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Rick Ferrell


Position: Catcher
Teams: St. Louis Browns 1929-1933; 1941-1943; Boston Red Sox 1933-1937; Washington Senators 1937-1941; 1944-1945; 1947

When Rick Ferrell retired, he had toiled behind the plate for more games than any previous American League catcher, and he was one of the most respected receivers in baseball history. He played over 18 seasons for three teams. He never won a pennant or a batting title, but he lasted because of his defense and his ability to handle pitchers.

Born in Durham, North Carolina, Ferrell (1905-1995) was one of seven brothers. Some of the boys wanted to be hurlers and designated Rick to be the catcher. He and one brother, Wes, formed a battery that dominated the county in which they were raised. Rick was also a professional boxer, winning the state championship in the lightweight division.

He played baseball at
Guilford College in North Carolina, and signed with the Detroit organization in 1926. While his defense was up to major-league standards, he didn’t show that he could hit big-league pitching immediately. Detroit wasn’t overly enthusiastic about his chances.

By 1928, Ferrell had improved enough at bat to become an American Association All-Star and notch a .333 batting average for Columbus. The Tigers were pleased with Rick’s development and wanted him to challenge Al Wingo as the backup catcher to Pinky Hargrave. Detroit tried to hide Ferrell by making a verbal agreement to lend him to Columbus without putting him on their draft lists. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, called in to resolve the matter, ruled that Ferrell was a free agent. He signed with the St. Louis Browns, who finished third in the AL in 1928 and had 39-year-old Wally Schang at catcher.

Ferrell hit over .290 eight times, and had some doubles power when he was younger, though the trials of catching robbed him of his speed later. His brother, Wes, won 20 games six times, and they formed a battery for four years when they both played for Boston and Washington. Wes was one of the best-hitting pitchers ever, and in 1933 the brothers each connected for home runs in the same game. They had another brother, George, who played in the minor leagues for 20 years.

With Washington, Rick faced his biggest challenge, as he caught four knuckleballers in the rotation. He led the league in various defensive categories 11 times. At 170 pounds, he was a small man for a catcher, but he was able to withstand the rigors of catching for 1,806 games, an AL record that stood for more than 40 years, until Carlton Fisk topped it. Ferrell was inducted in 1984.

Here are Rick Ferrell's major league totals:

BA

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

.281

1,884

6,028

687

1,692

324

45

28

734

29


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