Cecil Fielder was only Tiger to clear Tiger Stadium’s left-field roof

Cecil Fielder takes a gingerly stroll on the roof of Tiger Stadium in 1993.

According to former Tiger Stadium groundskeeper Frank Feneckit, it took almost a howitzer to send a ball over the left-field grandstand at The Corner.

The roof was 94 feet high and the left-field fence was 340 feet from home plate, making roof shots in that direction one of the most challenging feats in baseball during the years the Tigers called Tiger Stadium home.

“Climb up to the roof and look around,” Fenecksaid in 1999, the Tigers’ final summer at The Corner, “and you won’t believe how high and hard they have to hit the ball to do that.”

Through 1990, only two players had cleared the roof in left. Minnesota’s Harmon Killebrew had been the first in 1962, followed six years later by Washington’s Frank Howard. But on August 25, 1990, during a Saturday game against Oakland, Tigers first baseman Cecil Fielder joined the exclusive circle of sluggers. In the fourth inning, with Alan Trammell on first base and two out, Fielder powered a 3-1 fastball from righthander Dave Stewart toward the roof in left. It bounced twice before plopping over the edge and onto the street.

“That’s the longest home run I’ve had hit off me,” said Stewart, who had surrendered an upper-deck shot to Fielder in the first inning. “I’d have a chance to send my family to Paris on that one.”

The 1990 season was Fielder’s first in Detroit after wearing a Toronto uniform for four seasons and then playing in Japan. That year, “Big Daddy” captured the country’s attention with an eye-popping 51 home runs and 132 RBI, both best in the majors.

Coincidentally, Fielder’s counterpart at first base that day was Mark McGwire, who had hit his very first major league tater exactly four years earlier. On August 25, 1986, McGwire had lined a Walt Terrell pitch into the centerfield bleachers at Tiger Stadium, the first of 583 round-trippers the controversial slugger would wind up hitting in his career. Before leaving Oakland for St. Louis, McGwire would become the fourth and final player to homer over the left-field roof at Tiger Stadium, connecting off Brian Moehler on April 21, 1997.

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About Richard Bak

Richard Bak grew up on Detroit's west side doing poor imitations of Dick McAuliffe's batting stance and Denny McLain's leg kick. He is a contributing writer to Hour Detroit magazine and the author of nearly 30 books, including biographies of Ty Cobb and Joe Louis. Bak's most recent books are The Big Jump, the story of Charles Lindbergh and the great New York-to-Paris air race of the 1920s, and Detroitland, a collection of his history pieces. He currently is finishing two more books of history: Soldier of Misfortune: The Execution of Private Eddie Slovik and Its Aftermath (DaCapo) and When Lions Were Kings: The Detroit Lions and the Fabulous Fifties (Wayne State University Press), both of which will be published in 2015.