Sunday, June 25, 2006

June 25th, 1921

Ray Fisher Banned

Most of the players placed on the "Permanently Ineligible" list are at least mildly (in)famous, having been placed there for gambling or game-fixing or things of that nature. At least one of them however, was placed on the list for an entirely different reason, and later assembled such a formidable reputation that he was invited to Old Timers' Day at Yankee Stadium as the Guest of Honor. That man was Ray Fisher.

Fisher was a sometimes good but generally league average starter for the Yankees and Reds in the teens, having his best year in 1915 when he won eighteen games with a 2.11 ERA. Fisher left the Yankees for the Reds after the 1917 season, and pitched in two games in the 1919 World Series, taking the loss when Dickie Kerr (one of the "Clean Sox") threw a shutout in Game Three. Fisher apparently retired after the 1920 season, ending his career with exactly one hundred wins. It is at this point that things get a little hazy, with multiple people having different versions of the same story. The consensus view seems to be that Fisher asked to be placed on the voluntarily retired list so that could accept the head baseball coach job at the University of Michigan. Reds' management apparently annoyed with Fisher's past salary demands instead renewed his contract and when Fisher (obviously) didn't pitch in 1921, had him banned for contract jumping. The irony of placing a member of the 1919 Reds on the same list as the 1919 White Sox evidently escaped both Reds' management and Judge Landis.

Ultimately, Fisher would have the last laugh. He helped build Michigan into a baseball powerhouse, coaching there for thirty-eight years, winning a number--sources vary between nine, fourteen and fifteen--of Big Ten titles, and the National Championship in 1953. (Fisher also coached freshman football for a period; one of his players was future President Gerald Ford.) The Michigan baseball field is to this day named in his honor. Finally in 1960 Fisher was removed from the banned list, and awarded a lifetime pass to all Major League games. One assumes Fisher enjoyed a number of games on that pass, as he lived to be ninety-five years old and was the oldest living Red and Yankee at the time of his death in 1982. The year before his death, however, was the likely highlight for Fisher, as that marked his Guest of Honor appearance at Yankee Stadium on Old Timers' Day. Suffice it to say it was a long way from the permanently ineligible list.

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