Mark Fydrich was dubbed “The Bird”
because his curly mop of blond hair
and gait reminded a sports writer
of a Sesame Street character.
He joined the Detroit Tigers in 1976,
a tall right hander, 21 years old,
a sensation who won nineteen games,
had a live fast ball, excellent control
and won the Rookie of the Year award.
With a smile as big as home plate,
this fidgeter talked to the baseball
and enjoyed rushing to shake
a teammate’s hand when he made
an outstanding play in the field.
Superstitious, he jumped over
chalk lines and often kneeled
to smooth the dirt on the mound.
Some of the largest crowds in years
turned out to see this phenom pitch.
He enjoyed autographing souvenirs,
posed for photographs with fans,
became the first baseball player to be
featured on the cover of Rolling Stone
and was interviewed on radio and TV.
The following summer, at an age
when most hurlers have their best days
ahead of them, he tore his right rotator cuff
and never regained his highlight ways.
His big league stint ended in 1980.
The shoulder injury did not embitter him.
He neither bemoaned the short career
nor dwelt on victories which might have been.
Mark Fidrych captivated the public
and brought to the pastime of baseball
a kind of wonder and contagious joy,
his mannerisms probably not at all
different than those of the excitable boy
who slept with his cap and glove
and dreamed he’d grow up to play
the game he never tired of.