Friday, April 17, 2009
My tribute to "The Bird"
My mom told me the other night, a quick one line e-mail…”Did you hear Mark Fidrych died, “The Bird” he was 54. I had not heard, and the news made me blue.
I honestly can’t recall if I ever saw the “Bird” pitch live, I feel like I did, and I'm telling people I did, but it's possible I'm embellishing a bit. I know back in 1976 I was a really really young, but I think the mid-70’s was when I got intrigued by baseball.
I think the crazy, wacky “Bird” got me interested in something I never cared about before, an entity that has become a part of my life since then. Late nights listening to my scratchy little AM radio next to my bed, Ernie Harwell calling the West Coast games, lulling me to sleep. Baseball was warm summer nights to me back then.
He spoke to the ball, he jumped over the white lines, he immediately congratulated great plays made by his teammates. His excitement and love of the game was infectious.
And I think the “Bird” got me into pitchers. All the great Tiger pitchers from back in the day-Dave Rozema, Jack Morris , Dan Schatzeder, Dan Petry….and on and on.
Back then, I couldn't wait to go see Patty Smyth and John Waite, at the time two of my favorite singers touring together was "totally rad". However, Kirk Gibson and Rozema showed up and sat two rows ahead of us. Guess whom we ended up watching more, the concert or Gibby & Rozie? That's how much I was into pitchers and the Tigers.
I remember my first game, at old Tiger Stadium at Michigan & Trumbell, the non-gentrified stadium that seemed a lot more “baseball like” than parks like Comerica and Safeco…both great ball fields that I’ve been to many times, I’m just sort a purist when it comes to the old school. Although then first time I went to Yankee Stadium I thought it was a total dump, but I got over that.
I loved my first game. My dad got box seats for the four of us. I believe we played Toronto. The seats were bright orange and the sun was burning bright. It was a good day.
I recall the game when Al Kaline's number was retired, I thought that ‘s when I saw the “Bird”. But it would have been too late for him then, his career was sadly already over. One great summer.
A sweet, genuinely sincere guy who was happy no matter what he was doing. Certainly an inspiration. The sad/funny thing is, these days, “The Bird” would not have been accepted.
I’ve been listening to Dan Patrick lately (and surprisingly liking him even though he’s a sports broadcaster). But he something the other day about Fidrych, how “We are so cynical and snarky now… (we would all think it's an act) it’s orchestrated, it’s pre-meditated, its not natural”
It’s true. We have celebrities that do absolutely nothing but let the paparazzi follow them. But a guy who is livin’ his dream, a dream of many people, would be ridiculed for enjoying the ride.
Let's hope he's still enjoying.
More articles on "The Bird"
Drew Sharp "When the Bird Was the Word" (that title has been in my head all week now"