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Andy Whitman

The Bird

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Baseball is a slow game. Most of the action takes place in short bursts. About one quarter of the time the batter puts the ball in play, and in the ensuing five seconds the game actually transpires. Three-quarters of the time the pitcher throws a pitch and the batter watches it sail by for a ball or a strike, or fouls it off. All of this takes about a second. Then thirty seconds go by before the next pitch.

Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, a former pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, turned those thirty seconds between pitches into an art form. Fidrych stalked the mound, flapped his arms (hence "The Bird" nickname), waved to fans in the crowd, slapped high-fives with his teammates, and occasionally held the baseball in his hand and lectured it when it wasn't ending up where he intended to throw it. He was a character, and God knows baseball could stand more characters instead of merely players with character issues. He was great for one year, mediocre for a couple more, and left the game all too soon. He left this life all too soon, too, dying in a freak accident on his farm yesterday. He was 54. I will miss him.

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Wow, this is sad news. I remember seeing him when I was a kid, the photo on the cover of a national magazine with Fidrych and Big Bird, and thought he was totally cool. Between seeing Fidrych talk to the ball, and seeing Al Hrabosky, the "Mad Hungarian's" act every time he took the mound, for an easily entertained nine-year-old baseball fan, I was fascinated by this kind of stuff. Such a shame his career ended so early, and a shame about his passing.

Edited by Crow

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