What a week. First Nick Adenhart, then Harry Kalas and now Mark “the Bird” Fidrych has died.
Fidrych, one of baseball’s all-time characters, was killed in an apparent farming accident. He was just 54.
I was too young to appreciate his phenomenal 1976 campaign, but I have enjoyed — more than once — a replay of an old “Monday Night Baseball” game broadcast during the height of Fidrych mania.
I’ve never seen a player take over a game the way “The Bird” did that night. He was a master showman, yet authentically self-effacing — well-deserving of the folk hero tag.
He was a helluva pitcher, too, until injuries curtailed his career. Fidrych completed 24 games his rookie year, even though he didn’t make his first start until May 15. The 21-year-old right-hander won 10 of 11 games in one particularly brilliant stretch; his only defeat was by 1-0.
Fidrych would make only 27 starts the next four seasons in Detroit. He resurfaced in the Red Sox organization in 1982, though he never regained his dominant form.
Here he is as a PawSox, facing off against Columbus Clipper southpaw Dave Righetti. The crowd, as always, was firmly on Fidrych’s side.