Today is a sad day for Detroit Tigers fans everywhere as it has been learned that former Tigers pitcher, Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, passed away at his home in Massachusetts. He was 54 years old.
For those that don't remember, Fidrych captured the nation's attention during a magical summer of 1976 when he was the starting pitcher for the American League in the All-Star game and ended up becoming the A.L. Rookie of the Year after winning 19 games and leading the league with a 2.34 ERA.
His quirky approach to baseball gained him fans everywhere and he became something of a mythic figure in Detroit. I was only three years old during his summer in the spotlight and although he never returned to that form again, I quickly learned of his exploits as a young Tigers fan. In fact, I remember reading this little paperback book about him when I was a little kid. The picture to the left is of a card that I distinctly remember having when I was little.
There are few athletes that are still remembered thirty years after only one season of high performance. But "The Bird" is one of those few. Baseball and its fans still miss his personality and love of the game. His '76 season harkens back to an era before big money, steroids and free agency ruined the game. He will be missed.