Mark Fidrych and Nick Adenhart

Baseball has suddenly lost two pitchers.  One, Mark Fidrych, had a brief and shining career with one outstanding season.  The other, Nick Adenhart, had finally realized his dream and pitched one game in the majors.  I had followed  The Bird and hadn’t heard of Nick Adenhart until after his death, but they will always be linked in my mind.

There will be a lot written about The Bird in the days to come, but everyone will be competing against the wonderful piece Don Gonyea did tonight on NPR.  I listened while I cooked dinner and had to blink back the tears that were not from peeling onions.  I hope you click on the link and listen too, but here are some highlights.

Mark Fidrych passed away Monday. You may know him better by his full name — that includes his nickname: Mark “The Bird” Fidrych.

His playing career with the Detroit Tigers was brief: one great season, followed by a handful of years marked more by injury than by time on the mound. But baseball fans in the Motor City and elsewhere still talk about the amazing year Fidrych had back in 1976.

The newest Detroit Tiger, a kid with a mop of curly blond hair that stuck out from his ball cap on all sides, took the mound.

He pitched brilliantly. He kept the ball low and threw a devastating sinkerball that defied hitters.

Mark Fidrych, 21, threw a no-hitter through six innings, finally giving up a hit, a single, in the seventh. The Tigers won 2-1. It was the first of 24 complete games he would pitch that year.

His nickname, a result of his strong resemblance to Big Bird from Sesame Street, became a household word around Michigan. “Did you see Bird pitch last night?” “Are we going to see The Bird pitch Saturday?” What time does Bird pitch?” All common questions that summer in the Motor City. And it wasn’t just baseball fans. As that old rock ‘n’ roll song by The Trashmen said,

“Everybody’s talking
About the Bird
The Bird, the Bird,
The Bird is the word.”

After Nick Adenhart was killed by the drunk driver, Doug Glanville wrote a piece for the New York Times titled “Loss Beyond the Score.”  I quote from the beginning and the end.

After hearing about the tragic death of the 22-year-old pitcher Nick Adenhart, my heart skipped a beat. Although I never met him, I still feel close to the baseball family and his loss was the loss of a brother.

In the game of baseball, you live and fight together as a unit day after day. Gradually an unspoken truth emerges: we will look out for one another, even 15, 20 years down the road. It is an everlasting vigilance that protects our immediate and extended baseball family.

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