Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Mark "The Bird" Fydrich
I woke this morning to hear of the tragic, premature death of former Detroit Tiger Rookie of the Year Mark "The Bird" Fidrych. The 54 year old Fidrych was found dead while apparently working on his asphalt truck. The cause of death is still under investigation.
Fidrych lived a life full of excitement and tragedy. The reason you probably have not heard of "The Bird" (who was given the moniker due to his gangly "Big Bird" like manner on the pitcher's mound) was because the 1976 Rookie of the Year's career was cut tragically short due to a torn rota tor cuff that was not diagnosed until some years after he left baseball; an injury which can often times be repaired today.
Only some of us long time Tigers fans remember The Bird. I was lucky to see his first game as a 9 year old in 1976 at Tiger's Stadium. Fidrych had everyone laughing and wondering what he was doing as he seemed to be talking to the ball and dropping to the ground to manicure the mound with his hand between pitches. He went on to pitch a two hit game, start that year's All-Star Game and go on to win Rookie of the Year.
Unfortunately, his shoulder injury the next year relegated him to the "one hit wonder" category of baseball history and regretfully his league minimum $16,500 salary and eventual 3 year contract of $225,000 was not enough to retire on. In recent years he has had to rely on a road construction business for a livlihood; a livelihood that seemed to be a factor in his presumed accidental death.
So, thanks Bird, for the childhood memories you gave me, my family, and the Tiger fans in Detroit. You'll be missed!