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Catching Up With ... former Oriole Jack Fisher

jack-fisher-1.jpg From time to time in The Toy Department, veteran sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, 'Catching Up With ...'; Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of 'Catching Up With ...'

The letters roll in, more than a dozen a week, from baseball buffs seeking Jack Fisher's autograph.

“Most of them start out, ‘You were my favorite pitcher,'” Fisher said, laughing. “I don't believe them.”

In 11 years in the majors, including four with the Orioles, the husky right-hander lost more games (139) than he won (86). Only once — with the Orioles in 1960 — did Fisher have a winning record, and then just barely (12-11).

So why, at 71, does he still get fan mail?

“The homers,” Fisher said, from his home in Easton, Pa. “Everyone wants to hear about the homers.”

Fifty years ago, in his last career at-bat, Hall of Famer Ted Williams tagged a fastball by Fisher for his 521st home run at Boston's Fenway Park. One year later, against the Orioles, New York's Roger Maris hit Fisher's curve out at Yankee Stadium for his 60th homer of 1961, tying Babe Ruth's season record.

Three years after that, Fisher surrendered another historic blast. In 1964, with the Mets, he gave up the first homer ever hit at New York's Shea Stadium, to Willie Stargell of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“People are going to remember you however they want to remember you,” he said. “I can live with that.”

Forgotten by most is Fisher's role in the Orioles' 1960 pennant chase, when the 21-year-old Frostburg native pitched three straight shutouts for the Birds, who won the city's heart that summer and, very nearly, the American League flag.

“The Kiddie Korps,” they called Baltimore's starting rotation: Chuck Estrada, Milt Pappas, Steve Barber and Fisher, none of them older than 22.

“That season was a lot of fun,” Fisher said. “We were young and dumb enough to think that any time we walked out there, we could beat any team.”

For a while, that's what they did. In early September, the Orioles trailed first-place New York by a single game as the Yankees came to town.

The Birds swept the weekend series, and fans went nuts. Pappas and Fisher pitched back-to-back shutouts, and Estrada followed with a 6-2 victory in which he didn't allow a hit for 6 2/3 innings. jack-fisher-2.jpg

Baltimore led the AL race, but not for long. Two weeks later, New York took four from the Orioles en route to finishing the season with 15 straight wins. The Birds would wait six more years for a pennant.

Fisher was gone by then, dealt to the San Francisco Giants in 1962 in a trade that brought reliever Stu Miller here. His Orioles record: 30 wins, 39 losses and a 3.92ERA.

“I had a ball,” Fisher said of his time in Baltimore. “It was a ‘big' little city; anywhere you went, somebody recognized you.”

He spent four years with the lowly Mets, pitching at least 220 innings each season and going 8-24 in 1965, with scant support.

“Funny thing is, I won five of my first eight games that season, then went 3-21 and actually lowered my ERA,” to 3.94, he said. “Casey Stengel [the manager] gave me the ball every four days. That's all I ever wanted.”

Fisher retired in 1969. He settled in Easton and opened a sports bar called “Fat Jack's,” the nickname hung on him years earlier by Orioles pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm. Fisher sold the place in 1998 and now spends his time playing golf and power-walking. Having had one knee replacement, the 6-2, 290-pound Fisher hopes to shed some of that heft.

“I'm tired of walking around with all of this weight on me,” he said.

The divorced father of three lives five blocks from Larry Holmes, the former world heavyweight champion. Baseball keepsakes bedeck the house. On one wall hangs a framed collage of all of Fisher's baseball cards; nearby is a photo of the pitcher and former teammate Willie Mays, the Hall of Famer.

“I've got one picture of Ted Williams, Mantle and [Joe] DiMaggio, signed by all three,” he said. “Williams was probably the best hitter I ever faced. Yes, he hit that home run — but he was only 2-for-8 lifetime against me.

“That's not too shabby.”


Photo credits: 1. Fisher, left is congratulated by Brooks Robinson after shutting out the Yankees on Sept. 3, 1960. 2. Fisher delivers a pitch during spring training in 1962.

Comments

"Fat" Jack could pitch. Just never got any run support. He was part of the "Kiddie Corps" that nearly pulled it off in 1960. That was an exciting season. It was a glimpse of things to come.

And check out his uniform number in the second photo -- 22.

“The Kiddie Korps,” they called Baltimore's starting rotation: Chuck Estrada, Milt Pappas, Steve Barber and Fisher, none of them older than 22.

If this group of kids can pitch the Orioles to a near title back than, what's too stop the current kiddie corps of Guthrie, Matsz, Arrietta, Tillman and Bergeson from going all the way to a title?

How many kids were on the 1966 World Series Champion Team.

It can be done folks. It's all a matter of desire.

Despite 13 straight losing seasons, the current Birds along with Manager Showalter give me hope for 2011 and possibly beyond.

GO BIRDS!!!!!!!!!!!!

perhaps I'm the only one who may feel this way... but I'd love to see you all do a catching up feature about the Baltimore Stallions.

Maybe do an actual print article of a "where are they now" type thing. Even tho we ran them out of town, they were a great team and a point of pride for a city that desperately needed it.

wow this is cool when I was a kid. I felt so bad for Jack Fishier on his card it said Jack once suffered 24 looses in one season 1968 season tops card.

You have to admired this guy talk about hanging in a loyalty the the Mets.

Bravo to Bryan in Towson for his absolutely wonderful idea in suggesting the piece on our late, great Stallions.

People forget now, but from 1983 - 2001, which consisted of the wilderness years during which. without NFL football as well as the Orioles' organizational and eternal collapse and beyond, the CFL Baltimore Stallions gave us the only true, legitimate championship team this town had seen, which covered eighteen long years of metropolitan sports misery and depression.

And they did in in old, beat up Memorial Stadium without a word of complaint. No clubhouse seating? No problem. They were the ultimate fan and family-oriented franchise: they were a hell of a team and they gave a damn about the people living around them.

They treated this city as if we were rock stars and the city happily returned the favor. I still remember some of the names - RB Mike Pringle and QB Tracy Ham in particular - and their oddball league rules - three plays to a set of downs; twelve men on the field come to mind..

When the Ravens arrived in 1996, it spelled the doom of the Stallions and both team and fans knew it. There was no bitterness because life was intruding on Camelot as everyone knew that it could, and it would be folly to turn down a real NFL franchise for the CFL. We simply couldn't, wouldn't, and shouldn't turn down the NFL..

But rather than a funeral, their brief time here struck me as more of a celebration of a quicky love affair that in retrospect was doomed early on when the husband thought to be dead in Cleveland all of a sudden returned home alive and well..

Good memories; good times. But I digress. You guys really should find out what happened to these people.before we fans have to pay to read all about it.

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