BOSTON—Mark (“The Bird”) Fidrych, the fun-loving pitcher who baffled hitters for one all-star season and entertained fans with his antics, was found dead yesterday in an apparent accident at his farm.
He was 54.
Worcester County district attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said a family friend found Fidrych about 2:30 p.m. yesterday beneath a dump truck in Northborough, Mass., about 55 km west of Boston.
He appeared to have been working on the truck, Early said.
Joseph Amorello said he had stopped by the farm to chat with Fidrych when he found the body underneath the 10-wheel truck.
Amorello owns A.F. Amorello & Sons, a company that does road construction, and said he sometimes hired Fidrych to haul asphalt or gravel in the truck.
“We were just, in general, getting started for the [road building] season this week and it seems as though his truck was going to be needed. It looked like he was doing some maintenance on it,” Amorello said in a telephone interview.
“I found him under the truck. There’s not much more I can say.
“I dialled 9-1-1 and that’s all I could do.”
The district attorney’s office declined to release details of the accident or the discovery of Fidrych.
The curly haired right-hander was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1976 when he went 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA and 24 complete games.
But injuries cut short his career, and he ended up spending only five seasons in the major-leagues, all with the Detroit Tigers.
He was 29-19 with a 3.10 ERA.
“The entire Detroit Tigers’ organization was saddened to learn of the passing of former player Mark Fidrych today,” the Tigers said in a statement. “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 attempted a comeback in 1982 and 1983 in the Boston Red Sox organization. He pitched for their ‘AAA’ team in Pawtucket, R.I., but he never pitched in the majors after 1980 and retired in July, 1983.
He acquired the nickname “The Bird” because of his resemblance to the Big Bird character on the Sesame Street television show.
During games, he would bend down and groom the mound with his hands, talk to the baseball, and slap five with teammates in the middle of the diamond.
“People that didn’t know him might say he was weird, but people who knew him didn’t,” Amorello said. “He was just a big-hearted person. He never even slightly suggested any regrets of his injuries.
“He was just happy to have the time he had in sports. He considered himself a lucky man.
“He bought his farm. He married the woman he was in love with and had a beautiful daughter.”
Fidrych married his wife, Ann, in 1986 and they had a daughter, Jessica.
Knee and shoulder injuries limited him to 58 major-league games.
Fidrych’s first major-league start was a complete game, two-hitter in which he beat the Cleveland Indians 2-1. He won seven of his first eight decisions and was the AL starter in the all-star game.
He allowed two runs in the first inning, and put runners at second and third in the second but got the final two outs and left after two innings trailing 2-0.
He tore knee cartilage during spring training the following year and was placed on the disabled list until May 24. He sustained a shoulder injury in July, 1977.
Fidrych pitched 250 1/3 innings in 1976, but only 162 after that when he was just 10-10.