As Spud Fischer approaches his 50th birthday, he reflects on a life spent playing the game he loves. FYC’s own Scoop McGillicutty was able to spend some time with Spud Fischer this morning at his home outside of Toledo, OH.
Spud grew up in tiny Hillsboro, Illinois where he was the only child of Henry and Vidalia Fischer. The Fischers owned a small family restaurant specializing in bacon wrapped baked potatoes. It was a unique idea at the time, but Henry Fischer says “I was too busy cooking bacon to sling the meat if you know what I mean – too busy throwing potatoes in the oven to throw a bun in there yaddamean? It’s why Spud’s an only kid.”
Here’s Scoop’s exclusive interview.
Scoop: My burning question. How’d you get the name Spud?
Fischer: Well, my parents own a potato restaurant. It’s in our blood. In fact, my uncle owns a restaurant too. It’s a salad bar, called The Salad Bar. My cousins, Caesar and Cobb still run that business. Restauranting is as integral to my family as baseball. Has been since I was just a kid.
Scoop: Makes as much sense as it can I suppose. So, you grew up in a rural Illinois town and became a Major Leaguer before you could drink a beer. Tell me what it was like to basically spend all of your adult life in the majors.
Fischer: Sometimes I sit back and laugh about it all. I didn’t play a lick of baseball until I was in 9th grade. I basically played 4 years in High School and then next thing I knew it, I was in Toledo. That first game at Fifth Third Field, I knew this was my destiny. This was my “thing.” Before that, I always assumed I might go back home and work in the restaurant.
Scoop: With only 4 years of high school experience before being drafted 2nd overall, how were you so prepared for life in the majors?
Fischer: I spent some time in the minors too, and that really helped me. Funny story though, as a kid, my dad would put me in front of the stove and just throw potatoes at me. I’d catch them and throw them in the oven at 450 degrees. They didn’t have olive oil on them or anything. Just straight potatoes man.
Scoop: You’re kidding? You’re a 3-time Gold Glove winner, and you learned to field by snagging potatoes?
Fischer: Yep. I learned to swing by using a broom too. My parents would ask me to sweep the restaurant, and I would. Fast. Then I’d go out back and try to hit rocks with a broomstick over Highway 51. I guess I got pretty good after a while.
Scoop: I’d say so. You’re a 5-time MVP, and a 5-time Silver Slugger. You’re also 3rd on the all-time RBI list. I’m going to go home and make my kid hit rocks with a broom.
Fischer: Hahaha. Yeah, it certainly worked out well for me. And don’t forget, I won a ring too!
Scoop: That’s my next topic. How did that feel?
Fischer: You know, it happened so early in my career, I thought it would happen 5 times. Hell, maybe 10 times. The MVPs were nice. But man. That ring. The celebration was just so much fun. It’s a feeling I’ll never forget and it’s my biggest accomplishment, something I’m very proud of.
Scoop: Let’s talk a bit about the things you aren’t as proud of. What could you have done better in your career?
Fischer: The career .295 BA hurts. I’m a perfectionist, and I’d really like that to have been .300. Some of those later years really brought my numbers down man. But to answer your next question, no, I wouldn’t trade it for a thing.
Scoop: In my last interview with Tommy Coggin, we talked about the 6 career innings he spent at SS. You spent 7 innings at 3B in S18. How was that?
Fischer: Man, it was awesome. That year, we basically had a platoon at 3B – mostly Pedro Machado and my good friend, Harry Flores. Harry and I always joked about how he wasn’t strong enough to play 3rd, and I always joked that I could do a better job than he could over there. When I got my chance, I was on cloud 9 man. Made it through a few innings without seeing any action, but the first ball hit to me, that sonofabitch took two hard hops and I don’t even know how I got my glove on it. It almost hit me in the face. I snagged it and got it out of the glove, and then I threw it into the 7th row. I knew then that 3B wasn’t for me. Harry never let me live it down. Maybe my dad should have thrown potatoes a little harder back in the restaurant.
Scoop: That’s a great story. You’re very funny Spud.
Fischer: Well it’s not all me. I’m just a little digital ballplayer with a heart made of code. The people that write blogs, they’re the heroes.
Scoop: I agree. But let’s move on, no one reads this thing. You know that. You made more than $100 million in more than two decades of pro ball. What’s life like now?
Fischer: Well, being an only child, I decided I wanted lots of kids. I have 6: Merritt, Garrett, Calvin, Penelope, Rachel and Otto. They’re named after Toledo’s owner, MGCPRO. He’s a good man. The kids each run at least one of the food trucks we started after I retired. Keeping the family business alive you know. Those kids know potatoes that’s for sure.
Scoop: I had you pegged for a family man and I’ll let you get back to it. Thanks for your time Spud.
Fischer: You got it Scoop. Want a bacon wrapped potato?
Scoop: No thanks Spud. I have ice cream in the car.