Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Bird

Baseball is a slow game. Most of the action takes place in short bursts. About one quarter of the time the batter puts the ball in play, and in the ensuing five seconds the game actually transpires. Three-quarters of the time the pitcher throws a pitch and the batter watches it sail by for a ball or a strike, or fouls it off. All of this takes about a second. Then thirty seconds go by before the next pitch.

Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, a former pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, turned those thirty seconds between pitches into an art form. Fidrych stalked the mound, flapped his arms (hence "The Bird" nickname), waved to fans in the crowd, slapped high-fives with his teammates, and occasionally held the baseball in his hand and lectured it when it wasn't ending up where he intended to throw it. He was a character, and God knows baseball could stand more characters instead of merely players with character issues. He was great for one year, mediocre for a couple more, and left the game all too soon. He left this life all too soon, too, dying in a freak accident on his farm yesterday. He was 54. I will miss him.


Someone Said said...

And the end of a losuy day yesterday, I got to see that while sitting on a barstool, watching the Cubs game. He left the world, and the game, way too soon.

Chris said...

I saw a piece on The Bird yesterday after watching SportsCenter memorialize Harry Kalas. Bird's career was over a year before I was born, but after watching that piece I wish I had been alive to see his very short career.

I think all organizations - not just sporting clubs - could use a person like him.

woodsmeister said...

His major league debut was against the Cleveland Indians. I remember watching the game on television, and as the Indians continued to flail away and not get hits and Fidrych continued to talk to the baseball and groom the mound, I remembered thinking, "Holy cow, what a nutjob. This guy can't possibly continue to be this good." And then he was, and continued to be until he got hurt. Watching him pitch against your team was infuriating - I know Tigers fans found him entertaining, but there was nothing entertaining about him shutting down YOUR team while talking to the baseball.