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The Bird dies
April 13, 2009 - Steve Murch
Like most people, I was surprised to hear Mark"The Bird" Fidrych died today. Of course, any time someone dies in an accident itás out of the blue.
Most fans of a certain age will remember Fidrych and his antics when he pitched with the Detroit Tigers. He captured the attention of the baseball world, and lured in the casual fan, as he talked to the baseball, dropped to his knees to manicure the mound and bounced around like a kid who had too much sugar. In other words, he acted like a big kid playing a kidás game surrounded by a bunch of men.
I like to believe Fidrych understood he was getting paid to play a kidás game and he was enjoying it to its fullest.
In an freaky coincidence, the MLB Network just aired the game that introduced Fidrych to America in 1976. I watched the final three innings of that game Saturday, enjoying as much as I did the first time I saw it 33 years ago. It was one of the first times fans called for a player to make a curtain call after a regular season game.
The summer of à76 was a fun one for Tigers fans and Fidrych was the reason. He won 19 of his 29 starts that year and was the reason Tiger Stadium was packed on a regular basis. He started the all-star game as a rookie that year, and along with Ron LeFlore and Rusty Staub gave the Tigers three starters that year.
He went 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA that year and finished his career with a 29-19 with a 3.10 ERA. Injuries cut short his career. He had 24 complete games that year, and I firmly believe that Ralph Houk, the Tigers manager that year, had a hand in his arm troubles by having him complete so many games that year.
I was at a game Fidrych pitched that year. Tiger Stadium was packed and loud. And the Tigers lost. Even though the fans were disappointed in the outcome, they were entertained by Fidrych. He will always have a place in the hearts of Tigers fans who saw him or cheered for him in the summer of 1976.
Rest in peace Mark Fidrych.
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