The unofficial "start date" of the offensive boom of the 1990s was actually in the late 1980s, when Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire brought a trio of AL pennants to Oakland. "The Bash Brothers" might have been the godfathers of the steroid era, but Cecil "Big Daddy" Fielder gave the nation its first home run race of the '90s. Fielder spent seven seasons with the Tigers, hitting 245 home runs and driving in 758 RBI.
*Played for the Toronto Blue Jays from 1985 to 1988.
**Played for the New York Yankees from July 1996 to 1997.
***Played for the Anaheim Angels and Cleveland Indians in 1998.
Cecil Grant Fielder was born on September 21st, 1963 in Los Angeles, California. He had a short college career at UNLV before being selected by the Kansas City Royals in the fourth round of the 1982 draft. He was not a Royal for long, however. After half of one season in rookie ball, Fielder was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for former Tigers outfielder Leon Roberts. He spent four more years in the minor leagues, totaling 100 home runs in 2180 career plate appearances across all levels.
Fielder debuted for the Blue Jays on July 20th, 1985 as a 21 year old. He doubled in each of his first two games, but did not hit his first career home run until August 21st of that season. He added three September home runs -- including one against the Tigers -- and ended the season with a .311 batting average and .885 OPS in 81 plate appearances. He spent the majority of the 1986 season in Triple-A, but was up from the minors often enough to hit a dismal .157/.222/.325 in 90 plate appearances. He appeared in two games at third base and one in left field for the Jays that year.
Fielder was able to produce better numbers with more playing time in 1987, hitting .269/.345/.560 with 14 home runs in just 197 plate appearances. Three of those 14 home runs came in a tight September race with the Tigers, but he was just 1-for-4 in the lone game he appeared in during the three-game sweep at Tiger Stadium to close out the season. Fielder's Jays went 96-66 that year, but finished in second place behind the Tigers. Fielder followed up his strong campaign with a mediocre 1988 season, hitting .230/.289/.431 in 190 plate appearances.
After earning just $125,000 for the Blue Jays in 1988, Fielder signed with the Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese Central League for $1,050,000 and a role as their cleanup hitter. He hit .302/.403/.628 with 38 home runs and 81 RBI in 106 games for the Tigers, who were a dismal 55-74 that year. Despite the team's lack of success, Fielder's numbers caught the eye of the MLB's Tigers, who signed the slugger in January of 1990 for $1,250,000.
The move would pay immediate dividends for Detroit, as Fielder took baseball's center stage during the 1990 season. He hit 18 home runs in April and May, putting him on pace to be the first player to hit 50 home runs since George Foster of the Cincinnati Reds hit 52 bombs in 1977. Fielder kept pace with eight in June, seven in July, and nine in August. He put himself within striking distance with a few home runs in the first days of September, but didn't hit homer number 49 until September 27th. He went homerless in the next five games, but hit a pair of dingers at Yankee Stadium on the last day of the season, ending the year with 51 home runs and 132 RBI. He finished second in the MVP voting to Oakland's Rickey Henderson, who had a higher OPS and 65 stolen bases that year.
Fielder followed up his magical season by hitting 44 home runs in 1991, leading baseball for the second consecutive season. He also drove in 133 RBI, which led the MLB, and finished second in the MVP voting again, this time to Cal Ripken, Jr. Fielder won a third consecutive RBI title in 1992, driving in 124 runs. He hit 35 home runs that year, which trailed Mark McGwire and future Tiger Juan Gonzalez. Cecil continued to mash over the next three years, hitting a combined 89 home runs from 1993 to 1995. He made his third All-Star appearance in 1993.
Fielder got off to another solid start in 1996, hitting .248/.354/.478 with 26 home runs in 107 games. However, the Tigers were not going anywhere en route to a 109-loss season. They traded Cecil to the New York Yankees for Ruben Sierra and top prospect Matt Drews at the trade deadline. Yes, this is the same Matt Drews that was acquired in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks for third baseman Travis Fryman two years later. This is also the same Matt Drews that never played a game at the major league level. Meanwhile, Fielder hit 13 home runs with an .837 OPS in 228 plate appearances for the Yankees down the stretch as they won their first of four World Series titles in five seasons.
Before Fielder was shipped off to New York that year, he hit an important career milestone. The Tigers were playing an early April series against the Minnesota Twins in the Metrodome when Fielder, running on a 3-2 pitch, recorded his first career stolen base.
Cecil spent the 1997 season in New York before appearing in 117 games for the Anaheim Angels and Cleveland Indians in 1998. He was signed by the Blue Jays before the 1999 season, but was released in Spring Training. He retired shortly after.
Unfortunately, Fielder did not live a quiet retirement, unlike many others on this list. His feud with his son, Prince, was widely publicized as Prince's stardom grew. Additionally, Cecil got into gambling trouble and lost a considerable amount of his fortune. When this news was reported by The Detroit News, Fielder tried to sue the paper for defamation of character, but the lawsuit was thrown out.
Despite his off-field troubles, Cecil was one of the most prolific sluggers in Tigers history. He ranks fifth in club history with 245 home runs, one more than should-be Hall of Famer Lou Whitaker managed in nearly three times as many games. His .498 slugging percentage ranks sixth among players with at least 4,000 plate appearances (if we reduce the minimum number of plate appearances, Cecil ranks 10th with Prince's .491 slugging percentage in 11th place). Cecil is tied for 13th in franchise history with 758 RBI, just ahead of Miguel Cabrera's 737.