Former Expo and original Blue Jay Ron Fairly dies at 81

Ron Fairly, the only player to be named an all-star as a member of the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 81.

A cause of death has not been released, but the Seattle Mariners, whom Fairly had most recently worked for as a broadcaster, shared the news via social media.

Born in Macon, Ga., but raised in Long Beach, Calif., the left-handed hitting Fairly was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1958. He would play parts of 12 seasons with the Dodgers and collect three World Series rings (1959, 1963, 1965). Dodgers fans will remember Fairly best for his bat in the 1965 Fall Classic when he went 11-for-29 (.379) with two home runs and six RBIs to help the Dodgers down the Minnesota Twins in seven games.

On June 11, 1969, Fairly was dealt to the Expos with Paul Popovich for Maury Wills and Manny Mota. The outfielder/first baseman proceeded to bat .289 and post a .358 on-base percentage (OBP) and belt 12 home runs in 70 games for the Expos in their inaugural season. Four years later, he enjoyed his best campaign with the Expos, batting .298, socking 17 home runs and recording a .422 OBP. That season he walked 86 times and struck out on just 33 occasions. For his efforts, he was named to the National League All-Star team.

After parts of six seasons with the Expos, Fairly was swapped to the St. Louis Cardinals for minor league infielders Rudy Kinard and Ed Kurpiel. He hit .289 in 180 games with the Cardinals before his contract with purchased by the Oakland A’s on September 14, 1976.

Fairly played just 15 games with the A’s prior to be dealt to the Blue Jays on February 24, 1977 for minor leaguer Mike Weathers. When the 39-year-old Fairly suited up for the Blue Jays in 1977, it made him the first – and only – big leaguer to play for both the Expos and the Blue Jays in their inaugural seasons.

Hitting in the middle of the order for the Blue Jays, Fairly was one of the club’s only consistent offensive threats in their first season that saw them lose 107 games. In 132 contests for the Blue jays, he batted .279 and set a career-high with 19 home runs and became the first Blue Jay selected to the all-star game.

Following the 1977 campaign, the Blue Jays dealt Fairly to the California Angels, where he batted .217 in 89 contests to close out his playing career.

In all, in 2,442 big league games spanning 21 seasons, Fairly batted .266 with 215 home runs. He is one of less than 12 players to appear in over 1,000 games in the infield and in over 1,000 games in the outfield.

The charismatic Californian would enjoy a successful second career as a broadcaster, first with the Angels, then with the San Francisco Giants starting in 1987 before joining the Mariners broadcast crew as a colour commentator in 1993. He worked 14 seasons in the M’s booth before retiring in 2006.

He came out of retirement to work part-time on Mariners’ broadcasts in 2011.

“Ron was a key voice in our history,” said Mariners President & CEO Kevin Mather in a statement from the team. “He joined our team at the start of an important era of Seattle baseball, beginning the same year as Lou Piniella and bringing over a decade of exciting baseball to our fans on TV and radio. Our thoughts are with his three sons: Mike, Steve and Patrick; and his grandchildren.”

Fairly was predeceased by his wife, Mary.

11 thoughts on “Former Expo and original Blue Jay Ron Fairly dies at 81

  1. A great career as both a player and broadcaster. He will be dearly missed. Great to read about being an All-Star for both Canadian teams.

  2. RON FAIRLY, REFERRED TO BY MANY AS ” MR. CLUTCH ” WAS THE BEST POSSIBLE PERSON TO HAVE ON TWO STARTUP FRANCHISES, FIRST THE MONTREAL EXPOS IN 1969 THEN LATER THE 1977 TORONTO BLUE JAYS AS THE PLAYERS ALL KNEW WHAT HE HAD DONE SO LOOKED UP TO AND LISTENED TO HIM …
    HE WAS ONE OF MY PERSONAL FAVOURITES FROM THE BEGINNING OF HIS LONG MLB CAREER AND WAS EXTREMELY PLEASED HE PLAYED WITH BOTH OF OUR CANADIAN CLUBS, BEING THE ONLY PERSON IN MLB HISTORY TO EVER PLAY WITH TWO EXPANSION FRANCHISES IN THEIR INAUGURAL SEASON …
    RON WILL BE REMEMBERED FONDLY FOREVER BY ALL THOSE OF US WHO KNEW HIM, EVER MET HIM OR SPOKE WITH HIM … REMEMBRANCE.

  3. Hi Kevin. I went to my first Blue Jays game on July 1st, 1977 and Ron Fairly
    Was named player of the game for the Jays. Another great article Kevin. Take care, Rob

  4. Pingback: But What Do I Know? . . . Jacques Doucet, Jeff Francis, Paul Quantrill, Larry Walker | Cooperstowners in Canada

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