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The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych Hardcover – March 26, 2013
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Mark (The Bird) Fidrych burst on the baseball world in the summer of 1976, pitching for the Detroit Tigers. His big shock of blond, curly hair generated comparisons to Big Bird, hence the nickname. He won 19 games and finished second in the Cy Young balloting for baseball’s best American League pitcher. Fidrych’s success was stunning, but his eccentricity made him an overnight folk hero. Fidrych would groom the pitcher’s mound very carefully, openly chatter to himself, give the ball verbal instructions, and reject balls that he felt had hits in them. It was wonderful theater but had a short run. Fidrych developed shoulder trouble in his second year and quickly faded from baseball. Sadly, he died in 2009 in a mishap while fixing his truck. Wilson interviewed many former teammates, managers, friends, and family members in the course of researching this biography of the ballplayer and the man. Though Fidrych was disappointed with the brevity of his career, he never wallowed in self-pity. A compassionate, engaging biography of a player whose star shone brightly if briefly. --Wes Lukowsky
“Required Reading” ―New York Post
“Solid, understated prose allows both the happy and sadder moments to shine through on their merits. He [Wilson] has a fine ear for anecdotes--which he has collected from friends and family, teammates and secondary sources--and he never strangles the subject with too much inside baseball…The Bird is a well-written, definitive book about a good guy with a great story.” ―The Wall Street Journal
“There had never been a biography written about The Bird. Leave it to an eye specialist to bring Fidrych's life and career into proper focus…Wilson helps the reader see how much joy Fidrych had -- and gave to baseball fans.” ―Tampa Tribune
“It's a Cinderella story: Out of nowhere, a flaky, infectiously enthusiastic pitcher captures the nation's attention, a happy reminder that baseball is fun and a business…The "Bird" he captures is a reminder that there's still joy in the game, in playing and sharing the experience.” ―Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Anyone who remembers the magical summer when the Bird spun gold every time he took the mound will love reliving the stories here…This is a fun book about a regular guy who never changed, even after exploding into a national sensation. The next time the business side of the modern game gets you down, "The Bird" should prove the perfect antidote.” ―BaseballAmerica.com
“Wilson makes plain by means of a skillful weaving of distant accounts and contemporaneous stories, many raising a tear, that Mark Fidrych deserved his celebrity and our admiration. Highly recommended…and explanation of the mania that last engulfed the National Pastime in a worthwhile way.” ―Library Journal (starred review)
“For a short time in the 1970s, the country was in thrall to Mark Fidrych, who came to be known as ‘The Bird' for his resemblance to Big Bird. Fidrych emerged seemingly from nowhere in the summer of 1976 and became an unlikely but legitimate phenomenon. Wilson tells the Bird's story in this biography of the Massachusetts native whose antics included tending to his own pitching mound during games and allegedly talking to the baseball. Wilson also dispels a few myths along the way, namely disputing the demotion of Fidrych to a ‘flake,' despite his antics. He also paints Fidrych as a product of his time and argues that only in the 1970s could someone like Fidrych become such an icon. The beloved pitcher's every move drew national attention, and his appearances sold out stadiums, whether for away games or for the home games of some lousy Tigers teams. Unfortunately, knee and throwing-shoulder injuries curtailed the career of the Bird….Fidrych transfixed the country, albeit too briefly. This book serves as a reminder of why.” ―Kirkus Review
“Wilson interviewed many former teammates, managers, friends, and family members in the course of researching this biography of the ballplayer and the man…A compassionate, engaging biography of a player whose star shone brightly, if briefly.” ―Booklist
“In chronicling the sudden rise and fall of Fidrych, Wilson takes us into the Tigers organization and the Major Leagues to show how an obscure baseball player could capture the hearts of fans nationwide.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Mark Fidrych's sudden emergence in the spring of 1976 was a gift from the baseball gods; his equally sudden fall from glory was one of the game's more puzzling disappointments. With THE BIRD, Doug Wilson clears away the myths and misconceptions surrounding Fidrych and his brief but magical career, leaving us with an inspiring portrait of a unique individual who truly played the game (and lived his life) for the pure joy of it.” ―Dan Epstein, author of Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swingin' '70s
“Mark Fidrych's magical single-season flight into baseball history exploded into rock star legend. In The Bird, Doug Wilson captures the essence of this unlikely icon with extensive insight from family, friends, fans, teammates, opposing players, managers and media. This portrait of a once in a lifetime phenomenon is a must read for all baseball romantics.” ―Dan Ewald, author, baseball writer and former Tigers executive
Amazon's editors selected this title as a Best Book of the Month in biography & memoir. See our current Editors' Picks.
Top customer reviews
Detailed with intimate knowledge by those who knew him best - family, friends, teachers, coaches, and teammates - Wilson's book made me smile the whole time I read it. As a Detroit native and baseball fan, I was just as fascinated by Mark Fidrych as the rest of the country during Fidrych's rookie season of 1976. 'The Bird' fills in the holes, quashes the rumors and innuendo, and portrays Mark Fidrych not as a flake but as a unique human being.
Wilson captures the emotions of Fidrych's highs and lows as few biographies have. You'll find yourself rooting for him even though you know the outcome. You can't help but get drawn in to the magic of Mark Fidrych, even through the pages of a book.
The pictures show mid-1970's life of the wild clothes, long hair on men (still barely socially acceptable), and Mark Fidrych in the middle of it all, like we were just living in his world. In a way, we were just living in his world. Just as the 1980 US Men's Olympic hockey team made the country feel better after their dramatic win over the USSR, Mark Fidrych gave hope - and a hell of a lot of fun - to the city of Detroit and the world of baseball just when it was most needed. 'The Bird' let's you travel the story... and it's a great ride.
One of the greatest things about Mark was he never changed, and again, Doug illustrates this perfectly in this book.
If you enjoyed who he was, this is something you must read.
Doug, you did a great job, thanks!
Sincere would be a word that would aptly describe Fidrych. What you saw was what the real Fidrych was to anyone he came in contact with. He didn't put on a false front for other people. He thoroughly enjoyed the game of baseball and appreciated the ability that God had given him. Opposing players did not resent his hyperactive behavior when pitching because they knew he was sincere and not putting on a show for the crowd.
He was a bright shining star in the year of 1976 and one can only speculate what kind of a career he would have had had he not injured his knee going after a fly ball during practice in 1977 after teammate Rusty Staub had counseled him to slow down. The career of Mark Fidrych was one of ups and downs, mostly downs, following his magical season in 1976 as numerous doctors misdiagnosed his injury to his arm. Finally Dr. James Andrews discovered Mark had two severe tears in his rotator cuff. Had this injury taken place a few years later a correct diagnosis with surgery would likely have saved his career.
Mark Fidrych adjusted to his post-baseball life very well. He spent his money wisely on a home for his parents and bought a truck along with land on which he raised animals and worked the land. He was able to do this due to signing a three year contract with the Tigers following the 1976 season.
Fidrych was known as "Fid" to those who knew him best and he gave a lot of himself to other individuals and worthy causes for the remainder of his life. We are all remembered by how we treat others, and Mark Fidrych gave a good portion of his life serving others.
What is important is not how many years we are given, but what we do with the years given to us. This is a masterful biography for children and adults to read.
Most recent customer reviews
I am old enough to remember the excitement he caused the baseball world that summer
Died much too young