Monday, April 13, 2009
Mark Fidrych, 1954-2009
I got nothing funny or cute to say about this. Mark "the Bird" Fidrych was a source of endless joy to baseball fans in Detroit, in his native Massachusetts, and around the nation in that magical summer of 1976, when he won 19 games as a 21-year-old rookie for the Tigers. Fidrych was killed on his farm on Northborough, Massachusetts, earlier this afternoon.
The MLB Network recently aired Firdych's masterful beatdown of the Yankees just before the All-Star break in 1976, before a huge, raucous crowd at Tiger Stadium. Afterward, a dazed but happy Fidrych came out in his stocking feet to do a postgame interview. When the interview asked him if he knew he was still throwing 91 mph in the ninth inning, Fidrych looked kind of confused and said, "I don't know, no one's ever timed my ball before. I don't know how hard I throw."
His delirious smile made him look like a kid who had just come out of an Aerosmith concert having unexpectedly scored front-row seats. The Bird's innocent exuberance captured the way a lot of us fell in love with baseball. None of us who watched him pitch that summer will ever forget him.