RIP, Mark Fidrych

2009 April 13
by Don Hammack

It was a tough day in Major League Baseball with Harry Kalas dying in a broadcast booth before a game today, then the announcement that Mark Fidrych had been found dead on his farm in Massachusetts.

Kalas has long been the voice of the Phillies and NFL Films, and he’ll be missed. Fidrych probably held a special place in the hearts of a lot of baseball fans my age. He burst onto the scene with a marvelous rookie season when he was 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA in 1976. But stats told only a small part of his story, even as gaudy as they were. His mannerisms on the mound nearly overshadowed his accomplishments. He would talk to the ball, talk to himself, get down on his knees and manicure the mound. Fidrych would sprint off the mound and high-five teammates for good plays, the opposite of the calm, composed front most pitchers like to display. I was always a kid who played with enthusiasm and hustle. Pete Rose was a hero of mine (long before it became known what kind of a turd he really was), and I always thought Fidrych’s enthusiasm and joy was really cool.

There was another reason he meant more to those kids of my age. The long-limbed right-hander loped around the mound and on and off the field, his headful of blond curls exploding out from under his cap. He got tagged with the nickname “The Bird” after Big Bird on “Sesame Street.” Those of us who grew up watching Mr. Hooper, Easy Reader and all those cats on PBS had another reason to latch onto the Fidrych rocket ship.

The rocket ride didn’t last long. He injured his arm the next season and was never the same, but we’ll always have that magical summer of 1976 to remember.

One Response leave one →
  1. 2009 April 13
    Shep permalink

    ‘The Bird’ was a little before my time, but I’ve always liked watching specials and stories on him. I’d really like someone to act like that these days…of course the media would build him up and tear him right back down immediately. It doesn’t seem like his antics were contrived, premeditated or part of building up his ‘brand.’

    And as far as Harry Kalas…I mean come on…what more needs to me said than, “Michael Jack Schmitt!”

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