It seems like every generation in baseball has a phenomenon all their own. Something that takes the game by storm and regardless of who your team is that you root for and want to be part of it. Things that come to mind are Roger Maris in 1961, McGwire and Sosa in 1998 and even the Bash Brothers in the 80’s. But the 1970’s were a unique decade. We have seen in the past from some of the other books we reviewed like Stars and Strikes by Dan Epstein, how the 70’s were a decade of change both on a social level and on the ball field. The 70’s can lay claim to a few different memorable events, but one stands out above the rest. Mark Fidrych of the Detroit Tigers was about to take the baseball world by storm, and they didn’t even see it coming.
Mark Fidrych was the product of a small Massachusetts town, coming from a modest background. Never groomed to be a star athlete, he just played because he wanted to do so. But Mark Fidrych’s antics on the pitching mound, a big head of unmanageable hair and blazing fastball made him the talk of the country in 1976. Nicknamed The Bird due to his resemblance to Big Bird from Sesame Street, Fidrych had brief but magical career that to this day makes fans wonder what could have been.
Doug Wilson has written a book that explores the man behind the legend. Everyone is familiar with all the on-field antics that were part of Fidrych’s quirky personality, but unless you lived in Detroit at the time, you may have not been all that familiar with the real Mark. Wilson’s book gives a nice, detailed look at the man himself. From his roots in Massachusetts, through the minor leagues, his gig as “The Bird” and finally life after baseball, it paints a very detailed picture of what a nice guy he was. You always hear old players saying that they played for the love of the game, but I actually believe it with this one. He just seemed to have fun with everything he did and baseball was no exception. Many of the first hand accounts of Mark are taken from interviews with friends and family so they are really nice remembrances of a man who was taken from this world too soon.
Of course, what baseball book would be complete without taking a look at the on field activities of The Bird. You see his minor and major league career, his attempts at rehabbing his bad arm and finally his life after baseball. Most times the reporting on Mark Fidrych does not get beyond the on-field antics. It was nice to see someone finally put something together that showed the complete picture.
All baseball fans should like this one. If you were around during that magical summer that he took the game by storm, it will be fun re-living it. If The Bird was before your time, it will be another fun ride seeing what made the 70’s so groovy.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Thomas Dunne Books