Tuesday, April 14, 2009

ONE THREW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST

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One of the very greatest “characters” in baseball history has died.

I still vividly recall that nationally televised game involving the Yankees in 1976 when the whole country first learned about MARK “THE BIRD” FIDRYCH. My entire family was gathered around the TV set and none of us could believe what we were seeing: The Detroit Tigers’ pitcher was taking energetic walks around the mound, that is when he wasn’t tending to it like it was a prized cabbage patch. He was talking to the baseball before he pitched it. I mean, LITERALLY talking to it, telling it what he wanted it to do: “I want you to go high and tight on this guy, get it? You hear me, ball? High and tight!”

Speaking of “high” and "tight", that’s what we all thought Fidrych was. I kid you not, we were all nearly convinced that this guy was tripping on acid out there. Or at the very least, three sheets to the wind. It was one of the most fascinating things any of us had ever seen in a professional sporting event. And what made it even more notable was the fact that the crazy kid on the mound was doggoned good! That loony “Bird” could really pitch!

Many times in the years since Birdmania in the 1970s, Fidrych’s name has come up in baseball discussions I have had. He was never forgotten by me, and probably never forgotten by ANYONE who ever had the opportunity to see him on a pitcher’s mound. For “15 great minutes," Bird was the word.

Some pitchers threw a screwball; Fidrych WAS a screwball. And a lot of fun! This world is a bit more insane without that crazy guy in it.

Please take a few minutes to read a little bit about one of baseball's true originals by checking out this Wikipedia article on Mark Fidrych. Click here: “Here.”

Rest In Peace, Bird. Build a new nest in Heaven, Bro.
Loved ya!

"Sometimes I get lazy and let the dishes stack up,
but they don't stack too high. I've only got four dishes."
~Mark “The Bird” Fidrych

~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I remember his debut too. Like it was yesterday. I remember being at little league practice and all of us doing our imitations of him.

There are no real originals in sports anymore.
WP

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

OL' WP ~
I was in high school when The Bird flew onto the scene, so I have no memories of trying to imitate that loon on a pitcher's mound. But I do recall how in my Little League days we'd all take turns trying to replicate the unusual batting stances of some major league players.

One of my favorites was big John Mayberry. Any chance you remember him? He liked to slowly circle the bat over and under his shoulder, only there was a kind of hitch or dip in the circle as the bat came over the top. Very cool looking, and combined with his size, probably intimidating as hell to a pitcher.

There was a brief article about Fidrych in the Phoenix paper and Kirk Gibson was quoted since he's now a Diamondback's bench coach and played with The Bird during his time with the Tigers. Well, Gibson said that The Bird was really not putting on a show; that's the way he really was. And you know Gibson, he had little tolerance for nonsense on a baseball diamond, so if Gibson says The Bird was genuine, that's more than good enough for me.

Always glad when you comment, Bro!

Coincidentally, my next post on this Blog is going to be related to my own Little League playing days, so I hope you'll check back this weekend. Thought I'd have it posted already, but there hasn't been a lot of time to work on it.

~ STMcC
<"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly."
~ Proverbs 26:11>

Anonymous said...

Of course I remember Mayberry. His swing was very cool. I can do it right now still. I also do a spot on Rickey Henderson and Luis Tiant.

Yeah, Gibson never seemed like a "fun guy". Being a Dodger fan, I know you have some love for him, but I could never stand the him.

Since we're talking sports, I failed to acknowledge that you mentioned in your "St Patty's" story that you're a former high school wrestler. Me too, I knew I like you for a reason.

WP

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Green-O ~

>>[I also do a spot on Rickey Henderson and Luis Tiant.]<<

I'm really glad to hear that you remember Mayberry. Now Henderson, there's a cat that I didn't like, but I had/have tremendous respect for his ability. An unbelievable talent that I would've taken on my team in a heartbeat. If he's not a first-ballot Hall Of Famer, I will personally demand a full investigation!

And I'm totally impressed that you can imitate Luis Tiant. I've always said that he probably had the most unorthodox delivery of any pitcher ever. I can still see it in my mind (almost robot-like), but I doubt I could mimic him well.

Look up the words "competitor" and "intense" in any dictionary and you'll find a picture of Kirk Gibson. You would LOVE the guy if you were a Dodger fan. He is the primary reason the Dodgers won their last world championship in '88. And I don't just mean because of that ultra-famous home run in the World Series. He completely turned that team around during Spring Training that year due to his reaction to a practical joke played on him by Jesse Orosco. The outcome of the 1988 season was decided in Spring Training, when Kirk Gibson set the tone for team.

>>[you mentioned in your "St Patty's" story that you're a former high school wrestler. Me too, I knew I like you for a reason.]<<

Awww, come on. You like me for MANY reasons; too many to count. But not the least of them being that I loaned you a million dollars when you ran into that streak of bad luck a couple years back. Which reminds me... when were you planning to repay that million dollars? If you don't have all of it now, why don't you just apply for a federal bailout? I can wait another week for it.

Hey, I think we actually wrestled each other in a match once. I was a senior in high school; you were in 6th grade, and you pinned me in twenty seconds. Make it TWO million! And I want it by midnight tonight!

Well, Bro, this sports theme will be continued with my next posting on this Blog, in which I am the butt of my own jokes. Stay tuned. Same Stuffs-Time; Same Stuffs-Channel...

Dogs, Vomit, Fools, Folly...
You know the gig.
~STMcC