A surprise home-run monster, Cecil Fielder was the Detroit Tigers' big man with a big bat in the early 1990's. More than that, he helped revive the game of Baseball, and can be viewed as one man who helped bring back the long-ball. Not the quickest, let alone thinnest, in the Majors, Cecil made up for his lack of speed with an uncanny ability to put all his heft into his swing and crush the baseball out of its coverings. Cecil was the first player to hit a home run over the left field roof at Tiger Stadium, and the first player to smack one over the bleachers at County Stadium in Milwaukee.

Cecil Grant Fielder was born on September 21, 1963. He was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 1981, but did not sign with them. He was drafted again in the next season, this time by the Kansas City Royals. Somehow Cecil Fielder went from being drafted by the Royals in 1982 to debuting with the Toronto Blue Jays on July 20, 1985. I assume he was traded or his contract ran up and Toronto picked him up. North of the border, Cecil would see limited playing time even though he put up above average numbers. 4 seasons later, his contract was not picked up, and no major league team wanted him.

Things looked grim for Cecil, but he was signed playing ball in Japan for the Hanshin Tigers in 1989. Whether it was the different time zone, or a new proximity to Hello Kitty merchandise, Cecil Fielder dominated the Japanese League. He hit a solid .302, with 38 home runs and a .628 slugging percentage (just under 2/3rds of his hits were for extra bases). All that, and he missed the last month of the season with a broken finger!

Even though he had an excellent season with the Hanshin Tigers, Cecil desired to return home to America. He shopped around the Major Leagues but the only team interested were the Detroit Tigers. Now now, the Tigers were not the epitomy of futility that they are today, although they were coming off a terrible 1989 season in which they lost 103 games. They had just won the World Series in 1984 thanks to manager Sparky Anderson and star Kirk Gibson and a 1987 AL East division title. Cecil took his return season to the Majors and made something every player would be jealous of.

Fielder exploded in 1990. He has a season that made everyone take notice of the hefty first baseman. He hit .277, which was rather spectacular for a slugger, combined with his 132 runs batted in and his 51 home runs. 51 might seem like small change after the likes of Sosa, McGwire and Bonds in recent years, but Cecil was the first to hit 50 since George Foster hit 52 for the Cincinnati Reds back in 1977¹. He passed the fifty mark during the last game of the season, hitting two dingers in a Tigers win over the New York Yankees. While he lead the league with home runs and RBI, Cecil also had the most strikeouts that season, with a whopping 182. This is probably what held him to second place in the Most Valuable Player balloting. Oakland Athletics' outfielder Rickey Henderson won the award instead.

Cecil followed up his remarkable season with the Tigers by having a similar year. He hit 44 longballs and 133 RBIs, and made another trip to the All-Star game. Cecil was the driving force behind the mediocre Tigers, but was snubbed again in the MVP voting, this time by ironman shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. Upset at being on the short end of the stick again, Cecil made some disparaging comments claiming that he was a victim of racism, which I highly doubt he was.

In early 1992, Cecil avoided the icky process of arbitration by signing a 1 year, 4.5 million dollar contract with the Tigers. This marked the largest single season deal in history, at the time. Cecil continued his RBI run throughout the season, leading the majors by the mid-season break. However, this year he was not voted to the All-Star game, most likely due to his mouth, as he was hitting on par of his last two seasons. All-Star game aside, Fielder joined baseball legend, and curse-meister Babe Ruth by leading the Majors for the third consecutive season in RBIs.

I have made comments as to Cecil's physical dimensions several times in this write-up already. He was nicknamed Big Daddy, and not Slim for a reason. He was a hoss, a tank, a brick house, and that's why April 2, 1996 is important. For on that day, during the ninth inning in a game against the Minnesota Twins, the Tigers' first base coach called for a hit and run. Cecil ran, but Melvin Nieves, the man at the plate, failed to make contact with the ball! The throw from the catcher bounced off the shortstop's foot, and Cecil Fielder got his first stolen base! This set the record for most games from the start of a career before the first stolen base at 1,096. After the game Cecil returned to his locker room to find that an attendent had nabbed the base and put it in his locker.

In the beginning of 1993, the Tigers signed Cecil to a 5-year, $36 million contract, making him the highest paid player in the game, if only for a short while. Cecil would spent the majority of that contract in Detroit, but on July 31, 1996, three and a half years into the deal, the Tigers shipped Cecil eastward, to the New York Yankees. In return, the Tigers got Ruben Sierra and minor league pitcher Matt Drews. The Yankees went on to win the World Series, blah blah blah. As a Boston Red Sox fan, I refuse to talk about this subject anymore.

Cecil spent a year and a half in the Big Apple, before becoming a free agent. He signed with the Anaheim Angels in December of 1997 and spent most of the season at first base. However, after 100 games, the Angels let him go and his muscle was picked up by the Cleveland Indians as they made a Pennant run. This would be Cecil's last run in the major leagues, as better hitters were coming up, and his numbers were going down. He signed a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays for the 1998 season, but he was dropped after they picked up a better DH.

While Cecil's numbers are not staggering, he had only 319 home runs over his career, he was still an amazing player trapped on a sub-par team. Cecil might not have made a big mark on baseball history, but he made a mark on me as I was growing up. Anytime someone who doesn't fit the mold does something special, it's beautiful.

Cecil's son Prince Fielder is, like his dad was, a first baseman/designated hitter. He is, as of 2006, the Milwaukee Brewers' starting first baseman. Reportedly, father and son are quite estranged.

Statistics

Positions: 1st Base, some 2nd base, 3rd base, and Designated Hitter
Bats Right
Throws Right
Height 6' 3"
Weight 240 lb.
All-Star: 1990, 1991, 1993
Year Tm   G   AB    R    H   2B 3B  HR  RBI  SB CS  BB  SO   BA   OBP   SLG   TB  
1985 TOR  30  74    6   23   4  0   4   16   0  0   6  16  .311  .358  .527   39
1986 TOR  34  83    7   13   2  0   4   13   0  0   6  27  .157  .222  .325   27
1987 TOR  82 175   30   47   7  1  14   32   0  1  20  48  .269  .345  .560   98
1988 TOR  74 174   24   40   6  1   9   23   0  1  14  53  .230  .289  .431   75
1990 DET 159 573  104  159  25  1  51  132   0  1  90 182  .277  .377  .592  339
1991 DET 162 624  102  163  25  0  44  133   0  0  78 151  .261  .347  .513  320
1992 DET 155 594   80  145  22  0  35  124   0  0  73 151  .244  .325  .458  272
1993 DET 154 573   80  153  23  0  30  117   0  1  90 125  .267  .368  .464  266
1994 DET 109 425   67  110  16  2  28   90   0  0  50 110  .259  .337  .504  214
1995 DET 136 494   70  120  18  1  31   82   0  1  75 116  .243  .346  .472  233
1996 DET 107 391   55   97  12  0  26   80   2  0  63  91  .248  .354  .478  187
     NYY  53 200   30   52   8  0  13   37   0  0  24  48  .260  .342  .495   99
1997 NYY  98 361   40   94  15  0  13   61   0  0  51  87  .260  .358  .410  148
1998 ANA 103 381   48   92  16  1  17   68   0  1  52  98  .241  .335  .423  161
     CLE  14  35    1    5   1  0   0    0   0  0   1  13  .143  .189  .171    6
           G  AB    R    H  2B 3B  HR  RBI  SB CS  BB  SO   AVG   OBP   SLG   TB  
Totals  1470 5157 744 1313 200  7 319 1008   2  6 693 1316 .255  .345  .482 2494   

Postseason Batting

Year Round Tm  Opp WLser  G  AB  R  H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO   BA    OBP   SLG  SB
1985 ALCS  TOR KCR   L    3   3  0  1  1  0  0   0  0  1  .333  .333  .667   0
1996 ALDS2 NYY TEX   W    3  11  2  4  0  0  1   4  1  2  .364  .417  .636   0
     ALCS  NYY BAL   W    5  18  3  3  0  0  2   8  4  5  .167  .318  .500   0
     WS    NYY ATL   W    6  23  1  9  2  0  0   2  2  2  .391  .440  .478   0
1997 ALDS1 NYY CLE   L    2   8  0  1  0  0  0   1  0  3  .125  .125  .125   0
Postseason Totals: 3-2   19  63  6 18  3  0  3  15  7 13  .286  .357  .476   0

Sources:
http://www.pubdim.net/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/F/Fielder_Cecil.stm
http://www.baseball-reference.com/f/fieldce01.shtml
http://espn.go.com/mlb/profiles/profile/3726.html
http://www.sportingnews.com/baseball/articles/20020620/412066.html
http://www.sptimes.com/News/22799/Sports/Fielder_s_focus_back_.html

Thanks to both avalyn and hashbrownie who pointed out that it was George Foster to hit 50 home runs before Cecil, not Roger Maris, who I originally thought had been the last to do so. Maris was the last to do it before Foster.

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