Cecil Fielder is, undoubtedly, a larger than life baseball figure. During his seven seasons in Detroit, he left an indelible impression on Tigers fans. Later, his son Prince would sign one of the largest contracts in Tigers history at that time, creating, albeit for a brief time, his own legacy in the Motor City.
It was exactly 29 years ago today that the elder Fielder signed a deal with the Tigers, bringing him back to major league ball after spending the 1989 season with a very different Tigers team — the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Central League.
Fielder had earned quite a salary boost to play in Japan. After making league minimum — at that time $125,000 a season — he was offered over $1 million to play the 1988 season for the Hanshin Tigers. He then signed a two-year deal with the Tigers for $3 million, bringing him back stateside, where he proceeded to make a huge splash.
In his 1990 season with Detroit, he hit 51 home runs, the only Tiger since Hank Greenberg to reach that mark, and a number no Tiger since has achieved.
During his time with Detroit, Fielder was at his prime, hitting .258/.351/.498 over seven seasons, and reaching a peak wRC+ of 165 in 1990. He was a three-time All-Star, won two Silver Slugger awards, and had career-high RBIs for three of those seasons. During his final season with the team in 1996 (he would go on to win a World Series that year with the Yankees) he even stole a base. The first ever in his career.
Is there anything quite as pure as his expression in that moment?
Here are a few other key moments from his career as a Tiger.
An over the roof home run at Tiger Stadium
Three home runs in a single game in that big 51 home run season
Another out-of-the-park home run
His 50th home run in 1990
And finally, reflecting on that incredible time with the Tigers
Fielder is truly one of the Tigers greats, and a figure who stands out in the teams history. Even though he’s unlikely to ever find himself in the Hall of Fame, he certainly earned a place in the hearts of Tigers fans forever.
Also, he is a good reminder that signings made in January can pan out really well for the club.
Big thanks to Ken Coleman for posting about this on Twitter. Check out his tweet and his book on the history of Detroit.