GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — If you’ve spent much time in Greensboro, you’ve probably either driven or even walked right past it without giving it a second thought.

“It” is a red, brick house with a clapboard addition. It’s been just west of the intersection of Friendly Avenue and Guilford College Road for more than a century and, quite frankly, looks tired and ready to make way for progress.

But Max Carter and Jeff Thigpen are determined to find a way to save it and make sure it isn’t torn down. From about 1905 on, it was the home of the Ferrell family made up of seven boys, who are all very athletic.

As Quakers, of which there were many in the New Garden area of Greensboro, they didn’t have a lot of activities they were allowed to do on the weekends other than play baseball.

The house was the center of their big dairy farm.

“They had 60 cows they milked by hand, so I think those boys figured that sitting in a ballpark bullpen was a lot easier than the farm bullpen,” said fellow Quaker and historian Max Carter.

The Ferrell boys grew up in the height of segregation, but they spent much of their time playing baseball with the African Americans who lived nearby.

“There’s an African American community, Woodyside, just across the street. This was an old country road,” said Carter pointing to Friendly Avenue, which runs in front of the house. “And all around Guilford College were dairy farms. There were 28 operating dairy farms between Greensboro and High Point…because you got pasture fields, you got a bunch of boys, and they also played baseball with the Black community right across the street, who were also really good baseball players.”

But none were likely better than Rick and Wes Ferrell.

“One of the best batteries in the major leagues, those brothers,” said Thigpen who is now Guilford County’s Register of Deeds.

Back in the 1990s, he played catcher at Guilford College about 70 years after Rick Ferrell did.  

“Rick Ferrell was the best catcher in Guilford College history. Of course, he’s a Hall of Famer. Rose to be the general manager of the Detroit Tigers, so he’s not only a good ballplayer. People liked him,” Thigpen said.

Rick and Wes were certainly good players. Rick is in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, and Wes probably should be.

“Wes not in the Hall of Fame because he blew out his shoulder,” Carter said. “But he had a .601 winning percentage…when he couldn’t pitch anymore, he went to the minors and had a .321 batting average throughout his minor league career. He’s a great hitting pitcher, but Rick is in the hall of fame.”

Their father thought baseball was a waste of time. Stories have it that he complained that he couldn’t get them to do much work around the farm because they were always playing ball.

They did OK. 

In fact, “There was a dairy barn right along the road (on their farm) which, when one of the boys got…a $5,000 signing bonus, they painted a big sign on the barn, and it read, ‘Home of Wes Ferrell, bonus baby,” Carter said.

Thigpen says it was apparent fairly early that these boys were different.

“There’s a picture of Rick when he’s 12 years old with a couple of his brothers when they’re playing at Guilford High School, and they’re winning championships, and he’s learning the game,” Thigpen said. “Ultimately, he plays at Guilford College, so it’s completely possible that he could see in his dreams that while people wanted to be doctors and lawyers. He wanted to be a Major League Baseball player, and he worked toward his dreams. Imagine Guilford College in 1926, where Rick Farrell is playing, and you’ve got scouts from the Yankees and the Philadelphia Organization and Saint Louis all coming down to watch him play to get a chance to sign him in the big leagues.”

But that was more easily said than done. Before he became the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, famous for signing Jackie Robinson to break the color barrier in baseball, Branch Rickey was the general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Rick Ferrell is getting ready to sign a contract with Branch Rickey,” Thigpen said. “They agree on $1,000. Rickey looks at him and said, ‘Kid, I can only give you $600. Take it or leave it.’ Rick takes the check and slowly rips it up, gives it back to Rickey and comes back home, plays the next year at Guilford College, has a great season with the 1926 Quaker team then a year later, signs another contract where he actually goes into the big leagues, gets all he wanted and goes on and has a great minor league career. In a way, Rick was among the first free agents that that they have in Major League Baseball.”

See the house the Ferrells grew up in and hear more stories about their lives in this edition of The Buckley Report.