Former Detroit Tigers Pitcher Mark Fidrych: 1954- 2009

dan SmithContributor IApril 14, 2009

27 Sep 1999: Mark Fidrych waves to the crowd during the last game played at the Tiger Stadium against the Kansas City Royals in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the Royals 8-2. Mandatory Credit: Ezra O. Shaw  /Allsport

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1954 - 2009
Mark Fidrych
Mark Fidrych was killed in an apparent accident Monday at his farm in Massachusetts. He is the second Detroit Tiger icon to pass this year. You know, 2009 is really turning out to be a poor year.
One thing I remember about the summer of 1976—I was eight years old at the time—was Mark "The Bird" Fidrych. He was incredible. At the time I liked him as much for his antics: talking to the ball, talking to the hitters, introducing the hitters to the ball and the ball to the hitters, and then telling the ball what to do when he threw it to the hitters, getting on his hands and knees and grooming the mound with his hands, as I did for his pitching. It has been said when coaches or players would approach him on the mound, they would feel as if they were interrupting a conversation, but they would then realize that they were alone with him on the mound.
In 1976 there wasn't anything going on in Detroit and less with the Tigers. The way you could tell if "The Bird" was pitching, was simple: If there were 50,000+ people in the stands, he was pitching. If there were less than 15,000 in the stands, he wasn't.
He had stellar stuff for a year and a half. He got injured and essentially his career was over. 
However, and I could be wrong on this, I do not believe there has ever been or will ever be a player who will play for such a short time and have such a profound impact on the game and for lack of a better term—pop culture.
We will continue to miss "The Bird."