You Know My Name: Mark “The Bird” Fidrych

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

Mark "the Bird" Fidrych signing autographs at Bosse Field. He played for the AAA Evansville Triplets of the American Association in 1975 before being called up to the Detroit Tigers. Bosse Field (1701 N Main St./23 Don Mattingly Way) opened in 1915 and is the third oldest ballpark still in professional baseball use, 1977. Source: Gregory Smith collection, MSS 034-1710.

Mark “the Bird” Fidrych signing autographs at Bosse Field, 1977. Source: Gregory Smith Collection, MSS 034-1710.

Our next entry in our blog series, “You Know My Name”, switches the America’s pastime, baseball. Evansville has a unique history with baseball such as Bosse Field, the third oldest baseball stadium in the United States, and hosting numerous baseball teams, such as the Evansville Otters and Triplets. We are highlighting former Evansville Triplets pitcher, Mark Fidrych.

Born on August 15, 1954 in Worcester, Massachusetts, played football, basketball, and baseball; however, “… [Fidrych] was not a star pitcher in high and was not offered any collegiate athletic scholarships, Mark caught the attention of both the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers on the strength of his hard fastball” Puerzer (n.d.). The Detroit Tigers drafted him in 1974; however, he played for the Tigers minor league Triple AAA affiliate, the Evansville Triplets (Maynard, 2009; Puerzer, n.d.).

Man talking to Mark "the Bird" Fidrych as he sits on the ground at Bosse Field. He played for the AAA Evansville Triplets of the American Association in 1975 before being called up to the Detroit Tigers, 1976. Source: Gregory Smith Collection, MSS 034-1300.

Mark “the Bird” Fidrych (left) sitting on the ground at Bosse Field, 1976. Source: Gregory Smith Collection, MSS 034-1300.

During his tenure with the Triplets in 1974, Fidrych posted “… an ERA of 1.59 and striking out 29 while walking only nine in 40 innings” (Puerzer, n.d.). In the minor leagues, he earned the nickname, “Bird” because of his physical stature and appearance (Maynard, 2009). The Detroit Tigers called Fidrych up from the Triplets and into the big leagues in 1976, proving to be a force to be reckoned. In his rookie year, “… he went 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA and 24 complete games” and won the AL Rookie of the Year (Associated Press, 2009). During his tenure with the Detroit Tigers, he won several awards such as (MLB, 2017):

  • AL Rookie of the Year, 1976
  • Tigers Rookie of the Year, 1976
  • AL All-Star, 1976-1977
  • AL Player of the Month, June 1976
Mark "the Bird" Fidrych at Bosse Field. He played for the AAA Evansville Triplets of the American Association in 1975 before being called up to the Detroit Tigers. Bosse Field (1701 N Main St./23 Don Mattingly Way) opened in 1915 and is the third oldest ballpark still in professional baseball use, 1977. Source: Gregory Smith Collection, MSS 034-1707.

Mark “the Bird” Fidrych at Bosse Field, playing for the Evansville Triplets, 1977. Source: Gregory Smith Collection, MSS 034-1707.

After a stellar rookie year, Fidrych’s career took a turn for the worse: in 1976, he suffered a cartilage tear in his knee and rotator cuff tear injury; moreover, his injuries forced him into early retirement by 1980. During his MLB career, his record was 29-19, 3.10 ERA in 58 games: he made one last guest appearance in 1999 for the last game held at Tiger Stadium (Maynard, 2009). Fidrych attempted an unsuccessful comeback in 1982 and 1983 with the Boston Red Sox; however, Fidrych passed away on April 13, 2009, after his body was discovered underneath a dump trunk (Associated Press, 2009).

For more photographs on Mark Fidrych’s career with the Evansville Triplets, check out the Gregory Smith collection in the University Archives and Special Collections’ online digital gallery.

References

Associated Press (2009, April 14). Ex-Tigers All-Star pitcher Fidrych dead at 54. Retrieved from

Maynard, M. (2009, April 13). Mark Fidrych, baseball’s beloved ‘Bird’, dies at 54. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/14/sports/baseball/14fidrych.html

MLB. (2017). Mark Fidrych. Retrieved from http://m.mlb.com/player/114102/mark-fidrych

Puerzer, R. (n.d.). Mark Fidrych. Retrieved from https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/a9b9cdb2

This entry was posted in Baseball, Evansville, Indiana, summer time. Bookmark the permalink.

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