Glancing Back, and Remembering Ron Fairly
Ron Fairly was a “fooler.” From his stocky build you expected him to be a power hitter, and occasionally he was. But his compact swing delivered average and RBIs more than power, and his less-than-expected home run prowess did not keep Fairly from being an important run-producing cog in the Dodgers’ pennant machines of the mid-1960s.
Ron Fairly averaged 66 runs and 71 RBIs for the Dodgers from 1963-1966. During those five seasons, the Dodgers won three National League pennants and two World Series.
As a sophomore at the University of Southern California in 1958, Fairly was the team’s star center fielder, hitting .348 with nine home runs and 67 RBIs in leading the Trojans to the NCAA World Series championship. He was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers that summer, and made his debut in a Dodgers uniform in September, hitting .283 in 15 games, with two home runs (his first came off Ron Kline of the Pittsburgh Pirates), and eight runs batted in.
Fairly batted .238 for the Dodgers’ 1959 World Series team, with four home runs and 23 RBIs in a part-time role. He spent most of 1960 in the minors, and played 111 games for the Dodgers in 1961, splitting his playing time between all three outfield positions and first base, while batting .322 with 10 homers and 48 RBIs.
By the start of the 1962 season, Fairly had established himself as the Dodgers’ everyday first baseman. He hit .278 that season, with 14 home runs and 78 RBIs, and followed up in 1963 by batting .271 with 12 home runs and 77 runs batted in. From 1962 through 1966, Fairly averaged 71 RBIs per season with a combined batting average of .273.
Then, inexplicably, his hitting dropped off, as his batting average felt to .220 in 1967 and .234 in 1968. In 1969, the Dodgers traded Fairly with Paul Popovich to the Montreal Expos for Manny Mota and Maury Wills. The move to Montreal seemed to revive his hitting, as Fairly batted .289 for the Expos over the rest of the 1969 season. He batted .288 in 1970 with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs. He hit a career best 17 home runs in both 1972 and 1973, and averaged a combined .276 in six seasons with the Expos.
Ron Fairly was a first-time All-Star in 1973, his fifteenth major league season. The 34-year-old Fairly batted .298 for the Montreal Expos that season.
Fairly was sold to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1975, where he hit .301 as a part-time player and pinch hitter. Over the next three seasons, Fairly made stops in Oakland, Toronto and closed out his playing career with the California Angels in 1978 before embarking on a long career as a baseball broadcaster.
Fairly played for 21 major league seasons, with 1,913 hits and a career batting average of .266. He was an All-Star twice, once for each league.
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