Maris chase brings spotlight back to Fisher Despite 'good luck' vs. Yank, former Oriole yielded No. 60

September 05, 1998|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

There were a couple of days last week when "Fat Jack's" place in Easton, Pa., more closely resembled the legendary TV bar "Cheers" than just another sports hangout in small-town America.

Thrust into the role of Sam Malone, as portrayed by Ted Danson so ably on the tube, was the owner of the establishment, Jack Fisher.

First, ESPN's cameras were there reminiscing about the last days of Roger Maris' charge to supplant Babe Ruth as the all-time, one-season home run king, and Fisher played a significant role.

No, Fat Jack didn't give up the historic No. 61 to the New York Yankees' right fielder. That dubious honor was reserved for Tracy Stallard of the Boston Red Sox on the last day of the 1961 season.

But, if Maris had had his way, Fisher, who gave up the record-tying 60th homer, would have been the answer to a trivia question, as Washington pitcher Tom Zachary was for 34 years after he surrendered No. 60 to the Bambino.

As Maris closed in on Ruth's mark, he said on more than one occasion, "I hope I just hit 60." He figured things would have been better for all concerned if he equaled Ruth's record, not eclipsed it.

Unlike Stallard, who sought and achieved recent seclusion, Fisher has remained accessible as the media closed in to cover Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa nearing the record. Fisher says calmly, "I can't say it would have bothered me if Roger had hit No. 61 off me. What the heck, I gave up No. 60.

"You know, the fact is I had good luck against Maris. That home run might have been the only hit he had off me that season and I didn't miss a turn against the Yankees. You never thought about walking Roger, not with No. 7 [Mickey Mantle] on deck."

Maris belted his 59th homer off Orioles right-hander Milt Pappas, Pappas revealing with great fanfare the other day that, prior to the game he had informed Maris he would be receiving nothing but fat, juicy fastballs during the game.

"Ridiculous," says Fisher. "I don't know why Miltie would say such a thing after all these years. When you're a pitcher, you're out there to win. You never give in. You're going to give up big hits and lose, but that's the game.

"I don't think McGwire or Sosa would respect anyone who gave in to them. If you go down, you go down giving it your best shot."

Of No. 60, Fisher said, "I was ahead 3-1 in about the seventh inning when Maris hit it into the seats. Like I said, I wasn't going to walk him with Mantle following.

"I was still ahead 3-2, so the home run didn't mean that much [in] the game. We ended up losing the game with two outs in the ninth when someone hit a line drive to center field and Jackie Brandt tried for a shoestring catch. He missed and the ball rolled all the way to the monuments. We lost, 4-3."

Fisher, a Frostburg native, pitched one more year for the Orioles before he, left-hander Billy Hoeft and catcher Jim Coker were traded to the San Francisco Giants for pitchers Stu Miller and Mike McCormick and catcher John Orsino.

He then was plucked off the Giants' roster by the New York Mets in the 1964 expansion draft and spent four seasons there before DTC being traded to the Chicago White Sox. His days in the majors ended after the 1969 season in Cincinnati. He was released by the California Angels in spring training in 1970 and pitched for the Orioles' Triple-A team in Rochester that season.

"I wasn't going to make it back to the bigs, so I retired," Fisher said.

Pub Date: 9/05/98

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