By Mike Christensen
Having produced the likes of Walter Payton, Jerry Rice and Brett Favre, Mississippi has a well-deserved reputation as a football state. Its baseball tradition doesn’t get the same kind of attention. The book “Of Mudcat, Boo, The Rope and Oil Can: An Informal History of Mississippians in the Major Leagues” was conceived to do something about that. This book tells the tales of “Mississippi Mudcat” Guy Bush and Dave “Boo” Ferriss and Bob “The Rope” Boyd and Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd and so many more. (A colorful nickname was not required for inclusion, but there are plenty of those among the Mississippi contingent of big leaguers.) The Magnolia State has yet to produce a Hall of Fame major leaguer – Starkville’s James “Cool Papa” Bell and Rodney’s William Foster were Negro Leaguers – but she’s launched more than her share of stars. An all-time all-Mississippi team could include such luminaries as Dave Parker, Buddy Myer, George Scott, Roy Oswalt, Frank White, Hughie Critz, Ellis Burks, Gee Walker and Claude Passeau. Their stories and more are weaved into the book.
Mississippians have interesting connections to some of the game’s biggest names and have been involved in some of its greatest moments. A Mississippian struck out Babe Ruth in his first major league at-bat, and a different one retired him in his final AB. The only Opening Day cycle in big league history was recorded by a Mississippi native. A Mississippian was at the mike – and another was in the field — for the majors’ first televised game; that broadcaster is now in the Hall of Fame. The all-time record for stolen bases in a professional season was set by a Mississippian, the year before he broke into the big leagues. The book also touches on the state’s rich minor league tradition, unsung stars of the old Negro Leagues and vibrant college programs. Since the book was published in 2014, new standouts have emerged, among them Mitch Moreland, Brian Dozier and Corey Dickerson.
The blog site allmississippibaseball.net keeps the stories coming.