elegantly written in longhand. At 91, Boo’s handwriting remains almost a work of art. Martha Anne’s was much the same.
“They got that from their mother,” Miriam Ferriss, Boo’s wife, said. “They wrote each other on every occasion or when there wasn’t an occasion. Martha Anne and Boo were both meticulous about their letter writing. It was very important to them and something they shared. They nearly always enclosed newspaper clippings in their letters to each other.”
Boo mailed his last letter to his Martha Anne last Saturday.
Tuesday afternoon, he talked about his baby sister.
“Martha Anne was a terrific tennis player, a state champion in high school and an age group champion throughout her life,” Boo Ferriss said. “But she could play anything. She was a high school basketball star. There were no 3-pointers back then, but she would have scored 50 a game if there had been. She could shoot it. If they had played women’s sports in college back then, Martha Anne would have been an All American.”
As it was, Martha Anne Ferriss made tennis the sport of her lifetime. She has been inducted into both the Knoxville (TN) Sports Hall of Fame and the Tennessee Tennis Hall of Fame. Had she remained in Mississippi, she surely would be in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame with her brother.
“She supported me in everything I did, and I tried to support her,” Boo Ferriss said. “I’m going to miss her letters. I’m just going to miss her.”
But let’s get back to that 1946 World Series. Game Three. Bleacher seats cost $1.20. Tickets topped out at $7.50 for box seats. A program cost a quarter.
Those St. Louis Cardinals featured a young Stan “The Man” Musial at first base, outfielder Enos “Country” Slaughter, catcher Joe Garagiola, shortstop Marty Marion, second baseman Red Schoendienst and outfielder Harry “The Hat” Walker. Musial hit .365 that year, Slaughter .300, but there were no easy outs in that Cardinals lineup.
So, of course, Boo Ferriss pitched a shutout, the 50th in World Series history, and the Red Sox won 4-0.
Musial threatened the shutout with a two-out, ninth inning triple, but Ferriss struck out Slaughter on a sharp-breaking curve ball to end the game.
And here’s what happened next:
Red Sox catcher Hal Wagner was the first to reach Boo and hand him the baseball. Then, the rest of the Red Sox arrived, all slapping the hero’s back and celebrating. Ferriss headed for the dugout and then veered away from his teammates to where his sister and his mother still sat in the nearby box seats. Ferriss took the ball from the glove and gave to his mother, who shared it with Martha Anne.
Unfortunately, we don’t have that photo.
But we do have that baseball. You can see it in your Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum’s Wall of Memories, along with Boo’s glove and Red Sox uniform.
The above photo will soon go in that Wall of Memories with the World Series baseball and all the rest. It surely belongs.
Services for Martha Anne Ferriss Parker will be held at First Presbyterian Church of Florence, Ala., at 11 a.m. Friday. Visitation will begin at 9:30 a.m. Elkins Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.