#CardCorner: 1953 Topps Ferris Fain
Page after page of numbers appeared in encyclopedic order – numbers that held the history of the game one digit at a time.
But occasionally, the rows of gray were interrupted by black. Startling, bold numbers that jumped off the page and screamed “LEAGUE LEADER”.
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It was through these bold numbers that I first encountered Ferris Fain.
Born March 29, 1921, in San Antonio, Fain’s father Oscar was a part-time boxer who rode a horse named Duval to a runner-up finish at the 1912 Kentucky Derby. Fain’s parents divorced when he was an adolescent, and his mother moved Fain and his brother to Oakland.
By high school, Fain developed a reputation as a top prospect and was playing for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League before he graduated from high school. Fain took over as the Seals regular first baseman from 1940-42. He served in the Army Air Corps from 1943-45, including a tour at Hickam Field in Hawaii where he played on the base team with future Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon and Red Ruffing.
Returning to the Seals in 1946 after the end of World War II, Fain hit .301 with 11 home runs, 112 RBI and 129 walks in 180 games. Following the season, the Philadelphia Athletics selected Fain in the Rule 5 Draft.
On Opening Day in 1947, Fain started at first base for the A’s and hit in the No. 3 spot in the order, going 1-for-4 with a walk in Philadelphia’s 6-1 win over the Yankees. From there, Fain fashioned a season that included a .291 batting average, 71 RBI, 95 walks and a .414 on-base percentage.
In the inaugural season of the Baseball Writer’ Association of America Rookie of the Year voting – with only one award for both leagues – Fain finished fourth behind Jackie Robinson, Larry Jansen and Spec Shea. Fain’s presence helped the A’s improve by 31 games over their 1946 record and finish above .500 for the first time since 1933.
In 1952, Fain hit .327 to claim his second batting title while also leading the AL in doubles (43) and on-base percentage (.438). But after battling personal issues for much of the season, Fain was traded to the White Sox following the 1952 campaign in exchange for Joe DeMaestri, Ed McGhee and Eddie Robinson.
The Indians signed Fain a week later to take the spot of Vic Wertz – who was sidelined with a non-paralytic form of polio – but was released following a season where he hit a combined .260 with two homers and 31 RBI.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum