Yesterday Mark “The Bird” Fidrych died in an accident on his Massachusetts farm at the age of 54. I read a lot of words about Fidrych, who had one magical season in 1976 at the very height of my own love of baseball. I think the best were written by Michael Rosenberg who also wrote this excellent feature on Fidrych in 2006 and said:
Mark Fidrych reminded you of your childhood, no matter how old you were when he pitched. This was his charm, his curse, his legacy. He personified athletic innocence.
His childlike love of the game is what’s remembered by many, but for the 1976 season he was also a devastating pitcher who went 19-9, finished as runner up for the Cy Young, led the majors in ERA and won the AL Rookie of the Year award. From Sports Illustrated:
…he did not pitch like any 21-year-old anyone had ever seen. He had impeccable, almost freakish, control. He hardly ever walked anyone. He walked one batter in an 11-inning victory at Texas on the fifth of June, and followed it up by walking nobody his next time out against the California Angels. He won nine of his 10 first decisions. He allowed just one run against the New York Yankees on Monday Night Baseball. He threw an 11-inning shutout against Oakland on July 16.
The second best words I read were penned by Samara Pearlstein at Roar of the Tigers who also took the photo to the left and suggests:
I suggest a memorial to one of the best things about him– his ability to bring fun to a sometimes deeply (some would say ‘overly’) serious sport. Baseball is, after all, a game, and it’s SUPPOSED to be fun; Fidrych understood that.
So, tomorrow, go out and do a little something ‘willfully eccentric’ (thanks for the phrase, commenter Matt). Talk to your car. Groom the seat of your office chair with your hands. Change pens because the old one doesn’t have enough great ideas in it. Smile at yourself a little, and think of the Bird.
Much more about this weird and wonderful character can be found in the Detroit Tigers statement on Fidrych, Wikipedia’s Mark Fidrych entry and at BaseballReference.com’s page for Mark Steven Fidrych. Please share your comments, memories and links in the comments below.
Definitely watch this interview with Mark “The Bird” Fydrich.