If you’re a Yankee fan who is at least twenty years old, you probably remember Cecil Fielder well. He was born on today’s date in 1963, in Los Angeles. The Yankees acquired the slugging first baseman from Detroit during the 1996 season in a move designed to get some right-handed power on their bench. Fielder filled that role perfectly, blasting 13 home runs and driving in 68 in just 98 games.
When starting first baseman, Tino Martinez slumped in the AL playoffs and New York fell behind 2-0 in the ’96 World Series against the Braves, Joe Torre started Fielder at first in the DH-less games in Atlanta and benched Martinez. Cecil responded with an overall .391 average in that Series and because Tino ended up hitting just .091 against Atlanta, many Big Apple sports pundits predicted Fielder would see a lot more action at first base for New York, in ’97. That rumor gained even more traction during the off-season, when the Yankee front-office let it be known that they were considering offering the big guy a three-year contract extension.
That’s when Fielder and his agent over-played their hand and started making some hefty demands involving dollars. The Yankees backed off and New York fans responded to Fielder’s whining by turning on the huge slugger when the 97 season got underway. Fielder’s Yankee fate was sealed when he broke his thumb that July while Martinez was simultaneously in the process of putting together the season of his life, hitting 44 homers and driving in 141 runs. The Yankees’ released Cecil following their playoff loss that year to the Indians.
Since that time, published reports alleging Fielder had severe gambling problems certainly help explain why Fielder seemed to behave so greedily during that 1996 off-season negotiation. We also have since learned that Cecil’s look-alike son Prince, now a big league slugger in his own right, had pretty much disowned the elder Fielder years ago, disgusted with his Father’s gambling habits and resulting money problems. I read one article that claimed Cecil took half of Prince’s bonus money when his son signed with the Brewers.
Too bad for the Fielders and too bad for Major League Baseball. After all, these two guys are the only father and son combination to both hit fifty home runs in a big league season. They should be doing commercials together. Cecil earned close to $50 million playing the game and Prince will probably quadruple that amount by the end of his own career. Ordinary fans struggling to pay their property taxes, health insurance premiums and grocery bills have a real difficult time comprehending how money ever gets to be a divisive issue with athletes who have so God darn much of it, especially when those athletes are father and son.
In any event, the Yankees might not have won that 1996 World Championship without Cecil Fielder. I hope he gets his priorities and his problems straightened out and finds some peace in the years ahead.
Fielder shares his September 21st birthday with another former big league star who got traded to the Yankees late in his career and who also had to do battle with a debilitating personal demon. This long-ago Yankee outfielder was also born on this date.
|DET (7 yrs)||982||4252||3674||558||947||141||4||245||758||2||519||926||.258||.351||.498||.849|
|TOR (4 yrs)||220||558||506||67||123||19||2||31||84||0||46||144||.243||.308||.472||.781|
|NYY (2 yrs)||151||653||561||70||146||23||0||26||98||0||75||135||.260||.352||.440||.793|
|CLE (1 yr)||14||37||35||1||5||1||0||0||0||0||1||13||.143||.189||.171||.361|
|ANA (1 yr)||103||439||381||48||92||16||1||17||68||0||52||98||.241||.335||.423||.757|
You most likely never heard of today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant but he was the valuable fourth outfielder on the Yankees first-ever World Championship team in 1923. Smith played 70 games for Manager Miller Huggins’ team that year. Back then the Yankees would frequently switch Babe Ruth and Bob Meusel between left and right field. The left-hand hitting Smith would usually play right field against right handed pitching with Babe in left. He thrived in that role, hitting .306 with 7 home runs and 35 RBIs in just 183 at bats.
The native of Erie County, Ohio had been an outfielder for the Indians during most of his big league career, which had been interrupted by military service during WWI. Smith’s best big league season was 1920, when he hit .316 for Cleveland with 103 RBIs. In Game 5 of that year’s World Series between Cleveland and Brooklyn, he hit the first Grand Slam in World Series history. He had been traded to Boston during the 1922 regular season and the Yankees had acquired him and Joe Dugan from the Red Sox a year later. Perhaps Smith’s biggest contribution to Yankee history was the January 7, 1924 transaction that sent him and $50,000 of Yankee owner Jake Ruppert’s money to the Louisville Colonels of the American Association in exchange for center-fielder and future Hall of Famer, Earle Combs. Smith ended up living in Kentucky after his playing days were over and he died there in 1984, at the age of 91.
|CLE (7 yrs)||672||2491||2185||328||615||135||41||46||379||40||219||250||.281||.350||.444||.794|
|WSH (2 yrs)||80||325||285||20||62||14||6||2||44||5||23||42||.218||.283||.330||.613|
|NYY (2 yrs)||91||239||210||31||61||6||2||8||40||3||24||26||.290||.363||.452||.816|
|BOS (1 yr)||73||264||231||43||66||13||6||6||32||0||25||21||.286||.358||.472||.830|
|CIN (1 yr)||96||320||284||47||77||13||7||8||46||6||28||20||.271||.339||.451||.789|
They called him Sudden Sam and along with one of the best fastballs in big league history, he also possessed one of the game’s worst drinking habits. His career began in Cleveland in 1961 and during his eight seasons as the ace of the Tribes’ pitching staff he threw 21 shutouts and led the American League in strikeouts five times. McDowell would drink himself into oblivion every day of the week with the exception being the day before he was scheduled to pitch. By 1971, the Indians threw up their hands and traded the southpaw fireballer to the Giants for Gaylord Perry. It took San Francisco just over a season to realize their mistake and they unloaded McDowell by selling him to the pitching hungry Yankees. When Sam won five of his first six decisions in pinstripes, Yankee fans thought it was the best deal in franchise history. But McDowell then proceeded to lose seven straight to close out the 1973 season and when he dropped six of seven decisions the following year, New York released him. He signed on with the Pirates but his drinking had become so bad, he was quickly kicked off the team and out of baseball for good. Miraculously, Sam got his alcohol addiction under control and became a very effective substance abuse counselor after his pitching days were over. He was born in Pittsburgh on this date in 1942.
Another former Yankee celebrating his birthday today is the father of a Prince but has no royal blood running through his veins. This long-ago Yankee outfielder was also born on September 21st.
|CLE (11 yrs)||122||109||.528||2.99||336||295||24||97||22||11||2109.2||1603||805||702||138||1072||2159||1.268|
|SFG (2 yrs)||11||10||.524||4.36||46||28||7||4||0||3||204.1||200||109||99||16||115||157||1.542|
|NYY (2 yrs)||6||14||.300||4.20||29||22||4||2||1||0||143.2||115||74||67||10||105||108||1.531|
|PIT (1 yr)||2||1||.667||2.86||14||1||4||0||0||0||34.2||30||11||11||0||20||29||1.442|