Cecil Fielder, 1989 Upper Deck, #364
The legend of Cecil Fielder really doesn’t start to take off until he leaves the Blue Jays. After spending four years as a very useful utility 1B/3B, Cecil took the million dollar Japanese payday and went to play for the Hanshin Tigers, before coming back and signing with Detroit for the 1990 season.
This is where things go nuts. Cecil turns into the best power hitter in baseball and a gigantic fat man. The warning signs for both can be seen in this card. He has always shown signs of power, slugging above .500 a couple of times for the Blue Jays, and he does look like he is chunking up on the back of this card. But still, 50 plus HR’s was unthinkable and nobody could have foreseen him turning into the biggest “that guy is an athlete?” joke of a generation.
This is one of my favourite quirks about baseball. The presence of truly unhealthy looking individuals who not only make it to the big leagues, but can be superstars. There is something truly bizarre about hearing announcers describe the athletic prowess of CC Sabathia. I thoroughly recommend this Life magazine slideshow of fat athletes. And yes, Cecil Fielder is obviously included.
Sadly, the story goes off the rails from there. Gambling issues, divorce, estrangement from his family (including his all-star son Prince) and a period of being on the run from process servers. This Detroit News story from 2004 spells out the whole, sad tale. Just the other day Cecil opened his mouth to media about the possibility of his son joining the Mets next season and created headlines throughout New York. Despite the fact he and his son are barely on speaking terms.