This much we know: The home runs are long, the e in his first name is not. If you thought Jane Fonda made hitting 50 look good, take a look at this guy. If you thought Jules Verne wrote the book on going deep, well, this man has rewritten it. His name is Cecil Fielder, and he admits that he is, like the rest of us, "pretty much in awe of what's going on."
What is going on, anyway? Well, in his first year as a major league regular, after four seasons in obscurity in the Toronto Blue Jay organization and another year playing in Japan, Fielder, as of Sunday, had hit 47 home runs. That put the Detroit Tigers' first baseman on a pace to become the first American Leaguer since Roger Maris in 1961, the first big leaguer since George Foster in 1977 and only the 11th player ever to hit 50 or more homers in a season (box, page 70).
And Fielder isn't the only one wielding a big stick in the American League's home run derby. At week's end Jose Canseco had 37 homers, most of them as long as Ulysses, despite having missed 25 games with a bad back. Mark McGwire, Canseco's Oakland Athletics teammate, had also parked 37—including an Aug. 15, 10th-inning, upper-deck grand slam against Boston that made McGwire the first player ever to hit 30 or more homers in each of his first four seasons. Toronto first baseman Fred McGriff, who beat Fielder out of a job a few seasons back, had smoked 34. Fielder, Canseco, McGwire and McGriff are projected to finish with a combined 175 home runs. If they do, they will be the most prolific foursome in either league since the American League's Harmon Killebrew, Frank Howard, Reggie Jackson and Rico Petrocelli combined for 184 homers in 1969.
What's with these guys, what's with this season, who is Cecil Fielder, will he reach 50, will anyone ever again hit 60? For answers, we invited baseball to this potluck affair. Call it a power lunch.
"Cecil's become one of those guys," says Tiger outfielder Lloyd Moseby. "Better not take a leak or you'll miss him."
Detroit's Dave Bergman did just that on Aug. 25, when Fielder took Oakland's Dave Stewart out of the yard over the left-field roof at Tiger Stadium. "I was in the bathroom, but I heard the crowd," says Bergman, a reserve first baseman. The home run, Fielder's second of the game, landed in a gutter on the exterior facing of the stadium.
"I hadn't hit one that far in the big leagues, but in Japan—I hit some pretty good over there," says Fielder. As a Han-shin Tiger last season, Fielder became the first player to hit the back of the Tokyo Dome. But Hanshin Tiger home runs are not Detroit Tiger home runs; Fielder's recent roof shot in Motor City drew appreciative commentary from his major league colleagues.
"A moonball," McGwire called it. "About 600 feet," was Canseco's estimate. "You got a chance to send a package to Paris on that one," said Stewart.
In Fielder's first at bat following his mammoth shot, he was given a standing ovation for striking out. "Crowds just go 'waaaaaahhhh' when he pops up," says Moseby, wildly waving his hands.
"It's weird," says Fielder, "because in Toronto I wasn't even thought of." He pauses. "Sold to Japan."