Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mark "The Bird" Fidrych

Now, before I hear any protest, I never intended this blog to be a Newell's only venture. I have been meaning to write about other things, and while I've written about the US men and women teams, as well as the Albicelestes, I haven't gotten around to any sport other than futbol/soccer...

I live in Detroit, I thought about writing about the Detroit Lions going 0-16 last season, but you know what, I don't watch American Football, so why should I bother, right? When I returned from Argentina, I followed hockey for a while, but gave up on the sport, telling myself that it was due to expansion... who could keep track of 20 teams worth of players? (Right... and with soccer there's 20 teams in almost every nation in the world, and I was complaining about the NHL?)

Then there was Baseball, which is still of mild interest, but it's been years sense I've watched an entire game. This brings me, finally, to the subject for today. Mark "The Bird" Fidrych was an absolute phenom for a year and a half with the Detroit Tigers. For a team that was struggling both on the field and at the gate, Fidrych was a savior. In his rookie season, 1976, he pitched his way to 19 wins in 29 starts. (For those of you who aren't familiar with baseball, teams generally have 9-10 pitchers, 5 of which are starters. There's 162 games in a season. Each starter will generally start every 5th day. If there's a day off between games, the 5th starter will lose a start. It's a complicated, strange game, it is.) Every time he pitched at Tiger Stadium the place sold out. When on the road teams would beg the Tigers to rework their pitching rotation so that they could sell out as well.

How could one pitcher cause such a stir, especially in his rookie season? Well, those who saw him don't need to be told. For those of you who follow futbol, the Argentine league in particular, the best comparison I can make is that he was to Baseball in America what Hugo "El Loco" Gatti was to Futbol Argentino. To get a better idea, watch the video below.

Before his second year, during spring training, he injured his knee. According to wikipedia he was fooling around in the outfield. True enough, as I recall, there was a short wall that he tried to jump over. Whatever, he was out for the start of the season.

When he came back, he was off to a solid start, going 6-4, when his arm gave out. Many have said that he came back from the knee injury too soon, and I'm one of them. His knee wasn't at 100%, which effected his delivery, and that caused him to put too much stress on his arm, which put him out for the rest of the season.

On Monday, April 13th, 2009 Mark "The Bird" Fidrych lost his last game at age 54. He was working on his dump truck on his farm. His passing was ruled an accident.

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