Mark "Bird" Fidcrych died yesterday. The Bird, in fact, was really with us, the public, for a very short time. But those of us who saw him will surely remember him.
I saw The Bird pitch during one of his many comeback attempts, in 1979 when I was in grad school at Michigan. He had been out for a couple years, during which the Tigers were not good, although they had accumulated some good young talent such as Alan Trammel, Lou Whitaker and Lance Parrish. But, they had no pitching, and the simple idea of a comeback by the Bird gave everyone hope.
So, there we were, in a sold out Tiger Stadium, hoping like the 40k other fans that he would return to the form and antics and excitement that he generated 3 years earlier in his far too brief and glorious run to fame. We weren't really Tiger fans, but how could you not want this guy back in the game!
I don't remember exactly how the Bird pitched that day, although I think he went about 4 innings and gave up a few runs. Not a disaster, not a triumph. I do recall saying to my friends that he had done better than most of the Tigers other recent starters. And it was good enough that you could hope he would make it back. That is what everyone left the park with that day: Hope.
Unfortunately, his arm went out shortly after that, and not much more was heard from the Bird. Young talented pitchers with arm trouble.....they bring so much hope and crush so many dreams, particularly their own. I imagine today he might have been treated differently on his way up. He was only 21 when he hit the big time, and today his innings and pitch count would have been closely watched, and maybe modern medicine would have saved his career.
Mark Fidrych died yesterday, but THE BIRD died long ago.