One of the busiest trade deadlines of recent memory has come and gone. There were big moves, Luis Castillo to the Mariners for example. There was a blockbuster deal, Juan Soto to the Padres. All the needle moving trades sent me on a trip down memory lane. Reminding me of the biggest trade deadline acquisition of my life. Big Daddy Cecil Fielder to the Yankees in 1996.
Cecil Fielder was one of the biggest stars of the 1990s. Returning from Japan, he clubbed 51 home runs in 1990 and 44 home runs in 1991. At the time, these numbers were practically unheard of. No one was hitting 50+ home runs in a season in that era. Cecil Fielder was a humongous man, slugging monstrous home runs. He was probably the most feared hitter of the early 1990s.
By 1996 Cecil Fielder had become disgruntled with the Detroit Tigers. The team was at the bottom of the American League and Big Daddy did not want to be there.
Adding to the problem, Cecil Fielder wasn’t quite the hitter he had been years earlier. Don’t get me wrong, he was still a slugger but 50 home runs a season weren’t happening again.
What I did not expect was my father breaking the news to me that Cecil Fielder had been traded to the New York Yankees. I don’t know who was more ecstatic over the trade. Cecil Fielder going from one of the worst teams in the American League to a World Series contender or a young me, who just had his mind blown with the realization that the Yankees were getting a feared hitter.
It was a blockbuster trade at the time. The Yankees sent Ruben Sierra, a talented athlete with a cannon arm, and a feared slugger himself to the Tigers. Also on his way to Detroit was Matt Drews, a name that means nothing today, but at the time he was not only a top pitching prospect for the Yankees, he was among the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. The Yankees gave up a haul, I recognized that at the time. Would it pay off?
Cecil Fielder was rejuvenated coming to the Yankees. I can still picture that perma-smile as the New York media filmed him walking through the airport. I was filled with confidence Big Daddy was going to produce.
Naturally, I was right. Cecil Fielder crushed 13 home runs in 53 regular season games for the Yankees during the stretch run of 1996. Not only were the Yankees ready for the playoffs but Cecil Fielder was ready for his first opportunity to really get to play in the playoffs.
Cecil Fielder was a beast in the 1996 playoffs. Ask any Baltimore fan who remembers the 1996 ALCS, Big Daddy came up big for the Yankees in Games 3 and 5 with clutch home runs that helped lead the Yankees to victory over the Orioles.
Cecil Fielder came up so big for the Yankees in the 1996 playoffs that he actually started at first base over Tino Martinez in Games 3, 4, and 5 of the 1996 World Series in Atlanta. Not many people remember this but I certainly do.
Tino Martinez is an all time Yankee, a New York legend with 4 World Series rings. A clutch performer and a clutch competitor. All that being stated, think of how big it was that he was NOT the started first baseman in Games 3, 4, & 5! That alone should really elaborate on the importance of Cecil Fielder being acquired by the Yankees at the 1996 trade deadline.
Hindsight being 20/20, Cecil Fielder really should have won the 1996 World Series MVP. He hit .391 in the 1996 World Series, he was the best hitter on the team. Without Cecil Fielder, the Yankees very likely do not win the 1996 World Series. He was so valuable to that team and it is a shame he was passed over for the World Series MVP.
Cecil Fielder was THE trade deadline acquisition during my lifetime love of the Yankees. The most feared home run hitter of the early 1990s who helped lead the Yankees to their first World Series win of my lifetime.
Thank you for the memories Big Daddy. Here’s hoping for a chance to give you a loud and well deserved ovation at next year’s Old Timer’s Day.