OAKLAND, CA – AUGUST 2: Baseball hall of famer Reggie Jackson of the 1973 World Champion Oakland Athletics waves to the crowd during a ceremony before the game against the New York Yankees at the Network Associates Coliseum on August 2, 2003 in Oakland, California. The Yankees defeated the Athletics 10-7. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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“Reggie Jackson doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame any more than my grandmother does,” Ferris Fain said in 1995. “How many runners did he keep from advancing with all those strikeouts?”
Fain had a point about strikeouts.
In the seventh game of the 1962 World Series, the New York Yankees had the bases loaded with no outs in the top of the fifth inning at Candlestick Park. Tony Kubek hit into a double play, scoring Bill Skowron from third base with the game’s only run.
Sometimes, even a double play beats a strikeout.
Ferris Fain rarely struck out. He was drafted from the San Francisco Seals by the Philadelphia Athletics on Nov. 1, 1946 and was a mainstay at first base for Philadelphia from 1947-52.
Fain led the American League in batting in 1951 with a .344 average and again in 1952 when he hit .327. In 1952, he struck out 20 times and walked 80 times. The following season, he struck out 26 times with 105 walks.
In his six seasons in Philadelphia, Fain batted .297/.426/.408. In those days, he was appreciated for his ability to draw walks and not strike out. There was no statistic called “on-base percentage” until the early 1950s. Fain had a higher lifetime on-base percentage than even Mickey Mantle (.424 to .421).
After he won the 1952 batting title, Fain was traded to the Chicago White Sox, basically for slugging first baseman Eddie Robinson because Philadelphia wanted more power at first base.
A factor that contributed to the trade was that Fain had a terrible temper that sometimes got the best of him. He was often involved in fisticuffs, which didn’t please Athletics management. He liked alcohol and was a heavy drinker.
Teammate Eddie Joost, who drew more than 100 walks for six consecutive seasons with the Athletics, spoke about Fain. “He had a lifestyle of his own and would do exactly what he wanted to do. There were many things the players didn’t like about him.”
On the way to winning the 1951 batting title, Fain broke a bone in his foot when he kicked the bag because he was frustrated that he had made an out.
In 1952, it was worse. Fain was involved in a fight in a bar when some patrons started heckling him. He missed many games, but returned in time to qualify for the batting title.
Philadelphia set a record for the most double plays in a season with 217 in 1949. Fain was involved in 194 of them, which is still a record.
No first baseman was more aggressive than Fain. I remember watching a New York Yankees game with Phil Rizzuto on first and Joe Collins batting. Casey Stengel gave Collins, who was a left-handed hitter with good power, the bunt sign.
Fain, as he usually did, came charging toward the plate, daring Collins to swing away to try to hit the ball past him. Mel Allen always referred to him as “Fearless Ferris Fain.”
After a relatively short career that ended at the age of 34, Fain moved back to California, where he spent the rest of his life. It’s too bad so few individuals have heard about Ferris Fain.