A reminder of the time when America fell in love with a tall, lanky, curly-haired pitcher for the Detroit Tigers.
For a short time in the 1970s, the country was in thrall to Mark Fidrych, who came to be known as “The Bird” for his resemblance to Big Bird. Fidrych emerged seemingly from nowhere in the summer of 1976 and became an unlikely but legitimate phenomenon. Wilson (Fred Hutchinson and the 1964 Cincinnati Reds, 2010) tells the Bird’s story in this biography of the Massachusetts native whose antics included tending to his own pitching mound during games and allegedly talking to the baseball. Wilson also dispels a few myths along the way, namely disputing the demotion of Fidrych to a “flake,” despite his antics. He also paints Fidrych as a product of his time and argues that only in the 1970s could someone like Fidrych become such an icon. The beloved pitcher’s every move drew national attention, and his appearances sold out stadiums, whether for away games or for the home games of some lousy Tigers teams. Unfortunately, knee and throwing-shoulder injuries curtailed the career of the Bird. Wilson is not the most graceful prose stylist, but he has clear affection for the star-crossed Fidrych, and that passion, not to mention the built-in interesting story, overcomes some clunky writing. Fidrych, whose post-baseball career showed a man truly contented with life and with a deep passion for giving back to the world, died in 2009.
Fidrych transfixed the country, albeit too briefly. This book serves as a reminder of why.