NEW YORK, OCT. 3 -- After much ado, Cecil Fielder finally did it. The buildup was tremendous, and so was the home run. With two out in the fourth inning of the last game of the season, Fielder cracked a rocket of a home run into the upper deck at Yankee Stadium -- his 50th home run this season.
He wasn't quite done. His second home run of the game -- in the eighth inning of the Detroit Tigers' 10-3 victory -- flew over the left field fence, landing in front of the Tigers' bullpen.
It was the first one that mattered the most, though. No. 50. Not since 1977 had a major-leaguer hit 50 home runs; George Foster hit 52. Not since 1961 had an American League batter done it; that year Roger Maris hit 61 and Mickey Mantle 54.
Showing a flair for the dramatic, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Fielder took the suspense almost to the end. In his third-to-last at-bat of the season -- just when everyone was thinking that the pressure was overwhelming him -- Fielder took Yankees rookie Steve Adkins's 2-1 pitch and shot it against the fourth row of seats in the upper deck.
"It was a relief. I hit it and it felt good and I knew it was a home run," Fielder said of the drive, estimated at 391 feet. "When I hit number 50, that was my day. It was over as far as I was concerned. If that ball would have went foul, I'd have been dead. It started way fair but then it started hooking. Tony Phillips was more excited than I was. We were running the bases and looking at each other."
Such was the accomplishment that several reporters from Japan -- Fielder's previous residence -- came to mark the occasion. The Tigers had been criticized when they signed the former Toronto player to a two-year, $3 million contract yet only 18 times (11 players) has a major league player hit at least 50 home runs.
There was no Carlton Fisk-like waving from Fielder, who handled the moment with little emotion except for a small jump between home and first. The same can't be said for Phillips, who had been standing at first base. Phillips began jumping and waving his arms and yelling to Fielder, "Daddy, you did it!"
Fielder became most animated after returning to the dugout. With the crowd standing and cheering and chanting "Cecil," Fielder popped out and waved his right fist around -- a la Arsenio Hall.
Fielder finished with 51 home runs and 132 RBI, not to mention some MVP support. "He deserves it, no doubt," Yankee Steve Sax said before the game. "He has been the best player in the league this year."