It’s a chilly night at the ballpark tonight, the end of a tough day in baseball.
Former major league pitcher Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, 54, was found dead today on his farm, under a pickup truck which he apparently had been trying to repair. Fidrych had a short, but memorable major league career in the late 1970s with the Detroit Tigers.
Fidrych, a tall, gangly left-hander, was the American League’s Rookie of the Year in 1976, posting a 19-9 record with a 2.34 earned run average. His nickname came from the “Sesame Street” character Big Bird, whom he resembled a little bit when in full wind-up. His wacky mannerisms added to his charisma, as he would sometimes appear to talk to the ball and would get down on his hands and knees between pitches to smooth out the dirt on the mound.
But injuries cut short his career and he won only 10 more major league games before retiring in 1980.
Baseball’s other loss today was a person I’m less familiar with, but whom Philadelphia Phillies fans revere. Broadcaster Harry Kalas, 73, suffered a fatal heat attack in the broadcast booth a couple of hours before the Phillies’ game in Washington with the Nationals.
“Outta here!” was the signature home run call for Kalas, who had been on the team’s broadcast crew since 1971. He was also a broadcaster for the Houston Astros before coming to Philadelphia.
These two tragedies come just days after Los Angeles Angels rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart’s death in a traffic accident, a fact noted up here in the press box earlier this evening. Sad stuff.
I’ll be doing some more baseball material in the coming weeks, as the season cranks up. Baseball’s pace, and the fact that it’s a daily enterprise, gives me more opportunities to explore some aspects of the game with coaches and players that don’t end up the in game stories because of space. I try to use those as learning opportunities, and I’ll try to pass along the stuff that seems of most interest.