Hype Sky High for Fielder's 50th : Baseball: Detroit Tigers first baseman cool as club cranks up the fever for would-be collectors.

From Associated Press

For somebody who's already hit 48 home runs, driven in 126 runs and helped lift the Detroit Tigers out of the basement, Cecil Fielder may end up disappointing people.

The prospect of Fielder becoming the first major leaguer in 13 years to hit 50 home runs in a season has generated white-hot hype in recent days.

Whoever catches his 50th homer could:

-Donate it to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Hall has the record 61st home run ball hit by Roger Maris in Yankee Stadium in 1961. Fielder's 50th would be part of its 1990 collection that will be displayed through 1992.

-Sell it. Collectors say the ball could be worth $200 or more.

-Trade it. Tiger officials say anyone wanting to give it to Fielder would be escorted by an usher to the stadium office, where the fan could meet the first baseman after the game and possibly trade the ball for another ball, a bat or other item.

-Keep it, as what Tom House calls "a vicarious connection" to a star.

In 1974, Henry Aaron's 715th home run, hit off Al Downing, broke Babe Ruth's career record. House, then an Atlanta reliever, caught it in the Braves' bullpen.

"A baseball is a physical representation that connects a person of star status with a person of something less than star status," said House, the Texas Rangers' pitching coach. "It ties the two of them together in a way they never would be otherwise.

"That's why people will tear up a $500 suit to get a $6 baseball."

When Fielder became the third player to hit a ball over the left field roof at Tiger Stadium on Aug. 25, Tigers official Dan Ewald presented him with that ball, recovered from a rain gutter by a member of the grounds crew. Then four fans showed up at the Tigers' offices the next day claiming they had the ball.

Fielder, trailed by cameras, reporters and autograph hunters every step, seems to have a casual attitude about mementoes, Ewald said.

"When we gave him the over-the-roof ball, Ewald said, "he wasn't all that excited. He kept it, but . . . I mean, it was just a baseball."

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