It is not too often you would find a Cleveland Indians fan deep behind enemy lines - living in Tiger country in Michigan.
But this Newton Falls native works for the government. Actually, he toils for the National Archives, shuffling documents at the Gerald R. Ford Library in Ann Arbor. But Mark Fischer's heart belongs to the Tribe. Since the middle 1960s, he has kept track of every Indians game attended.
By early 2014, he will have gone to his thousandth Indians game in person at either Progressive Field or Municipal Stadium.
"My first game at the old stadium was back in 1967," Fischer said. "I went with the Cub Scouts and the Indians were playing the old Kansas City A's. It rained out after five or six innings, but it was an official game."
Fischer credits his Grandpa Dick, his maternal grandfather Forrest Resler of Windham, with fueling his lifetime fix for the Tribe. Forrest attended the first game at Municipal Stadium in 1932 and also was there when Bob Hope sang "Thanks for the Memories" and closed the lakefront edifice to baseball in 1993.
Fisher remembers his dad and grandpa taking him to a 1968 game where Sonny Siebert beat the California Angels, and that's when his 45-year love affair began.
"Grandpa Dick and I were at a game in 1991, the 50th anniversary of the 56-game hitting streak by Joe Dimagio," Fischer recalled. "I started to ask him about where he was when the Indians snapped the streak and he surprisingly said 'I was right behind third base.' I said 'Grandpa you never told me that you were there.' "
Now attending about 30 to 40 games a year in Cleveland, Mark is part-owner of a full season package and also has a 20-game plan with tickets on the third base side. His cousin Gary Beddnik of Newton Falls helps him organize and distributes tickets when Mark can't make it home. Mind you, he is commuting back and forth from Ann Arbor, a good three-hour drive one way.
When he is at Progressive Field, Mark sometimes is accompanied by his 85-year-old mom who still lives in Newton Falls. Fischer's friend, Jacob Blazsek, says on these visits, "Mark has time to eat dinner at his mom's house and then heads for the ball game."
His mom wrote an excused absence in Fischer's junior year of high school during the spring of 1975. As he turned in the excuse at the school office, baseball coach Al Charney whispered, "have a good time!"
Coach knew Fischer was going to the ballpark and watch player-manager Frank Robinson celebrate opening day with a home run against the Yankees.
Working almost two decades in the Nation's Capital, Fischer often attended games at nearby Camden Yards in Baltimore. It was during one of those visits that he met fellow Newton Falls native and Indians fan Rod Zeck in line at the concession stand. Zeck used to buy some of those tickets that Fischer couldn't use.
Fischer played basketball at Newton Falls and graduated from YSU with a master's degree in history. His first job was as a librarian at the Arms Museum in downtown Youngstown. It was there he found out about a job with the National Archives. In the late 1980s, he started working on the Richard M. Nixon archives and met with some of the biggest figures of the Watergate era, including John Dean, John Ehrlichman and Bob Woodward. He also got to see Ronald Reagan and George Bush up close and in person.
"That Ronald Reagan was bigger than life," he said.
But the biggest thrill for Fischer is still sitting on the third base side of Progressive Field and eating a hot dog with mustard.
"With all due respect to the local Hot Dog Shoppe, there is no better hot dog in the world than the one at the ball park."
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