Nicknamed “The Bird”, Mark Fidrych was an eccentric right-handed major league baseball pitcher who had a brief but memorable career with the Detroit Tigers between 1976 and 1980.
In his first season, Fidrych led the major leagues with a 2.34 ERA, won the AL Rookie of the Year award, and finished with a 19–9 record. He also endeared himself fans with his goofy behaviour on the field – crouching down on the pitcher’s mound to fix cleat marks, talking to himself and the ball, aiming the ball like a dart, strutting around the mound after every out and throwing back balls that “had hits in them,” asking they be removed from the game. On June 28, 1976, he pitched in a nationally televised game on ABC. The Bird was in fine form and his antics made him an instant national celebrity.
During his career, Fidrych lived a simple, bachelor lifestyle in spite of his fame, driving an inexpensive sub compact car and living in a small Detroit apartment.
Injuries cut his career short and Fidrych pitched his last MLB game on October 1, 1980 in Toronto. After retiring from baseball, he worked as a contractor, hauling gravel and asphalt in a ten-wheeler, and also helped out at his mother-in-law’s diner.
In April 2009, Fidrych died as a result of a mishap while working on his own truck. It was determined his clothing became entangled in a spinning power take-off shaft, leading to suffocation. He was 54 years old.