John Howard Fisher known as "Fat Jack", was born on March 4, 1939 in Frostburg, Maryland. The six foot two right hander was signed out of high school in 1957, at Augusta, Georgia by the Baltimore Orioles.
In 1958 he won 14 games going 14-12 at the low levels of the minors leagues, getting up to AAA Miami the following season. There he was 8-4 making it to the big leagues as part of the Orioles “kiddie corps” pitching staff, going 1-6 on the year. He made his debut in New York pitching three innings of relief allowing four runs on seven hits. He earned his first win pitching a three hit shutout against the Chicago White Sox on September 11th.
1960 was his only winning season, as he went 12-11 with a 3.41 ERA, striking out 97 batters in 197 innings pitched.
He went into the record books that season, giving up Ted Williams last career HR (#521) in Williams' final major league at bat. The next season he gave up another famous HR, this one was Roger Maris’ #60 tying him with Babe Ruth for the single season record.
Overall he was 10-13 in 1961, pitching ten complete games posting a 3.90 ERA, while leading the league with 10 wild pitches. He saved one game & pitched eleven games in relief as well making 25 starts. After another season in Baltimore (7-9) he was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Mike McCormick & two other players. After just one season in the Bay Area (going 6-10), where he led all N.L. pitchers in fielding, he was drafted away by the New York Mets before the 1964 season.
Fisher went into the Mets record books right away, by starting the first game ever played at Shea Stadium on April 17, 1964. According to Fisher, the crowd noise was so over whelming during the pregame, he asked manager Casey Stengel if he could warm up in the bull pen rather than on the mound. Due to this request, he credits himself with starting the tradition of having the starting pitcher warm up in the bullpen before a game. "I could actually feel the sound waves hitting me on the chest," he said of the game that day.
As Bob Murphy made the call, Fisher threw a strike on the outside corner of the plate christening the beginning of Mets baseball at the new Shea Stadium. Fisher pitched into the 7th inning that Opening day, although he allowed eleven hits, he only gave up three runs while getting no decision. That day he also allowed the first HR at Shea Stadium, to Pittsburgh’s future Hall of Famer; Willie Stargell.
Fisher got two more starts that April, taking a loss to the Pirates in Pittsburgh.
He would have an up & down season that year; At the end of May he tossed back to back complete games where allowed just one earned run each time. He beat the Cubs at Wrigley Field & beat the Giants at Shea Stadium. On July 19th he allowed just two runs, in a complete game 3-2 win over the St. Louis Cards. By the All Star break Fisher was 5-8 and put up the same win loss record in the second half. On August 21st Fisher pitched a seven hit shutout at Shea Stadium against the Chicago Cubs. In September he was 1-2 & also pitched a few games in relief.
He finished up 1964 at 10-17 (5th most losses in the league) with a 4.23 ERA. He topped the staff in many categories, innings (227) hits (256), HRs (27) & a league leading 107 earned runs.
In 1965 he began the year with a good May winning three straight games, beating the Cardinals, Braves & Reds all at home. Wins on the road at Chicago & Pittsburgh brought him to 5-4 into early June, but then it got worse from there. Fisher then lost 12 of his next 14 decisions, including a terrible 0-6 September. On October 3rd, in the last game of the season, he pitched 13 innings at Shea Stadium against the Philadelphia Phillies. He allowed just three runs, but a top of the 13th RBI single to "Dr. Strange Glove" Dick Stuart, ended up being the game winning hit & he took the loss.
Fisher led the league in losses that season, going 8-24, he also allowed the most earned runs in the league, for the second straight year (111). He pitched in 253 innings which gave him a respectable 3.94 ERA, strangely the best ERA on the staff. More amazingly, he actually led the staff with his eight wins.
In 1966 he started out the year at 0-4, giving him eleven straight losing decisions, dating back to the previous season. He broke the string with a win against the San Francisco Giants, on May 14th, pitching into the 8th inning. He had a good June going 3-1 & pitching four complete games. On June 3rd he tossed a one run, three hitter at Shea Stadium, beating Don Drysdale & the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-2. On July 4th, in the second game of a twin bill, he pitched a one run complete game striking out seven Phillies in Philadelphia.
On July 20th, he pitched ten innings at Candlestick Park, against the Giants allowing just two runs, earning the victory. August brought wins against the St. Louis Cardinals Al Jackson & Ray Washburn both at home & on the road. In September he closed out the season with a four hit shutout in Houston & a six hit shutout at Shea Stadium against the same Astros.
1966 would be his best Mets season, as Fat Jack went 11-14 with a 3.68 ERA, striking out a career high 127 batters in 230 innings pitched, while walking just 54. He allowed 26 HRs which was 7th most in the league & his 229 hits allowed was tenth most. Fisher was always a good fielding pitcher, he led the league with 26 put outs.
In 1967 he started the third game of the year, allowing four runs on eight hits against the Philadelphia Phillies, taking the 5-1 loss. When the Phillies came to Shea, he beat them next time around 6-3. In May he pitched two consecutive games of eleven innings or more, but earned just one win, which came against the Cincinnati Reds.
He won his next start by beating the St. Louis Cardinals on a six hit, one run complete game performance, besting his record to 3-2. But then he lost five straight games from mid May until mid June, before getting another victory.
It took a two hit shutout against the Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium to earn another win. The rest of the year wasn’t much better; he lost eight of his last 12 decisions, although he pitched until the eighth inning or beyond eight more times. On July 14th he lost a 1-0 pitchers duel to the Reds Gary Nolan, Tony Perez ended the game with a 10th inning walk off HR.
Fisher again went on to lead the league in losses (18) & earned runs (115). He allowed 25 HRs (5th in the league) & 221 hits (3rd most). He was 9-18 pitching in 220 innings with a 4.80 ERA, he struck out 116 batters walking 68 in 220 innings pitched.
In his Mets career Fisher, led the league in losses twice & earned runs three times. Every year allowing the most HRs, hits & earned runs on the New York staff each as well.
In his four seasons with the Mets, he was 38-73 allowing 92 HRs, 427 earned runs while posting a 4.12 ERA in 160 appearances. On December 15, 1967, Fisher was traded along with Tommy Davis, Buddy Booker, and Billy Wynne to the Chicago White Sox for Tommie Agee and Al Weis.
Fisher went 8-13 in Chicago, and pitched just one more season (1969) in Cincinnati. In his eleven year career he went 86-139 with 1017 strikeouts in 1975 innings pitched posting a 4.06 ERA in 400 games pitched.
Retirement: After his pitching career, he was briefly a pitching coach before opening his own business. He opened Fat Jack's sports bar in Easton, Pennsylvania, running the establishment until he sold it in 1998. While living in Easton he lived just a few blocks from former Heavyweight boxing champ, Larry Holmes.
In 2008 he visited the skeleton of Shea Stadium as it was being demolished, after he had attended a banquet in Times Square for former ball players. "I guess it's trying hard to stand up, like we were as a young ballclub," said Fisher to the Daily News "It's a pretty sad scene."
He can still be found at autograph shows signing "first pitch at Shea- Fat Jack".