“We bought tickets together after graduation in 1950,” Martha said. “I wouldn’t miss a TCU home football game for anything.”His name, the “Snake,” lives in the TCU Sports Hall of Fame; his purple cowboy boots rest safely in a glass cabinet in the Lettermen’s Club, and his most devoted fan has sat in section F, row 21, seat 17 for 58 years.
As a TCU alumna and wife to TCU football legend, Morris “Snake” Bailey, Martha Ann Bailey, 76, considers TCU football a way of life.
“We bought tickets together after graduation in 1950,” Martha said. “I wouldn’t miss a TCU home football game for anything.”
Although she now sits next to an empty seat, Martha said she often thinks about how games were before her husband died in 2002.
“He always sat at the end of the aisle and wore his cowboy hat and purple cowboy boots,” Martha said. “He couldn’t understand why I was so loud as he sat there quietly with his arms and legs crossed.”
When Martha and Morris graduated, they would barbecue at her brother-in-law’s parent’s house on Alton Drive behind the stadium. They would gather behind the two-story house on a wood patio, tucked behind trees at the foot of the stadium before they headed to the game.
Now, Martha flies 500 miles from Amarillo to her sister Sally’s house in Decatur and then rides with her sister; brother-in-law, Charles; son, Tull; and granddaughter, Hannah, to Fort Worth.
Before the games, in a parking space marked “Morris Bailey,” Martha and her family indulge in fried chicken or barbecued ribs prepared by Charles and Tull.
The kick-off to a love affair
On a concrete picnic table in front of the stadium, Martha flipped through photocopies of Morris and herself from the 1950 Horned Frog yearbook.
Martha, in her purple leather pants, gazed at Hannah, who was dressed in a purple cheerleader uniform with a butterfly painted on her face and began to tell the story of the first time she met Morris.
In 1947, when Martha returned home to Plainview from Colorado Women’s College with her suite mate for Thanksgiving, she met Morris through, of all people, her boyfriend Jack Williams.
“Morris wasn’t the only reason I transferred to TCU, but he was a big part of it,” Martha said while laughing. “We started going together when I arrived at TCU in 1947.”
As a Horned Frog, Martha wore many hats. She was an early childhood education major and a member of several honor clubs, but most importantly, she was a devout Frog football fan.
“I was proud to be going with a star football player,” Martha said.
As Morris’ head-cheerleader, Martha said she wished she could have baked him cookies or prepared dinner before games, but she didn’t have the means.
“We lived in the dormitories, so I couldn’t cook for him, but we did eat at the school cafeteria,” Martha said. “Everyone says the food isn’t that good, but for some reason, I enjoyed it.”
On game days, Martha and her friends would spend a great deal of time preparing their attire for the football game, even though they were expecting extreme heat, she said.
“I would go with a group of girls from the dormitories, and we always sat in the student section, you know, the side where the sun beats down on you,” Martha said. “Despite the heat, we would always try to have on a new outfit.”
After the games, Martha said, she and Morris usually attended a holiday theme dance.
“Morris wasn’t the best dancer,” Martha said. “However, he was a better Western dancer than anyone else, and that was important because Western dancing was so popular.”
When their social calendar was empty, Martha said, they would go to the movies because that was the only thing Morris could afford on his $10 laundry allowance.
The ‘Snake’s’ bite
“Snake” was named two-time All Southwest Conference End and set a school record for most pass receptions in one game with 12 catches in a game against Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University).
Dan Jenkins, a TCU alumnus and legendary sports writer, wrote in an e-mail that Morris gained Southwest Conference fame as the receiving half of the “Berry-to-Bailey Battery” with quarterback Lindy Berry.
“Berry was our Doak Walker,” Jenkins wrote. “Bailey was a tall and rangy end who snagged passes in every direction – leapt and caught them, dove and caught them. Both played loose and had a sense of humor off the field.”
Lindy said Morris was his primary receiver and an exceptional catcher.
“He always made me look good,” Berry said. “We had a great time, and we really had a love affair with TCU.”
Jenkins said the legendary Doak Walker at SMU never beat Lindy and Snake.
For the love of the game
She doesn’t have a favorite football game, but Martha said she remembers being devastated when TCU was moved out of the Big 12.
“I was so sad when the Big 12 folks decided to leave TCU,” Martha said. “If you look at TCU’s record, we had a really great team back then. It was great football.”
In his e-mail, Jenkins said he agreed that TCU’s Delta Bowl team in 1947 played one of the toughest schedules of any Frog team in history.
“They played against some of the greatest names in football history, and seven of their 11 opponents wound up in the nation’s top 20,” Jenkins wrote. “I saw all of those games, and I will never forget the tough-as-nails L.R. “Dutch” Meyer (TCU’s football coach) weeping in the dressing room in 1949 after the Frogs gave him the game ball.”
Martha said she loved to watch TCU square-up to SMU but said she hated when the team played Arkansas.
“Players always got beat up when we played Arkansas,” she said. “One year, Morris almost cut his lip in two and Berry broke his jaw.”
A busted lip wasn’t enough to keep Morris off the field after his last season at TCU, though.
In Fall 1950, Morris, Lindy and two other teammates played a season in the Canadian Football League with the Edmonton Eskimos.
Shortly after the season began, the military requested his enlistment but told him he would not be required to join if he got married.
“We never talked about marriage until we heard the news,” Martha said. “Sure enough, he came down from Canada, and we got married on Sept. 17, 1950, in Plainview.”
Although Martha is now a realtor in Amarillo, she stays connected with TCU by working with local students who want to attend TCU.
“We would invite students to our house to eat dinner with TCU football coaches,” Martha said. “Sometimes we would get good crowds, and sometimes we didn’t, but we always enjoyed ourselves.”
When Martha isn’t working, she spends as much time as she can with her two daughters, Ann Marie Bailey and Karen Pettigrew; her son, Tull E. Bailey; and her four grandchildren, Kimberly Pettigrew, Sam Pettigrew, Emily Bailey and Hannah Bailey.