Tigers legend Fidrych passes away 'The Bird' was named AL Rookie of the Year in 1976
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
04/13/09 7:24 PM ET
DETROIT -- Former All-Star pitcher Mark Fidrych, whose incredible rookie season with the 1976 Tigers made him a national sensation, passed away Monday in an apparent accident on his Massachusetts farm at age 54.
Worchester County district attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. told the Associated Press that a family friend found Fidrych at about 2:30 p.m. ET under a dump truck that he appeared to have been working on. He was on the same farm he bought more than 30 years ago with his bonus money when he became a professional pitcher, signed out of Northborough, Mass.
It was an abrupt and tragic end for someone who had suddenly endeared himself to Detroit and the rest of the baseball world seemingly out of nowhere.
"The entire Detroit Tigers organization was saddened to learn of the passing of former player Mark Fidrych today," the team said in a statement Monday evening. "Mark was beloved by Tigers fans, and he was a special person with a unique personality. The Tigers send our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends."
Fidrych was the last player to make the Tigers roster in 1976, a wiry 21-year-old right-hander tucked away on the back of the roster. He made two brief relief appearances in Detroit's first 23 games that season before the Tigers placed him in the rotation. He pitched a two-hitter against the Indians in his first start, and the rest was history.
Fidrych won seven straight games during a 9-1 start that landed him on the American League All-Star team. Among his feats were back-to-back 11-inning complete games in his third and fourth Major League starts, an 11-inning shutout of the Oakland A's coming out of the All-Star break in July, and six consecutive complete games in August of that year.