Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, Detroit Tiger pitcher and rookie of the year in 1976, died at 54.
Best Season: 1976
He went 19-9 with a league-leading 2.34 ERA. Three times he pitched six straight complete games, and he won eight straight games at one point. He was chosen to start the All-Star Game, which he lost. He hurled a two-hitter, a four-hitter, and five five-hitters. Fidrych was a distant second to Jim Palmer in Cy Young voting, but was named AL Rookie of the Year.
1976 was a magical year, and The Bird was a large part of the magic. I was born an hour outside of Detroit. The entire state of Michigan was bonkers for the Tigers, and they went bonkers for Fidrych, too. He talked to the ball, he tended to holes in the mound on his hands and knees. Literally life came to a stop when he pitched. We huddled around the T.V. or the radio and sat transfixed. I don’t recall anything like it before or since. And his salary that year? $16,000. He did it for love of the game.