Robert Fick’s final home run in Tiger Stadium proved legitimate this week, despite Fick’s admission to using steroids in 2000. (RichKD, Flickr)
Largely, the Detroit Tigers’ franchise has remained untouched by baseball’s steroid problem which was prevalant in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but a revered, memorable former member of the team during those times did make a juicy admission about his own juicing this week.
Robert Fick, who delivered the 11,111th (and final) home run within the confines of storied Tiger Stadium in 1999, said he used steroids “twice” to help him rehab from a shoulder injury in 2000, but was not on the sauce when he hit his now-iconic home run onto the roof in right field against the Kansas City Royals to close down the stadium in epic fashion.
Whew. Thank goodness that moment will always remain untainted for Detroit. Had Fick’s final home run been with the benefit of steroids, it would have been arguably the ugliest black eye for baseball in the Motor City. So many cherish that moment as special and spiritual; especially those lucky enough to be in attendance. I should know, because I was there, excitedly watching the ball sail out of view over a sea of taller heads.
What Fick did, wearing Norm Cash’s old number, hitting the ball where Cash pounded so many home runs after Cash’s teammate, Al Kaline, told him he’d hit a home run, then hitting the ball almost directly into “Kaline’s Corner” was a better story than a movie scriptwriter could have penned. As ideal closures for a stadium go, you’d be hard pressed to find one better. Nothing like that, no obvious culling from the ghosts, even happened when Yankee Stadium closed its doors in 2008.
With steroids everywhere during that time, though, you could forgive Tiger fans for wondering if their one memorable moment from the 1990s was clean. Back then, players were trying to get a leg up no matter where they played, hoping to stave off injury and stay in the game. Fick admitted that’s why he turned to the contraband in the first place when he did. Had Fick been shooting up in the locker room before games in 1999 even in the minor leagues, it would have rendered the now incomparable backstory behind his hit meaningless. So what if he wore Cash’s number, so what if Kaline told him he’d hit a home run, he would have always been viewed as having the product swinging for him.
Now, with the timeline complete in Fick’s admission, everybody can finally move on from their concerns. The Tigers were pathetic most of that decade and even into the next, but fans will always have September 27, 1999. For one sunny afternoon, the Tigers were on top of the baseball world, making every play necessary to properly send their stadium to it’s long rest. After playing host to big moments from plenty of juicers like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Jose Canseco and Roger Clemens, Tiger Stadium deserved it’s last home run to be squeaky clean, representative of a bygone era when players like Babe Ruth, Hank Greenberg, Roger Maris and Cash used legitimate bulk to clear its fences.
The baseball ghosts likely wouldn’t have it any other way in their legendary playground, which is also probably the same reason Fick’s home run will never need an asterisk during an era dotted with them.
Continue to rest easy, Tiger Stadium. Thankfully, your final home run will always be a legitimate feat of strength, but you probably knew that all along, anyway.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax