Mark Fidrych (1954-2009)

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    Baseball fans and even pop culture observers may remember when Mark "The Bird" Fidrych electrified the baseball world in 1976. The charismatic 20 year old rookie joined the pitching staff of the Detroit Tigers during the Bicentennial year. He collected 19 wins, 24 complete games and a league-leading ERA. His performance earned him the Rookie Of The Year award and a starting spot in the All-Star Game.

    Fans were intrigued with his on-field antics -- he would TALK to the baseball, manicure the mound with his hands and generally inject enthusiasum into the game while strutting around the mound between pitches. Attendance numbers dramatically increased for both home and road games when The Bird was pitching.

    He was nicknamed "The Bird" because of his resemblance to Big Bird from Sesame Street. The two even posed together for a magazine cover. That year he was also the first athlete pictured on the cover of Rolling Stone.

    I was saddened to hear the news of his passing on Monday. It instantly transported me back to the Bicentennial year and those memories. As a kid, that was when I first started playing organized baseball and also collecting baseball cards. This is his rookie card from my childhood baseball card collection. I haven't looked at my cards in about 15 years, as I moved on to collecting other things. But when I heard the news, I immediately thought of this particular card, recalling from memory exactly what it looked like.

    Injuries cut his career very short, but fans still fondly remember that one magical year. Baseball needs more like him. Rest in peace.

    prettywar-stl, J/G, m matthys, C@L, and 8 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    1. robert schneider (rolopix) 73 months ago | reply

      It's too sad. He was supposed to be great guy with a heart of gold.

      Nice card.

    2. jackszwergold [deleted] 73 months ago | reply

      Oh man. I remember the "Bird"... And I remember the days of 1970s baseball when folks weren't juiced up on steroids and just decent guys/players. R.I.P.

    3. JasonLiebig 73 months ago | reply

      Nice one. Here's a shot from my own collection. He was the first athlete on a Dynamite cover, too. It would be many years before another would follow. He is remembered, and will be missed:

      Dynamite Issue 038

    4. Waffle Whiffer 73 months ago | reply

      [:::] Light Under A Bushel -- I've always heard the same - a positive, kind and happy guy.

      [:::] Jack -- Me too. It's a shame what has happened to MLB.

      [:::] Jason -- Very nice! Thanks for sharing that.

    5. Waffle Whiffer 73 months ago | reply

      Someone else posted this picture of The Bird with Big Bird. Fantastic! Take a look here --

    6. bormang2 73 months ago | reply

      Sad that he's gone. I also read somewhere that he would enthusiastically shake hands with teammates in the middle of an inning when they made a good play. Don't know if MLB would tolerate his antics now...

    7. prettywar-stl 73 months ago | reply

      So sad, thanks for posting.

    8. J/G 73 months ago | reply

      Fantastic card!! Great story! He was my first Sports Hero!Salute and Rip Mark!

    9. EllenJo 73 months ago | reply

      Aw, sad to read of his death. He was truly a one-of-a-kind baseball memory.

    10. Waffle Whiffer 72 months ago | reply

      [:::] Thanks everyone for taking the time to remember this unique and special individual. He will be missed.

    11. m matthys 72 months ago | reply

      Such a great pitcher and character -- I used to love to watch him pitch.

      Very sad to hear of his passing last week..., thanks for posting this.

      The day he died, ESPN Classic was showing a game he pitched against the Yankees. It was amazing to watch him; he always looked like he was having so much fun out there.

      RIP, Bird...

    12. C@L 72 months ago | reply

      somewhere deep in the box in the basement, i've got this card...

    13. Twang Your Head 72 months ago | reply

      Dang... sorry to hear about his passing. He was a great story - I've always liked unique athletes. Thanks for the post.

    14. Dean Stevens 72 months ago | reply

      Hi, I'm an admin for a group called Detroit Sports Teams, and we'd love to have this added to the group!

    15. carrieann74 72 months ago | reply

      RIP. Makes me sad. He will be remembered.

    16. Waffle Whiffer 72 months ago | reply

      [:::] Thanks for the comments. I'm sure that his family would be pleased to know how fondly he is remembered by his fans.

    17. James at 49 72 months ago | reply

      Rest in Peace, Bird - thanks for making this young baseball fan happy about a team that wasn't the Red Sox :)

    18. GoGetEmTigers 63 months ago | reply

      I absolutely loved watching Mark pitch. Sadly, I only have one game he pitched on video. At least I can watch it and see the energy, and love of pitching he had! He ran on and off the mound... even in the 9th inning! He was sort of like Verlander... the further into the game, the more energy he seemed to have! RIP Mark.

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