Ferris Fain

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Ferris Roy Fain
(Burrhead or Cocky)

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Biographical Information[edit]

One of the greatest contact hitters of his time, Ferris Fain was a two-time batting champion and five-time All Star whose career lasted only nine seasons. He seldom struck out and drew a prodigious amount of walks, ranking # 15 on the all time list, with an amazing career on-base percentage of .424. Only once during his ML career was his on-base-percentage below 40 percent -- in 1954 when it registered .399.

The son of a jockey, Fain was born in Texas but grew up in Oakland, California, where he was student body president at Roosevelt High School. He joined the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League at the age of 17. He played four seasons with them before World War II. He hit .212 as a rookie, then moved up to .238 and then .310 in 1941. He slipped to .216 in 1942. Dom DiMaggio was also with the Seals in 1939, when Fain joined them, and the manager was Lefty O'Doul.

After spending 1943-1945 in the war, Fain came back to the Seals in 1946 and led the league in RBI (112). His line overall was .301/~.423/.421 and he drew 129 walks and scored 117 runs. He led the PCL in runs and trailed walks leader Brooks Holder by just two. He also stole 24 bases and hit 35 doubles.

The Philadelphia Athletics took an interest in him, and in 1947 he was their regular first baseman. He immediately showed them what he could do - he hit .290 with 95 walks, for a .414 on-base percentage, and also made 19 errors at first base. He was to make copious errors his whole career.

The tendency toward errors was not necessarily bad. Fain was an extremely aggressive first baseman, charging on bunts and throwing to advanced bases even if the outcome was uncertain. He even fielded bunts on the third base line. In 1950, he broke the record for double plays by a first baseman. He often led the league in assists, and Joe Gordon called him the best defensive first baseman he had seen.

From 1948 to 1950, Fain continued to have on-base percentages over .400. In 1950, Athletics manager Connie Mack managed his last season, and the other team in Philadelphia, the National League Philadelphia Phillies, won the pennant. Fain was named to the All Star team for the first time that year. The next year, Fain took his big leap.

In 1951, at the age of 30, Fain pushed his already-decent batting average up another 62 points, to .344, which led the American League. He had a remarkable .451 on-base percentage, second only behind Ted Williams. He was named to the All Star team again. Because of a broken foot, he played only 117 games though.

The next year, 1952, he again won the batting championship, and led the league in on-base percentage (Williams was away at war). He led the league in doubles as well. He was named to the All Star team for a third time in a row.

Off the field, though, Fain had a short temper, was a drinker, and, rather like Dick Allen twenty years later, did what he pleased even if it upset his team. In early 1953, he was surprised that the Athletics traded him.

He had an off season with the Chicago White Sox in 1953. He hit only .256, although with 108 walks. The White Sox of the time were a good team, finishing third in 1953 with 89 victories and third again in 1954 with 94 victories. Fain was named to the All Star team again, in spite of his low batting average. In 1954, he had a bit of a comeback, hitting .302 in 65 games. Again, he was on the All Star team, the fifth time in a row.

His next year, 1955, was his last, though. Traded to the Detroit Tigers in the Walt Dropo trade, he suffered a severe ankle injury while sliding into home plate and was released in July in spite of a .459 on-base percentage. Catching on with the Cleveland Indians and markedly slowed by his lingering injury, he was released again after the season in spite of having a .451 on-base percentage. He didn't have enough plate appearances to qualify to lead the league (he had around 350 plate appearances in 1955), but as a comparison, his .455 season on-base percentage was 24 points higher than that of Mickey Mantle, who was the league leader that year. In 1956, Fain hit .252/.412/.293, primarily as a bench player in the minor leagues. Still an OBP machine, he was no longer hitting with enough punch to be a regular first baseman, unable to put up a .300 slugging percentage even in the minor leagues.

Fain became a building contractor in California after his career was over. In 1985 and 1989, he was arrested after being found in possession of multiple marijuana plants in his home.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 5-time AL All-Star (1950-1954)
  • 2-time AL Batting Average Leader (1951 & 1952)
  • AL On-Base Percentage Leader (1952)
  • AL Doubles Leader (1952)

Records Held[edit]

  • Double plays, first baseman, season, 1948, 1949

Further Reading[edit]

  • Gregory H. Wolf: "Ferris Fain", in Bill Nowlin, ed.: Van Lingle Mungo: The Man, The Song, The Players, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2014, pp. 176-181. ISBN 978-1-933599-76-2

Related Sites[edit]