A member of the 1967 Impossible Dream Boston Red Sox, Jerry Adair was acquired midseason from the Chicago White Sox for relief pitcher Don McMahon and a minor leaguer. Both players excelled for their new teams, with Adair playing excellent infield defense and hitting about league average. McMahon was lights out for the South Siders.
Unfortunately for Adair, the 1968 season was not a good one. He was a well below-average player in part time play. Meanwhile, McMahon continued to be excellent in the White Sox bullpen. So, this is a trade that didn’t work out for the Red Sox.
Fortunately for Adair, his career wasn’t over. He’d hang on for one more season after being selected in the 1968 expansion draft for the brand new Kansas City Royals. While Adair would be a below replacement level player, he at least had a chance to collect his 1,000th hit in the big leagues and played league-average defense. Even more importantly, Adair knocked in the very first run that the Royals ever scored as a franchise, scoring Lou Piniella of all people.
Adair didn’t have the most exciting career, but he left behind a decent legacy as a strong defender and a clutch hitter. We actually do have the metrics to prove the clutch-ness of his hitting, thanks to Baseball Reference splits. This is fortunate, because according to his Leverage splits, we can see he was indeed a better hitter in high leverage situations. Adair was even better in “Medium” leverage situations. So, the anecdotes about him being a clutch player seem fairly accurate, especially when you consider he hit 25 percent better in wins and 30 percent worse in losses.
Far as his defense is concerned, Total Zone is far from perfect, but it’s what we have. So, while Adair ended his career with a solid total of 35 TZ runs at second base and 16 TZ runs at shortstop, the majority of those came in a handful of seasons. At second base, he compiled 8 runs in 1961, 14 runs in 1964, and 16 runs in 1965. The rest of the time he was just about average. At shortstop, he had only one truly great season of performances in 1966 for the White Sox, totaling 15 of his career 16 TZ runs at the position.
Still, Adair should be remembered as a strong defender nonetheless. It’s also worth noting that he often played hurt, which may have hurt his performance on multiple occasions. Adair did set some defensive records, including a record 89 consecutive games without an error as a second baseman, and at the time single-season records for the fewest errors (5) and fielding percentage (.994). He also enjoyed a consecutive chances without an error streak of 458.
Overall, in parts of 13 seasons, Adair was a useful player, totaling 8.4 WAR by Baseball Reference metrics, and 10.3 WAR by FanGraphs metrics. He would have a short stint playing in Japanese baseball, and coached for a few seasons during the 1970’s. But, his post baseball career was riddled with sad events. He would lose his daughter to cancer shortly after his 1970 release from the Royals, and lose his wife to cancer in 1981. Sadly, he himself would pass away in 1987 after a battle with liver cancer.
Fortunately, Adair’s legacy lives on today, with his three surviving children. One of his best friends from home displayed Adair’s memorabilia in his restaurant, and it remained there for years afterward. I couldn’t find where it eventually ended up, but likely it was auctioned off and much of it likely belongs to Baltimore Orioles fans these days. His name is also enshrined in the Oklahoma State University Hall of Fame and his hometown Sand Springs Sandites Hall of Fame. The actual Baseball Hall of Fame is also in possession of his glove from 1964 when he set the single-season fielding percentage record at the time.
I greatly enjoyed learning more about Jerry Adair, and I hope you did too! If you have a baseball player that you’d like to learn more about (even if they didn’t play for the Red Sox), let me know, because I may just write an article about them!