The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych

The only book covering the fantastic story from beginning to end of Mark Fidrych, The Bird, one of the most beloved players in baseball history.

Named a finalist for the Seymour Medal of the Society of American Baseball Research for the best baseball book of 2013.

Named as a Michigan Notable book for 2014.

Mark Fidrych will always be remembered as the most famous citizen of the town of Northborough, Massachusetts.

             Display in the Northborough Historical Society

Childhood home, shared with three sisters who remember their brother as being as active and fun-loving as he was on the major league mound.

They remained close throughout the years.

Little League team in Northboro, age 8. Mark is on the back row, far left.

He was a dominant pitcher in high school and American Legion but the combination of being from a small town and short seasons due to the weather caused him to fall below the radar of major league teams.

He was working at this gas station on Northborough's main street for three bucks an hour when he received word that he had been drafted by the Detroit Tigers .

After breezing through the minor leagues in two years, Mark arrived in Detroit in the spring of 1976.

Even before taking the mound, Mark was noted by the veterans to be a different kind of baseball player. Full of energy and enthusiasm, he was always doing something and saying something--cheering from the bench for his teammates like the most exuberant Little Leaguer. Once, manager Ralph Houk had him moved to the end of the dugout because the constant chatter was driving him crazy.

But Ralph Houk knew he had something special on his hands.

Nicknamed "The Bird" by an assistant coach at his first minor league stop in Bristol, Tennessee because of his bird-like squawking and curly hair that resembled Big Bird, his antics on the mound, as well as his great results, quickly won the hearts of the baseball world.

Fidrych threw a two-hit complete game in his first major league start.

"No one ever connected with fans the way Mark Fidrych did."
---1976 Detroit Tiger pitching coach Fred Gladding

He became the first baseball player ever to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Named Rookie of the Year in 1976, he was on top of the world, living large.

And then he wasn't. A freak knee injury in spring training, 1977 delayed his second season. An arm injury soon wrecked his promising career.

He painfully tried comeback after comeback for the next six years.

With the minor league Pawtucket Sox in 1981, trying to get back to the majors.

He finally gave up his baseball career in 1982.

Rather than be bitter about his fate, he returned to his hometown, got married, had a daughter, bought a farm and a truck, and carried on, continuing to be as fun to be around as he had in the major leagues. 

He helped out his in-laws working at this Northborough landmark diner on Saturday mornings, entertaining the regulars with laughs and stories. 

Dancing an aunt into the ground at his sister's wedding.

He discovered the joy of bringing back the Bird to help raise money for good causes. His favorite charity was the Wertz Warriors of Michigan. They raised money to fund the Winter Special Olympics with a cross-state snowmobile trek each winter. Mark participated with them for almost 20 years.

He was one of the few athletes who refused to charge money for an autograph. He was heard at Fenway Park remarking to a small child who nervously asked for an autograph, "Little buddy, you just made my day."

Mark Fidrych, 1954-2009. There will never be another Bird.

Review in Washington Post

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1 comment:

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