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