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The misery of 1989 behind them, the Tigers set out to improve their roster rapidly. Again they tried veterans, but they had no choice, as the farm system was still lagging.

But this time, the Tigers ventured outside the borders of North America to find talent.

Cecil Fielder, a slugging first baseman who'd spent several years with the Toronto Blue Jays, had played the 1989 season in Japan. Tigers brass flew across the Pacific Ocean to sign him after scouting reports were favorable.

New faces were everywhere when the Tigers gathered for spring training: utility man Tony Phillips, who'd played on the Oakland A's 1989 World Series-winning team; OF Lloyd Moseby (from Toronto); OF Larry Sheets (from Baltimore); and two former Tigers returning for another go-round: 3B Darnell Coles and P Dan Petry.

But Fielder was, without question, the biggest fish.

It took Fielder six games before he hit his first home run, but once he did, there was no stopping him. In a three-game stretch in early-May, Fielder slugged five homers, including three in one game against his old team, the Blue Jays. A month later, "Big Daddy" hit three homers at Cleveland, giving him 22 for the season. At the All-Star break, Fielder had 28 home runs and was on pace for well over 100 RBI. People started to talk; could he hit 50 homers? No player had hit that many in the majors since George Foster slammed 52 in 1977.

After the break, Fielder kept up the pace, and 50 seemed like a real possibility. One of his homers that summer was a monster shot off Oakland's Dave Stewart that cleared the left field roof at Tiger Stadium, making Cecil just one of four players to accomplish that feat---joining Harmon Killebrew, Frank Howard and Mark McGwire.

Fielder hit his 49th homer with a week to play, but he was shutout in his next five games. The final game was at Yankee Stadium, the scene of many historic home runs. Manager Sparky Anderson batted Fielder second in the order, to give him as many at-bats as possible.

In the fourth inning, it happened. Fielder connected off Steve Adkins, who was pitching in his fifth and final game in the big leagues. Later in the game, Fielder slugged no. 51.

Fielder's individual exploits (he also led the league with 132 RBI) gave Tigers fans something to root for, as the team was still not a winner, though they did improve to 79-83---a 20-win increase from 1989. Phillips provided patience at the leadoff spot (99 walks), and he was able to play several positions across the diamond. Rookie 3B Travis Fryman was called up in July and he batted .297 in 232 at-bats.

The Tigers' undoing was their pitching. The starters all struggled, with four of them posting ERAs of 4.45 or worse. Young Jeff Robinson disappointed with a 10-9 record and an ERA of 5.96.

But Cecil Fielder made summer days and nights fun at Tiger Stadium; a Fielder at-bat was not to be missed.

 

 

By GregEno
 

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Tagged:
Cecil Fielder, Dan Petry, Darnell Coles, Dave Stewart, Detroit Tigers, George Foster, Jeff Robinson, Larry Sheets, Lloyd Moseby, Sparky Anderson, Steve Adkins, Tony Phillips, Travis Fryman

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