Why does the death Ron Fairly warrant a card obit? For starters he was a Major Leaguer for over 2 decades and a semi-star that I remember from my youth.
Secondly he was a SABR member remembered fondly by a couple of our fellow SABR Card Collectors.
Finally as a collector Fairly means something to the staff at Phungo HQ because he is a member of the inaugural Topps Rookie All-Star (TRAS) class. As you may know the Rookie Cup cards are one of my favorite collections and Fairly was one of the outfielders selected for the 1959 season which was honored in 1960 Topps.
There are 10 cards in the original subset which opens with Willie McCovey at #316 and runs through #325 Jim O’Toole. This makes Ron Fairly’s #321 the sixth All-Star Rookie Cup ever produced.
Outside of McCovey the two most notable players on the team are likely Fairly and Jim Perry.
Willie McCovey is on the left followed Pumpsie Green, Jim Baxes, Joe Koppe, Bob Allison, Ron Fairly (directly above Tasby inset) , John Romano and Jim Perry. Willie Tasby and Jim O’Toole who could not make the outing are shown in an inset bottom left.
This is a picture from a New York City banquet Topps held to honor award winners. For a more in depth discussion of the banquet (1963) click here.
The 1959 All-Star Rookie Cup team has had a tough year. Starting with Willie McCovey’s death almost exactly a year ago the class has lost four members in the last 12 months. John Romano (February 2019), Pumpsie Green in July and now Ron Fairly.
This leaves Willie Tasby (86) and Jim Perry who turned 84 the day Fairly passed as the last two living members of the original All-Star Rookie Cup team.
I want to open the discussion of the card back to the Fairly’s vitals at the top of the card. His DOB is listed as July 12 1938. Therefore Ron Fairly was just 20 years old when the 1959 season commenced and 21 when he was named to the rookie cup team.
Moving on to the text, it opens by mentioning Fairly’s election to the TRAS team and rolls into his pre-MLB experience. Then we get to the cartoon.
“Ron Led USC to the National Championship”
Well I checked into it and yes he did. He was a member of the 1958 USC Trojans that won the College World Series. The final game was an 8-7 extra inning victory over the Missouri Tigers.
The 1958 CWS concluded on June 19th, less than three months later Ron Fairly made his major league debut with the LA Dodgers on September 9th.
1958 USC Trojans College World Series Champs (Western Canada Baseball)
Ron Fairly can be found in the front row four from the right. Checking the names one can find a Hall of Famer in that back row. Executive HOF Pat Gillick, architect of the 2008 World Championship Phillies. Turns out Gillick was a pitcher for the 1958 Trojans and teammate of today’s card hero Ron Fairly.
Sources and Links
The Sporting News
5 thoughts on “1960 Topps #321 Ron Fairly (1938-2019)”
A very nice trading card-related memorial . . . Fairly has always interested me, as a solid player who seemed to be held in an even higher regard, but he performed consistently for two decades, so his stature does seem relatively earned.
We put his obit on the sports cover at the Los Angeles Times last night, and there seemed to be no question around the department that such a display was warranted. Maybe it was because he represented the beginnings of the Dodgers on the West Coast, a local kid making good, and debuting as a 20-year-old during the first season for the team after the move from Brooklyn.
Topps’ All-Star Rookie Team program has always been a hobby focus for myself, as well, starting with that inaugural 1960 subset. I can’t say that Fairly really deserved his spot on the team . . . George Altman had superior numbers and got a lot more playing time for the Cubs that year. But remember, that first team was chosen with the input of “The Youth of America,” a portion of the vote going to kid collectors using point-of-purchase ballots. Maybe they related, in particular, to such a fresh-faced youngster.
Whatever the case, RIP Ron Fairly. I forgive you for your contributions toward beating my White Sox in the Series as a rookie in ’59 . . .
LikeLiked by 1 person
Even though Fairly played more than half his games as a first baseman, he was just 5-foot-10 and must have been one of the shortest players at that position. He had a great World Series in ’65. His ’63 Topps card, BTW, is a tough one and difficult to find with good centering.
Ron Fairly was a familiar voice and sometimes face to Dodgers/Angels fans growing up in L.A., and I always felt like it was a treat to have a “real Big Leaguer” on the broadcast vs “ordinary guys” like Vin Scully! (Yes, that take did not age well at all.) His MLB career was never spectacular but certainly steady, and Fairly is of course the answer to the trivia question regarding which player who never hit 20 HR in a season has the most career homers, just as Hank Aaron is the career leader among players who never hit 70+ in a season. So in that sense, Fairly and Hank Aaron share a common bond, which I’d say puts old Ron is very exclusive company.
Ron also stands apart as two-time All Star, once for each of the Canadian teams (Expos in 1974, Blue Jays in 1977). Not sure if anyone else can say the same.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Correction: Ron made the All Star Team for Les Expos in 1973. Sacre bleu.
LikeLiked by 1 person