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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Ron Fairly, who starred with USC, Dodgers and Angels, dies at 81

Ron Fairly, the reliable, red-haired outfielder and first baseman who spent more than five decades in baseball —21 years as a player, first with the Dodgers and lastly with the Angels, and 30 more as a broadcaster— died Wednesday in Indian Wells, Calif., after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 81.

A graduate of Long Beach Jordan High School and a former USC standout, Fairly played his first 11 ½ years (1958-69) in the big leagues with the Dodgers, helping the team to three World Series championships, and he closed his playing career with the Angels in 1978.

“The worst day in a baseball uniform,” Fairly wrote in a 2018 memoir that he co-authored with former Times sportswriter Steve Springer, “was better than the best day I could have had in any other career.”

Fairly turned down a basketball scholarship from UCLA’s John Wooden and went to USC instead. He played only one season with the Trojans, hitting .348 with a team-high nine homers and 67 RBIs as a sophomore center fielder to help USC win the 1958 national championship.

 

QLE Posted: October 31, 2019 at 12:47 AM | 23 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: obituaries, rip, ron fairly

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   1. The Duke Posted: October 31, 2019 at 09:10 AM (#5897275)
Helluva career. 35 WAR and almost 2000 hits. Was surprised to see those numbers
   2. salvomania Posted: October 31, 2019 at 09:14 AM (#5897279)
He once (and may still) hold the career record for most homers without ever hitting 20 in a season.

I remember him most as a great PH bat for the Cardinals at the end of his career, and before that he was a very solid early Expo.

EDIT: I guess his time with the Cardinals wasn't at the end of his career, as after that he played with the A's and then became the Blue Jays first-ever All Star representative with a 124 OPS+ in 528 PA.
   3. mathesond Posted: October 31, 2019 at 09:16 AM (#5897280)
I remember him as the lone Blue Jays rep in the '77 All Star game.
   4. RJ in TO Posted: October 31, 2019 at 09:21 AM (#5897283)
He put together a very solid season for those expansion Jays. I always forget he didn't retire after that season, but instead went to play for the Angels the next year.

He was, at the time, one of very few players to have played a thousand games in both the infield and outfield, which was a list that (from what I remember) mostly seemed to feature Hall of Famers.
   5. crict Posted: October 31, 2019 at 09:30 AM (#5897288)
Fairly has the most homeruns at Parc Jarry (58). Bob Bailey follows at 52, then Rusty Staub at 43, Mike Jorgensen at 34, and then we have to go to John Bateman at 24. Willie Stargell is 8th with 17 homeruns, even though he (obviously) never played for the Expos.
   6. gef, talking mongoose & suburban housewife Posted: October 31, 2019 at 09:45 AM (#5897293)
Damn. The day his old franchise -- well, one of them, & certainly the one I most associate with him (since I started following baseball circa 1970 -- won its first Series ever.
   7. Gary Truth Serum Posted: October 31, 2019 at 09:50 AM (#5897297)
The one thing I remember about him was that I started collecting baseball cards in 1977 and he had the most stat lines on the back of his card than anyone else in my collection. Although I had a Brooks Robinson card too so I don't know how that could be the case.
   8. The usual palaver and twaddle (Met Fan Charlie) Posted: October 31, 2019 at 10:32 AM (#5897322)
"In the the thoid
Like a boid
We get 2 on, none away
And Fairly hits into a double play"

-- Danny Kaye, "D-O-D-G-E-R-S (Oh, Really? No, O'Malley)"


R.I.P. to one of my favorite players growing up.
   9. asinwreck Posted: October 31, 2019 at 10:49 AM (#5897335)
Ron Fairly dying at the age of 81 makes me feel very old.
   10. Howie Menckel Posted: October 31, 2019 at 10:55 AM (#5897344)
fear not, because Jim Fairey - who played with Ron Fairly for the Dodgers in 1968 and also with him for the expansion Expos 1969-72, sometimes sharing the same OF - soldiers on still at age 76.
   11. SoSH U at work Posted: October 31, 2019 at 10:56 AM (#5897345)

The one thing I remember about him was that I started collecting baseball cards in 1977 and he had the most stat lines on the back of his card than anyone else in my collection. Although I had a Brooks Robinson card too so I don't know how that could be the case.


His two in-season team switches (with total lines) would have pulled him one ahead of Brooksie (who would have had a one year head start in the same card sets).

   12. Itchy Row Posted: October 31, 2019 at 12:21 PM (#5897431)
According to the story, Fairly was the victim of Vin Scully's managerial career:
In 1965, on the last day of the season, with the Dodgers having clinched the pennant the night before, manager Walter Alston let Scully manage, over the radio, from the booth. A very hung over Ron Fairly drew a walk ("He didn't trot to first base. He didn't really walk to first base. He sloshed to first base"), and Scully thought it would be fun to have Fairly, slow-footed in the best of times, steal.

"For those of you in the ballpark with transistor radios listening," Scully said, "watch Fairly's face when he looks over to third and gets the steal sign." After a double take for the ages by Fairly and a foul ball by the hitter, Scully had Fairly go again, and he made it, thanks to the catcher dropping the ball. At that, Scully retired from managing: "All right, Walter," he said, "I got you this far. Now you're on your own."

It doesn't match up with what happened in that last game of 1965, but it's a nice story.
   13. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 31, 2019 at 12:25 PM (#5897436)
Helluva career. 35 WAR and almost 2000 hits. Was surprised to see those numbers

Wow, I had no idea. Has to be one of the best modern players I had no knowledge of. I thought he was a pitcher.

RIP
   14. gef, talking mongoose & suburban housewife Posted: October 31, 2019 at 12:32 PM (#5897441)
Somewhat confusingly, he & Jim Fairey were on the same Expos team for two seasons. Still not as bad as Julius Erving, George Gervin & George Irvine being Virginia Squires at the same time, however briefly.
   15. vortex of dissipation Posted: October 31, 2019 at 01:53 PM (#5897482)
I remember him as the lone Blue Jays rep in the '77 All Star game.


Fairly is the only player to play in the All-Star game as a member of both Canadian teams.

He also had a quick journey through the minors. In 1958 he was a member of the USC team that won the College World Series, signed with the Dodgers in June, made two minor league stops, and made his MLB debut on September 9.
   16. Kiko Sakata Posted: October 31, 2019 at 02:21 PM (#5897494)
He put together a very solid season for those expansion Jays. I always forget he didn't retire after that season, but instead went to play for the Angels the next year.


When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time playing my dad's Statis-Pro baseball, for which he had the 1978 season. So a lot of my memories of players are from that set/year. So, while I eventually learned that Fairly was a Dodger, Expo, and Blue Jay, my first "memory" of him is as a California Angel. The most extreme example of this that I can recall is Jim Slaton, who I will always think of as a Detroit Tiger. Slaton pitched 12 of his first 13 seasons (1971 - 1983) for the Milwaukee Brewers. But the one exception was his 1978 season with the Tigers.
   17. vortex of dissipation Posted: October 31, 2019 at 06:19 PM (#5897568)
It doesn't match up with what happened in that last game of 1965, but it's a nice story.


True, but in the last game of the 1964 season, the year before, Fairly and John Roseboro pulled off a double steal. Not quite the same, either, but closer...
   18. Omineca Greg Posted: October 31, 2019 at 06:52 PM (#5897574)
Ah, that's too bad. I learned about him as a player both through discussions of his time with the Expos, and his broadcasting with the Mariners.

I enjoyed his work as a broadcaster. A little bit of the grumpy old man vibe, but at heart he was generous with praise and his love for what he was doing always came through.
   19. Rally Posted: October 31, 2019 at 07:31 PM (#5897581)

He was, at the time, one of very few players to have played a thousand games in both the infield and outfield, which was a list that (from what I remember) mostly seemed to feature Hall of Famers.


You have to be good to last 2000 games. Of the players who lasted that long, about 45% are hall of famers.
   20. RJ in TO Posted: October 31, 2019 at 08:43 PM (#5897590)
You have to be good to last 2000 games. Of the players who lasted that long, about 45% are hall of famers.


Oh, absolutely. At the time, the list was something like Musial, Fairly, and Rose, so it was clear he was a step below the others, while still having had an excellent career. Since then, I think the only addition to the list was Yount, although I'm sure I've forgotten someone.
   21. Walt Davis Posted: October 31, 2019 at 08:52 PM (#5897594)
RIP. Alas a reminder of my own mortality whenever a player I saw dies at an "advanced" age.

Sort of the Matt Stairs of his day (for lack of a better recent comp springing to mind). Always a bit of a platoon player (generally 120-140 starts even at his peak) and a guy who relied on walks for a lot of his value. Looking at his b-r page I suppose what surprises me is not so much the rate of production but that he made it easily past 8000 PA. Most of his career was before I started watching so it's not surprising my impression was of a more tangential career (e.g. Stairs barely made it past 6000). Also, if we believe the numbers, he became a better defender in his 30s (-10 dWAR for the Dodgers, only -3 for the rest). 15 WAR, -3 WAA through his first 4800 PA is a reasonable match for Stairs' career 14 WAR, -6 WAA in 6000 PAs. For his age 31+, 20 WAR, 8 WAA. Even in non-WAR ways, I doubt anybody really noticed it much in real time.
   22. baxter Posted: October 31, 2019 at 09:09 PM (#5897598)
He was "the redhead" as opposed to "the big redhead" (Bill Walton).

When he became a broadcaster for the Angels, he frequently used the [removed]in referring to a hard hit ball), "he really creased that one." I had never heard of that expression before (or since). Maybe others use it?
   23. Rennie's Tenet Posted: October 31, 2019 at 10:23 PM (#5897617)
He seems to have been one of the few Dodger mainstays of the 60s who didn't have a brush with acting.

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