Monday, April 13, 2009

Remembering "The Bird"

Sadly, former Detroit Tigers pitcher, Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, passed away today after an accident at his home in Northborough, Mass. He was 54. [Boston Globe article here]

My family attended a many Tiger baseball games in the '80s and '90s, and I grew up hearing a lot about "The Bird" courtesy of my Dad. He was a star the year before I was born, but with all these stories, I knew this guy was pretty special. His disheveled blond curls, nice-guy grin and larger-than-life persona charmed Detroit and the nation alike, for he became as popular for talking to the baseball or "manicuring the mound" as he did for his athletic prowess. His biggest fans were pegged as "Bird Watchers."

In 1976, 21-year-old rookie won 19 games and only lost 9, and led the American League with 2.34 ERA. That May, at his major league debut, he threw a two-hitter against the Cleveland Indians. But it was in June that Fidrych's true-celeb moment came into action. In front of nearly 48,000 fans at Tiger Stadium, Fidrych pitched a seven-hitter against the New York Yankees, wowing both Detroiters and fans watching the excitement via ABC's "Monday Night Baseball." Plagued by injury during his last years in baseball, Mark Fidrych retired in 1980.

"When you're a winner you're always happy, but if you're happy as a loser you'll always be a loser."

-- Mark "The Bird" Fidrych (R.I.P.)

*Fidrych was the first athlete to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone. During my internship in 1999, I scanned the famous wall of covers for Fidrych's beaming mug. My picture is featured above.

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