Cecil Fielder Essentials

Positions: Firstbase/DH
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Height: 6′-3″ Weight: 230
Born: Saturday, September 21, 1963 in Los Angeles, CA USA
Debut: July 20, 1985
Last Game:  September 13, 1998
Full Name: Cecil Grant Fielder

 

One of baseball’s most prolific sluggers for much of the 1990s, Cecil Fielder hit more home runs than any other player in the game from 1990 to 1995.  The massive first baseman also knocked in more runs than anyone else between 1990 and 1993, leading the major leagues in RBIs in three of those four seasons.  Fielder became just the second major league player in 25 years to amass 50 home runs in a single season in 1990, when he made a triumphant return to the United States after spending the previous year in Japan.  Fielder also topped the junior circuit in runs batted in for the first of three straight times that season, beginning an extraordinarily successful four-year run during which he averaged 40 homers and 127 RBIs.  Just two years earlier, though, no one could possibly have imagined that Fielder would be the toast of Detroit.

Biography:

Born in Los Angeles, California on September 21, 1963, Cecil Grant Fielder attended Nogales High School in nearby La Puente, where he earned all-state honors in baseball, football, and basketball.  After graduating from Nogales, Fielder turned down an offer to sign with the Baltimore Orioles, who selected him in the 31st round of the 1981 amateur baseball draft.  Enrolling instead at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Fielder spent the next year furthering his education, while simultaneously improving his draft status by clouting home runs off collegiate pitching.  The Kansas City Royals subsequently selected Fielder in the fourth round of the 1982 draft, signing him shortly thereafter to a minor league contract.  Fielder spent only one year in Kansas City’s farm system, before being dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays in February of 1983 for journeyman outfielder Leon Roberts.

Fielder spent most of the next four seasons advancing through Toronto’s minor league system, appearing briefly with the Blue Jays in both 1985 and 1986.  Splitting his time between first and third base, while also seeing some action at the DH spot, he totaled eight home runs and 29 RBIs, in slightly over 150 official at-bats over the course of those two seasons.  Serving primarily as a right-handed designated hitter and back-up first baseman, Fielder saw his playing time increase somewhat the next two years.  Still, he found himself languishing on the Toronto bench much of the time, hitting 23 homers and driving in 55 runs, in fewer than 400 total plate appearances from 1987 to 1988.

Seeking an opportunity to play every day, the 25-year-old Fielder accepted an offer to join the Hanshin Tigers at the conclusion of the 1988 campaign.  In addition to receiving a one-year contract worth more than $1 million from the Japanese team (Toronto paid him $125,000 in 1988), Fielder acquired the services of a chauffeur and a full-time interpreter.  The powerful first baseman’s 38 home runs for Hanshin in 1989 made him a hero to the local baseball fans, who nicknamed him Wild Bear (“wild,” in Japan, is the image of power, while Fielder’s hulking 6’3”, 250–pound frame explains the “bear” portion of his moniker).

Taking note of Fielder’s outstanding performance in Japan, the Detroit Tigers facilitated his return to the United States by offering him a two-year contract in January 1990.  After winning the team’s starting first base job in spring training by impressing everyone with his prodigious power, Fielder continued his extraordinary slugging during the regular season.  The first baseman homered three times in one game twice during the campaign, becoming just the fourth player in American League history to do so.  Entering the season’s final day with a total of 49 home runs, Fielder became a select member of the 50-home run club by clouting a pair of long balls at Yankee Stadium.  The 51 homers made Fielder the first major league player to reach the 50-homer plateau since George Foster hit 52 round-trippers for Cincinnati in 1977.  Fielder also became the first American League player to hit 50 homers since Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle both turned the trick for the Yankees in 1961.  In addition to his 51 homers, Fielder led the A.L. with 132 runs batted in, 339 total bases, and a .592 slugging percentage, while also scoring 104 runs and batting .277.  On the flip side, he led the major leagues with 182 strikeouts, the fifth-highest total compiled by any player in baseball history at the time.

Fielder’s lofty home run and strikeout totals turned out to be not particularly unusual for him.  Although he never again quite reached his 1990 figures in either category, he continued to post huge numbers in both areas in subsequent seasons.  Listed conservatively at 250 pounds, Fielder grew increasingly large during his time in Detroit, using his considerable girth, massive arms, and powerful legs to uncoil a ferocious swing that routinely generated both tape-measure home runs and inordinately high strikeout totals.  Fielder eventually became the first Tiger player to hit a ball completely over the left field roof at Tiger Stadium, and, also, the first player ever to hit a ball over the outfield bleachers at Milwaukee’s County Stadium.  Meanwhile, he struck out well over 100 times in each of the next six seasons as well, fanning 151 times in both 1991 and 1992.  He also developed a reputation for being somewhat of a liability in the field, possessing neither the range nor the quickness needed to cover a significant amount of ground at first base.

Fielder had another huge offensive year in 1991, leading the American League with 44 home runs and 133 runs batted in.  He finished runner-up in the league MVP balloting for the second straight time, this time losing out to Baltimore’s Cal Ripken Jr.  Although he batted just .244 in 1992, Fielder hit 35 homers and knocked in 124 runs, leading the major leagues in the last category for the third straight time.  In so doing, he became the first player to lead both major leagues in RBIs since Babe Ruth accomplished the feat from 1919 to 1921.

As Fielder’s tenure in Detroit lengthened, he grew increasingly popular with Tiger fans, who nicknamed him Big Daddy for his big smile, peaceful temperament, prodigious home runs, and massive physical stature.  Also increasing over time was Fielder’s weight, which drew closer and closer to the 300-pound mark in subsequent seasons.  As Fielder’s waist continued to expand, his offensive production gradually diminished.  Yet, he remained one of baseball’s top sluggers, annually hitting more than 30 homers and driving in close to 100 runs for a non-contending Tigers team.

With Fielder seeing more and more action as a designated hitter, Detroit traded him to the Yankees on July 31, 1996 for Ruben Sierra.  Fielder spent the remainder of the year serving as a DH and back-up first baseman for Tino Martinez, helping New York capture the A.L. East title by hitting 13 home runs and driving in 37 runs, in only 53 games with the team.  He finished his last truly productive year with a combined total of 39 homers and 117 runs batted in.  Fielder then helped the Yankees win the world championship by hitting three home runs and knocking in 12 runs during the post-season, posting a .364 batting average against Texas in the ALDS, before compiling a mark of .391 against Atlanta in the World Series.

Fielder remained in New York the following year, platooning at the DH spot against left-handed pitching.  Granted free agency at season’s end, he subsequently signed with the Anaheim Angels, with whom he spent the first four months of 1998, before being released by the team in early August.  Fielder joined the Cleveland Indians shortly thereafter, ending his career with them after batting just .143 in his 14 games with the club.

Over the course of 13 big league seasons, Cecil Fielder hit 319 home runs, knocked in 1,008 runs, and batted .255.  He hit more than 30 homers six times, drove in more than 100 runs five times, and scored more than 100 runs twice.  He appeared in three All-Star games and finished in the top 10 in the A.L. MVP voting on three separate occasions.

Following his playing career, Fielder encountered various financial and legal problems.  After negotiating his son Prince’s first professional contract, Fielder became estranged from his son’s family after the former insisted on getting a part of Prince’s salary as a reward for assisting him.  His son eventually went on to hit 50 home runs for the Brewers, making the two Fielders the only father/son duo in major league history to reach the milestone.  After managing the South Coast League’s Charlotte County Redfish in 2007, the elder Fielder became the manager of the Atlantic City Surf of the Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball in 2008.

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Notable Events and Chronology for Cecil Fielder Career