The year 1976 was one for the ages. Of course, the country had Bicentenial Fever. In spite of Legionnaire's Disease and the Son of Sam, it was my summer of love. At 22, I had scored my first summer job for United Press International manning the Dallas bureau each night, a reward for my coverage of billionaire Howard Hughes' death. By day, I worked on the film "Logan's Run" being made in Big D's Fashion Mart. There was the Rolling Stones concert at the Cotton Bowl, and Willie's fourth 4th of July picnic on Gonzales. But my love of baseball put me front and center at Arlington Stadium to photograph the nation's hottest story, Mark "The Bird" Fidrych. It wasn't even his turn to pitch, but I followed him around the stadium as he flirted with Dallas' finest and blew giant bubblegum bubbles. He became famous for his antics on the mound, talking to the ball, smoothing the mound, etc. Flake talk aside, this guy could chunk the ball. Astonishingly, of Mark’s first 37 career starts, he completed 31 games! 37 games started, 25 wins and 11 losses (.694 WP%) 2.31 ERA 319.3 innings pitched 61 walks and 136 strikeouts.
photo courtesy: BGSU86 on Flickr
He was found dead Monday at his farm. He apparently had some sort of accident while working on his pickup truck. He was 54.
Fidrych was a two-time All Star and the 1976 AL rookie of the year after going 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA for the Tigers. His career lasted but five years thanks to injuries.
Here is a link to a 2003 SI story on "The Bird" .. http://tinyurl.com/dj3rad