Cecil Fielder began his career with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays let him go to Japan where he became a baseball hero. The Tigers decided to take a chance and Fielder returned to America. In his first full season in the majors, he clubbed 51 home runs helping the Tigers return to respectability.
The Toronto Blue Jays never gave Fielder a chance to play full time. In parts of four seasons, he hit 31 homers with 84 RBI in 506 at bats. After 1988, he signed with the Hanshin Tigers and became a major star. The Tigers took note of Fielder’s performance and decided to take a chance on him to fill the first base position for the 1990 season. The Tigers had little to lose. In 1989, the team lost 103 games and finished last in the AL East.
Considering Fielder’s performance with the Jays, baseball should not have been surprised by the power. Despite this, he became one of the big stories of 1990. “Big Daddy” ambushed the league popping long balls at a breakneck pace. On August 25, he hit an epic blast off Oakland’s Dave Stewart. He became the first Tiger, and fourth player in history, to hit a ball over the left field roof. Fielder also had two three-homer games in 1990. Going into the final game of the season, he had 49 homers.
George Foster was the last major leaguer to club 50 homers in a season. No Tiger had hit 50 home runs since 1938. That season, Hank Greenberg hit 58 home runs. Greenberg’s successor at first joined him in the 50 homer club on the last day of the season. He launched a 4th inning shot off New York’s Steve Atkins for #50. In the 8th, he capped off his season with another blast off Alan Mills. Detroit’s Japanese import finished 1990 with 51 bombs.
Fielder’s performance helped Detroit improve dramatically over the previous season. Despite going 79-83, the team won 20 more games than in 1990. The Tigers first baseman should have been the MVP. However, the award went to Rickey Henderson. Fielder played in 23 more games than Henderson and his team progressed greatly. Without Fielder, Detroit loses 100 games. Without Henderson, Oakland still wins the AL West. The next season, he finished second in the MVP voting to Cal Ripken of the Baltimore Orioles. Baltimore finished with 95 losses while Detroit landed in second place.
In over six years with Detroit, Fielder hit more home runs than anyone in baseball. He led the league in RBI three consecutive years. Babe Ruth was the only other man to do this. He enjoyed four straight 30 homer and 100 RBI seasons and was denied a fifth because of the work stoppage in 1994. His Tiger career produced 219 homers, which is the most in team history over a six-year period. Additionally, he played on three All-Star teams and was named “Tiger of the Year” three consecutive years from 1990-1992. In 1991, Fielder became the only man to hit a ball out of Milwaukee’s County Stadium off of MLB Network’s Dan Plesac. The Tigers traded Fielder to the Yankees in 1996 where he won a World Series. His power left him in 1997 and he retired after the 1998 season.
Cecil Fielder helped Detroit baseball in the early 1990s. His power and popularity helped make the Tigers an interesting team. Unfortunately, the team lacked pitching and collapsed by mid-decade. However, Fielder enjoyed a historic tenure with the Tigers. He matched Babe Ruth and topped every Tiger in history in homers over a six-year period. He could very well have won two MVP awards.