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Go, Bird, go!

Mark Fidrych You’ve all heard it by now. Mark “The Bird” Fidrych is dead. He was 54.

There are plenty of places to read about The Bird, like here and especially here.

I remember watching him when I was a kid, in that glorious bicentennial summer of 1976, back in old Tiger Stadium—at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull (which, incidentally, used to be called Briggs Stadium; family lore has it that the namesake was a relative gone bad).

Bird was the Young Phenom whose career ended like most other Phenoms: too early. Anyway, Fidrych was paid a whopping $16,500 in his all-star year. Not bad back then, but not great either.

My mother used to see him at an annual Winter Special Olympics fundraiser (she retired from Michigan SO). The Wertz Warriors (named for another all-star Tiger) gather in Traverse City and have a snowmobile parade to kick off the winter events. Fidrych was always invited and would show up in, according to my dad, a “silvery colored, flimsy, cruddy old snowmobile suit.” The Warriors felt bad for Fidrych and chipped in and bought him a new one.

Fidrych, who lived in The People’s Republic of Massachusetts, was never away from Detroit for long. Every now and then he’d pop up in the Tiger’s announcer’s booth wearing a Hawaiian shirt and say a few words. He was always grateful to be there, still amazed that the fans loved him.

We’ll miss you, Bird.

2 thoughts on “Go, Bird, go! Leave a comment

  1. The unfortunate thing for Mark was that his career was shortened by an injury that today would have been correctable, much as modern medicine might have saved the career of Bert Jones, described by Bill Belichick as the best pure passer he ever saw. Fidrych was magical that one summer, though, and a thoroughly nice person, too. MLB’s new channel conincidentally had a game he pitched against the Yankees on National TV that year on just the day before his death. I watched in amazement at how well Fidrych actually pitched, with so much movement on his ball and of himself. It took me back in time, too.

  2. When I took my sons to Detroit in March 2008 to see Davidson play in Ford Field for the NCAA Regional we drove by Briggs. I tried to describe all the baseball history that had happened there, but all they could see was a neighborhood that looked like a war zone. In a third world country. Detroit must have lost the war, too.

    The new park across from Ford Field is beautiful, but driving by Briggs was a complete shock.

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