I was truly saddened to learn of the death today in Massachusetts of Mark “The Bird” Fidrych on his farm of an apparent accident.
Many of you won’t know who he was, but he was like a giant smiley face meteor that burned across the baseball, and the country’s, sky, for one season in 1976.
He went 19-9 with 24 complete games (24!!) but that was not the important thing with Fidrych. He brought to the game, and the country, during a rough time for all of us, (remember the Carter Years?) an unbridled joy, and joie de vivre, to the game.
Talking to the ball, getting on his hands and knees to groom the mound and pat the dirt smooth, high fiving teamates in the middle of the field, and, getting his nickname from his uncanny resemblance to Big Bird from Sesame Street.
About talking to the ball, the Yankees’ Graig Nettles tells a story about hitting against Fidrych when he was going through his routine, as usual, talking to the ball before pitching to him. Nettles said he told his bat, “Never mind what he says to the ball–hit it over the outfield fence!” Nettles struck out. “Damn,” he said. “Japanese bat. Doesn’t understand a word of English.”
Injuries derailed him after that one glorious summer, but he was never bitter, and truly loved his one year in the spotlight.
We need more like him in sports. Or even just one more. RIP “Bird”