Mark Fidrych came before my time. My parents remember him very very well and could tell the great stories that only people who experienced him first hand, on a summer night in Tiger Stadium could. However, they're visiting my sister in Italy and couldn't relay a nice story for me to tell. If you want a well done story, Mark Rosenberg did an excellent job this evening.
All my life people have told me about "The Bird"--what he was like, how good he was, how sad that his career was cut short. How great the Tigers could have been with Mark Fidrych for a whole career. I will never forget the only time I ever saw him, with all of these great stories already impressed in my mind. He was in front of a packed Tiger Stadium, walking to the mound. Once he got there he stooped down and with his hand made a little pile of dirt. The crowd went absolutely wild, and I could almost see what he must have looked like doing that in 1976. He scooped the dirt into a plastic bag to make his final appearance at Tiger Stadium on the day it closed in 1999. Memories of being choked up that night certainly hit me a little harder at the moment.
While I never saw Fidrych in person again, two years ago my family celebrated my Grandpa's 90th Birthday. The family patriarch, he has stories of going to Tigers games every year since the days of Ty Cobb, with the exception of when he was stationed for World War II. I won't even try to get into the stories that he has of Tigers games dating back to the '20s. However, the Tigers organization, made aware of his 90th birthday, sent him a fan appreciation basket for sticking with the team for all these years. In addition to some Hank Greenberg signed items (Jews in Detroit understand his impact...speaking of stories. Watch The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg and you'll understand), a centerpiece of the box was a ball personalized by Mark Fidrych.
George, Happy 90th Birthday Mark Fidrych
"Oh Danny, remember Fidrych? He was something. The way he'd talk to himself out there like a crazy man and jump over lines. But boy was he great. Ruined his arm, but he was great."
"Yeah, I remember"
Which I did, strangely. All of the stories brought him to life for me, and will keep him alive as long as people tell them.
So long, Bird. We will never forget you, even those of us that never saw you play.