1938-2019: Ron (Mr. Clutch) Fairly was key player in Expos' early years

After earning the nickname "Mr. Clutch" with the L.A. Dodgers, the Expos acquired Fairly in a trade during their 1969 inaugural season.

The Expos’ Ron Fairly swings at pitch during major-league game at Jarry Park on April 29, 1970. Montreal Gazette file photo

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The Seattle Mariners announced Wednesday that longtime major-league player and broadcaster Ron Fairly has died at age 81.

Longtime Expos fans will remember Fairly as a first-baseman and outfielder with the team from 1969-74.

Fairly played 21 seasons in the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Expos, St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland A’s, Toronto Blue Jays and California Angels.

After retiring, Fairly moved into the broadcast booth in 1979, starting with the Angels before moving to the San Francisco Giants booth in 1987 and then joining the Mariners in 1993.

“Ron was a key voice in our history,” Mariners president and CEO Kevin Mather said in a statement released Wednesday. “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.

The Expos acquired Fairly in a trade with the Dodgers in June 1969 during their inaugural major-league season. Fairly had won three World Series with the Dodgers while earning the nickname “Mr. Clutch.” When the Dodgers beat the Minnesota Twins in the 1965 World Series, Fairly hit safely in all seven games, going 11-for-29 (.379) with two home runs, three doubles and six RBIs.

Fairly wasn’t thrilled at first about being traded by the Dodgers to an expansion team.

“I found a map and was pointing out to the boys — sons Steve, Mike and Patrick — where Montreal was located,” Fairly recalled in an interview with the Montreal Gazette in 2003.

Son Mike had a question.

“Does this mean I won’t have a daddy anymore?” the 4-year-old asked.

“How do you answer a question like that?” Fairly said. “It just tears you up.”

But Fairly and his family quickly adjusted to their new life in Montreal and he became a key player for the Expos.

“I have a lot of fond memories from my time with the Expos,” Fairly said in the 2003 interview.

“I remember how great the fans were. You went up to the plate at Parc Jarry and they were right there — right on top of you. You saw their faces and you had the chance to meet some of the people that were regulars.

“I thought the fans were fantastic,” Fairly added. “I wish we could have played a little better.”

Fairly’s 215 home runs are the most in major-league history by a player without a single 20-homer season, and he is one of fewer than a dozen players to play in more than 1,000 games as both an infielder and an outfielder.