The son of an assistant school principal, Fidrych played baseball at Algonquin Regional High School in Northborough, Massachusetts, and at Worcester Academy, a day and boarding school in central Massachusetts. In the 1974 amateur draft he was selected in the 10th round by the Detroit Tigers and later joked that when he got a call saying he had been drafted he thought he was drafted into the military not thinking there were any teams looking at him. In the minor leagues one of his coaches with the Lakeland Tigers dubbed the lanky 6-foot-3 right-handed pitcher “The Bird” because of his resemblance to the “Big Bird” character of the Sesame Street television program.
Fidrych made the Tigers as a non-roster invitee out of the 1976 spring training, not making his Major League debut until April 20, and only pitching one inning through mid-May. He made his first start in the Tigers 24th game of the season, and only because the scheduled starting pitcher had the flu. Fidrych responded by throwing six no-hit innings, ending the game with a 2–1 complete game victory in which he gave up only two hits. In his first 13 major league starts, Fidrych threw 1201⁄3 innings, an average of more than 9 innings due to three 11-inning stints. By early July, he was 9–1 with a league-leading 1.85 ERA, and was picked to start the All-Star Game for the American League. The All-Star appearance was the 12th start of Fidrych’s major league career.
He went on to win 19 games, leading the league in ERA (2.34) and complete games (24). Fidrych won the American League Rookie of the Year Award, getting 22 of 24 votes, and finished second in voting for the AL Cy Young Award.
In the process Fidrych also captured the imagination of fans with his antics on the field. He would crouch down on the pitcher’s mound and fix cleat marks, what became known as “manicuring the mound”, talk to himself, talk to the ball, aim the ball like a dart, strut around the mound after every out, and throw back balls that “had hits in them,” insisting they be removed from the game. Mark Fidrych also was known for shaking everyone’s hands after a game. On June 28, 1976, he pitched against the New York Yankees in a nationally televised game on ABC; the Tigers won the game 5–1. After a game filled with “Bird” antics in which he and his team handily defeated the Yankees, Fidrych became a national celebrity.
Every time he pitched, Tiger Stadium was jam-packed with fans who became known as “Bird Watchers”. Fidrych’s fan appeal was also enhanced by the fact that he had his own “personal catcher”. Because Tigers coaching and managerial staff were somewhat superstitious about “jinxing” Fidrych’s success, Bruce Kimm, a rookie catcher, caught each of Fidrych’s outings.
It became common to hear the crowd chant “we want the Bird, we want the Bird” at the end of each of his home victories. The chants would continue until he emerged from the dugout to tip his cap to the crowd. While these “curtain calls” have become more common in modern sports, they were not so in the mid-1970s baseball. In his 18 appearances at Tiger Stadium, attendance equaled almost half of the entire season’s 81 home games. Teams started asking Detroit to change its pitching rotation so Fidrych could pitch in their ballparks, and he appeared on the cover of numerous magazines, such as Sports Illustrated (twice, including once with Sesame Street character Big Bird), Rolling Stone, and The Sporting News. In one week, Fidrych turned away five people who wanted to be his agent, saying, “Only I know my real value and can negotiate it.”
Fidrych also drew attention for the simple, bachelor lifestyle he led in spite of his fame, driving a green subcompact car, living in a small Detroit apartment, wondering aloud if he could afford to answer all of his fan mail on his league-minimum $16,500 salary, and telling people that if he hadn’t been a pitcher, he’d work pumping gas in Northborough. He fascinated everyone, most especially young women, with his frizzy blond curls, blue jeans, and devil-may-care manner.
At the end of his rookie season, the Tigers gave him a $25,000 bonus and signed him to a three-year contract worth $255,000. Economists estimated that the extra attendance Fidrych generated around the league in 1976 was worth more than $1 million. Fidrych also did an Aqua Velva television commercial after the 1976 season.”
If not for growing up in Michigan, I’d have sworn this was fiction.
Why Riding Your Bike Makes You A Better Person (According To Science)
Lots of good stuff in here.
Jai Paul - BTSU
Radiohead - I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings
How in the hell did it take until 2014 for UPS and FedEx to enact this policy?
This is straight out of the playbook of the USPS.
Hafiz (via awfully-fond)