Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, whose offbeat antics electrified the city of Detroit and charmed baseball fans everywhere during one of the unlikeliest seasons of glory in major league history, died Monday. He was 54.
Fidrych was found under his 10-wheel dump truck on his Massachusetts farm, the victim of an apparent accident, according to Worcester County Dist. Atty. Joseph Early. Fidrych appeared to have been working on the truck, Early told the Associated Press.
In 1976, the Detroit Tigers awarded the last spot on their roster to Fidrych, a shaggy-haired kid two years out of high school.
Within weeks, Fidrych took the city by storm, with fans flocking to Tiger Stadium to see the pitcher that talked to the baseball, got his nickname from his resemblance to the "Sesame Street" character Big Bird and started the All-Star Game for the American League.
"The only thing I could possibly compare it to would be Fernando [Valenzuela] in L.A.," said Angels executive Gary Sutherland, the Tigers' second baseman in Fidrych's first major league start.
"Every night he pitched, the place was packed."