Mark “the bird” Fidrych is gone

Sad news from Northboro today as fabled Tigers pitcher Mark the Bird Fidrych was found dead underneath his pick-up truck. Describing Fidrych at this point is a worthwhile exercise because everybody, and I mean everybody, knows about the charismatic Tigers Rookie of the Year from 1976. Being two years old at the time, I have no recollection of the Fidrych phenomenon beyond clips and stories. What I do know is I wish I had been in Tiger Stadium one of the magical nights he was pitching.

Lee Panas, who authors Detroit Tiger Tales, cites Fidrych as a major part of his fandom

I’ve been following the Tigers since 1968 and Mark Fidrych’s 1976 season was the single most thrilling individual season of my lifetime. Whenever I see that game against the Yankees that they show on ESPN or the MLB channel from time to time, I immediately go back 33 years to that night and remember how I felt watching the same game on television. It’s difficult to explain the Mark Fidrych experience to those who were not there to see it.

Lee remembered the 30 year anniversary of Fidrych’s 1976 season by chronicling it on his blog.

25 thoughts on “Mark “the bird” Fidrych is gone”

  1. Never saw a Bird game in person. Just heard that he was a crazy character hitting the DTW airport in bibs and looking like he just left the farm for appearances. Whoever picked him up had to bring clothes and let him duck into an airport restroom to change. RIP.

  2. The Bird is the reason I’m a baseball fan. I remember the day my Dad was watching Fidrych pitch and he said, “Watch this guy, Linda”. I watched, and kept watching.

  3. RoseTattoo: Basically the same reason I am too. Loved to play, but I remember being 8 and my dad taking me to watch him pitch. Crazy. Carzy fun. I’m looking at the autographed picture of him with Big Bird and thinking how it doesn’t seem real (his death, not the picture).

  4. Wow, Russ, looks like we are about the same age. Ironically, I was 8 that summer too, and me and my dad kept putting off going to see him until the mania died off just a bit. It did. Much to our later regret. RIP Mark, you were basically my introduction to the Tigers and the greater of MLB.

  5. When I was growing up every kid imitated Mark Fidrych. My world was baseball cards, Star Wars, and comic books. There was Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Spiderman, and the Incredible Hulk, but Mark “The Bird” Fidrych was a real life super hero.

  6. This is unbelievably sad. 1976 is still my favorite season because of the Bird. I was 12 at the time, and the excitement around here was incredible. I was fortunate enough to go to two of the Bird’s games, the famous Yankee game and a game against Baltimore. He won them both, both times Tiger Stadium was PACKED, and after both games we chanted “we want Bird, we want Bird” until he came out for a curtain call. He was taken from us way too soon. Rest in Peace, Bird. We’ll never forget you.

  7. Wow. I’m stunned. I was born in 1963. The Tigers were a very good team when I first started following baseball – and for several years afterward. But, by 1974 and 1975 – they were awful. Mark Fidrych breathed life into the club. Suddenly a last place team – where attendance was WAY down – vaulted up with sell-out crowds when Fidrych pitched. I remember standing in the LF lower deck seats – cheering like mad – at age 13. People younger just wouldn’t believe the magic – 50,000+ people at Tiger Stadium cheering every pitch and getting into it like every game was a World Series game…

  8. Mark Fidrych was truly one of a kind and a memorable character in baseball, who tragically passed away Monday in an accident. We just posted a rare 1985 interview and feature on “The Bird” is now playing at “Stone Cold Sports” ( Sit back, watch and listen to a guy who makes you remember when guys played the game just because they loved it.

  9. Came home from freezing at yesterday’s game and heard this. Got under my Snuggie and went to sleep. Bad things happen to good people. Thanks Bird for the memories.

  10. I was lucky enough to see the Bird pitch in his rookie season at Tiger Stadium when I was only 11. I have been to many a Tiger game but have never experienced anything close to the buzz in the ballpark that season.

    That Monday night game against the Yankees with Howard Cosell behind the mike has to go down as one of the great Tiger moments in history.

  11. Stood in line for well over an hour at a vacuum store on Fort Street to get his autograph and was crushed he had to leave before I got to the front of the line. Finally got it years later and, as it turns out, just in time.

    Thank Mahk. RIP.

  12. What a guy! What a pitcher! He was just everything in ’76. I had not known of his deep connections with Leland until I read the paper this morning. Jim couldn’t talk about it. I’d thought he’d be around forever.

    Guys can’t even wear their pockets out anymore. You wonder what Bud Selig would have done to The Bird. Not a thing. The Bird was the Bird.

  13. Oh wow. As usual Posnanski’s incredible passion for all things baseball and the way he puts it into words has made me cry! Thanks Kyle.

  14. I graduated from High School in ’76. That summer before going off to college was a great time in my life, not least because of The Bird. I was in the centerfield bleachers for the game against the Yankees with my best buddies screaming our lungs out. Fans were also circulating petitions to fire Ralph Houk, who had the misfortune of following the immensely popular Billy Martin.

  15. I recall the Tiger’s 1976 season as when I returned home late May to Detroit from Texas A&M at the end of my junior year, my Dad told me of a new pitcher playing for the Tigers. I remember Dad saying Fidrych was my age and that he was getting folks to come back to Tiger Stadium. A few weeks later Dad and I attended the ABC Monday Night Baseball game that introduced Fidrych to the USA. We went to the game with a group of folks from BASF Wyandotte and sat in the upper deck along the third base line. At that game, Fidrych was Fidrych as he groomed the mound on his hands and knees, and talking on the mound continuously. Fidrych pitched a seven-hit classic to beat Ken Holtzman and the Yankees; he owned Detroit after that game. To this day they still show the game on ESPN Classic and the MLB Channel; in fact the game was aired last week on the MLB Channel during the pre-Opening Day festivities.

    I also recall immediately after the last game was played at Tiger Stadium in Sept 1999, he walked to the mound and went to his hands and knees and scooped up dirt and placed it in a zip-lock bag for safekeeping. He was certainly “my generation” of the happy and carefree lifestyle. Truly, he was “The Bird.”

    Today the Tigers start Rick Porcello, a 20-year kid, against the White Sox. Porcello is the same age as our daughter Blair. I hope and wish she has similar Tiger memories!

  16. It was my privilege and honor to be fan of the Bird in ’76. He made the game fun and did a remarkable job at the same time. Life is too short for the really good ones like Mark Fidrych

  17. I was 9 in the summer of 1976 and though I never saw him pitch in person, I was as crazy for Fidrych as everyone else. I especially loved watching him start the All-Star game.
    A few years ago I was listening to one of the Detroit sports radio stations (can’t remember which one) and the played a call they had made to Fidrych at his home in Mass. I remember near the end of the call the radio guy said “Well Mark, we’ve gotta go, we’re out of time” and Fidrych said “Oh, sure, sorry. Thanks for calling.” These guys called HIM and he was apologizing for taking up their time.

  18. Saw the Bird a couple of times during his magic summer, and was certain then that he’d lead the Tigers back to glory sometime in the next few years. It’s hard to explain to someone who wasn’t there the kind of hysteria he brought to a down-on-its-luck baseball-crazy town, but I’ll offer this: Once when he was a late scratch from his scheduled start, a line of hundreds of people formed outside a ticket booth at Tiger Stadium before the game – all people who wanted to trade in that day’s tickets. I don’t know for sure, but I heard somewhere that the Tigers honored the exchanges.

  19. Mark was the topic of conversation most of the morning on Detroit’s 97.1 shows. Caller after caller told stories about meeting him in various scenarios and how the Bird was always polite and genuinely nice. Really amazing stuff to hear about a kid who had the whole country in his hand.

    I must have my memories mixed up, but didn’t Aurelio Rodriguez drop a popup in the 9th inning of that Monday night game? No errors are recorded in the box score for that game, but I could have sworn that happened, and Bird went over and gave him a pep talk before finishing off the Yanks.

    Am I the only one who always felt a little weird seeing anyone else wearing number 20 for the Tigers? Omar Infante was the last, now Matt Treanor. (Of course, I still think number 24 belongs to Mickey Stanley, so what do I know!)

  20. I was lucky enough to see the bird in person, and it really was like nothing else. As they say, the flame that burns brightest rarely burns longest. The Bird is the word!

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