Rick Ferrell, C, #2 (1933-1937)
522 G, 521 H, 16 HR, 240 RBI, 7 SB, .302 AVG, .387 OBP, .410 SLG
A North Carolina farm boy and one of seven brothers, Rick Ferrell saved pennies to buy his first catcher’s mitt for $1.50. Rick Ferrell was born in Durham and he attended Guilford College. Over 60 years later, the Veterans Committee elected him to the Hall of Fame. Although he played chiefly with second-division teams, Ferrell is always included among the greatest catchers of his age.
Blessed with a strong, durable physique and a placid yet determined personality, for 18 seasons Ferrell was a fine all-around receiver. In two stints each with the Browns and Senators, with three-plus years in Boston sandwiched between, he ultimately established the AL record with 1,805 games behind the plate.
At the plate, Ferrell had a fine eye and was remarkably selective. He coaxed 931 walks while fanning only 277 times, and achieved an impressive .433 career on-base percentage. Nineteen percent of his hits were doubles.
On April 19, 1929, Ferrell played his first major league game with the Browns, posting a .290 batting average in four seasons. After batting .300 in 1931, Ferrell had a very good year in 1932. Demonstrating that catchers could hit and excel defensively, batting from the #7 spot in the St. Louis order, Ferrell hit .315 with 30 doubles and 65 runs batted in, while leading AL catchers with 78 assists. While at St. Louis he caught the eye of Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, who was trying to rebuild. On May 9, 1933, Ferrell was traded to Boston.
Boston had a .300-hitting catcher in 1901 and 1919. In the years 1933–36, Ferrell broke Red Sox catchers’ records in batting, doubles, HR, and RBI. His .302 average with the Red Sox is 12th on the club’s all-time list. Rick’s brother Wes joined him in Boston in 1934. Though a pitcher, Wes hit more career HR (38) than Rick (28).
According to his brother Wes, “Brother or no brother, … he was a real classy receiver. You never saw him lunge for the ball; he never took a strike away from you. He’d get more strikes for a pitcher than anybody I ever saw, because he made catching look easy.”
In 1933, the Ferrell brothers were members of the inaugural American League All-Star team in the first All-Star Game played, in which Rick caught all nine innings. The same year, and for the first time in baseball history, brothers on opposing teams homered in the same game.
In June 1937, the brothers were packaged in a trade to Washington for Ben Chapman and Bobo Newsom.
Ferrell was back with the Browns in 1941–43. Then, during his second tour with Washington, he met the unprecedented and record-setting challenge of handling four knuckleball pitchers in the starting rotation. In 1945, the Senators just missed the pennant, and their knuckle quartet amassed 60 wins.
At the age of 41, Ferrell batted .303 in his last season. He had a fine eye and was remarkably selective, receiving 931 walks while fanning only 277 times. Ferrell compiled a .281 batting average, 28 home runs and 734 runs batted in, with 687 runs scored, 324 doubles, 45 triples and 29 stolen bases. In 1,884 games played, he achieved an impressive .378 career on base percentage, being selected an All-Star eight times (1933-38, 1944–1945). He caught 1,806 games, an American League record that stood until Carlton Fisk surpassed it in 1988.
After his playing days, Ferrell served as a Senators coach for four seasons. He followed with many years in the Tiger organization, as a coach, scout, GM, and, at over 80, executive consultant. In 1987 manager Sparky Anderson commented, “I hope I’m like Rick when I am his age!”
Connie Mack’s respect for him was so great that Ferrell caught all nine innings of the first All-Star game in 1933. Selected by the Veterans Committee, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.
Player biography by Karen
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Rick Ferrell, C, #2 (1933-1937)