The Detroit Tigers are one of the most storied franchises of the American League, originating as a part of the AL's inaugural season in 1901. With this history comes many Hall of Famers, but no Detroit legend, whether it be Hank Greenberg or Al Kaline, can compete with the meteoric rise and fall of "The Bird," Mark Fidrych.
Mark Fidrych was a non-roster invitee for the Tigers in 1976, officially joining Detroit's MLB roster in late April. He was lanky and curly-haired, which is how he got his nickname from Big Bird from Sesame Street. "The Bird" made his mark on the baseball world on May 15, when he allowed a single run in a complete game against the Indians at Tigers Stadium in Detroit. Throughout the game, Fidrych would talk to the ball and pat down the mound repeatedly, idiosyncrasies that elevated his celebrity status to levels that you could say have never been seen since. Fidrych continued to dominate the American League with his weird tendencies and masterful pitching. By the All Star break, his seasonal ERA was under 2 and was elected to start, the second rookie in MLB history to be named an ASG starting pitcher. Fidrych would finish the season with a 19-9 win-loss record with a league-leading 24 complete games and 2.34 ERA. He obviously finished in first place for AL Rookie of the Year voting, but also came in second for the Cy Young Award behind the Hall of Famer pitcher for the Orioles, Jim Palmer. Throughout this amazing year, Fidrych was asked for curtain call after curtain call, as fans fell in love with the quirky future of the American League. To this day, he is the only baseball player to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.
Sadly, Fidrych suffered an injury before the 1977 season and was never the same pitcher again. It was diagnosed in 1985 as a torn rotator cuff, a surgery that could've saved Fidrych's career from imploding the way it did, had the injury been dealt with sooner. "The Bird" only pitched professionally for another four years after that amazing 1976 season, but lived a quiet, fulfilling life at his Massachusetts farm until his untimely death in 2009. So, this begs the question: what if "The Bird" continued flying after '76? Well, he would've had a lot of fun with 1984 Cy Young Award and AL MVP recipient, Willie Hernandez, who helped the Tigers win the World Series that year, but overall, he would've been a superstar pitcher, mesmerizing fans with his precise control, until he was elected into the Hall of Fame. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."