SEPTEMBER 2, 1963
Strictly speaking, the team that left Brooklyn for the West Coast following the 1957 season was still Dem Bums, the celebrated Dodgers club known for its stout offense. By the early '60s, however, most of the Boys of Summer were gone, and the Los Angeles Dodgers quickly forged a new identity: Their pitching staff, led by flamethrowers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, wasn't only good, it was scary. The Dodgers still had to score a run or two to win, and that's where Ron Fairly fit in. Playing in the town where he grew up—he had been an All-America at USC-Fairly drove in 541 runs in 11-plus seasons in the L.A. lineup. " Dodger Stadium was a great park to pitch in," says Fairly, who played first base and the outfield. "What people don't realize is we had a heck of a defensive ball club. We didn't have a lot of power, but we were tough to beat because of pitching and defense."
In Los Angeles's almost annual battles with its archrivals, the San Francisco Giants, for National League supremacy, Fairly saw a lot of Willie Mays, and in his current role as color commentator for the Seattle Mariners, he has had a chance to see a lot of the Say Hey Kid's heir apparent, Ken Griffey Jr. "Obviously both are extremely talented," says Fairly, "but Mays had more to do with the outcome of a game than anyone I've seen. If Mays went hitless, chances are he did something defensively to help win a game. If he got one hit, it was likely the hit that won the game." Fairly also is something of an expert on fireballing lefties, having played behind Koufax and having closely watched Randy Johnson for six years. "They were both dominating," he says, "but Sandy was the most dominating pitcher I've ever seen."
Fairly got into the broadcasting business before the 1979 season when California Angels owner Gene Autry asked if he'd be interested in working with Dick Enberg on 30 telecasts. (Fairly had been with the Angels in '78. He played for six teams in his 21-year major league career, including each of the Canadian teams in its inaugural season, and finished with a .266 average, 1,044 RBIs and 215 homers.) " Branch Rickey said he'd rather trade a player a year too soon than a year too late, and I took that philosophy," says Fairly. "I'd rather retire a year too soon than a year too late."
He hung up his cleats and has been behind the mike ever since. After stints with the Angels and the Giants, he's been calling Seattle games since '93, but the philosophy he adopted from Rickey won't require him to stop anytime soon. Asked how long he plans on working, Fairly answers quickly, "As long as I can talk."