BOSTON (Reuters) - Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, a double All-Star for the Detroit Tigers whose colorful antics on the pitching mound created a sensation during the mid-1970s, has died aged 54.
Fidrych, whose career was cut short by a knee injury, was found beneath his truck in an apparent accident on Monday at his farm in Northborough, Mass., police said.
“The entire Detroit Tigers organization was saddened to learn of the passing of former player Mark Fidrych,” the team said in a statement.
“Mark was beloved by Tigers fans, and he was a special person with a unique personality.”
Fidrych went 19-9 as a rookie in 1976, leading the American League in earned run average (2.34) and complete games (24). He was the starting pitcher in the All-Star Game and won the Rookie of the Year Award.
His on-the-mound antics, like talking to both the baseball and himself, led to his wild popularity and sell-out crowds almost every time he pitched.
Fidrych, however, suffered a knee injury while chasing fly balls during spring training in 1977 and his career was never the same.
Known as “The Bird” because of his resemblance to the Sesame Street character Big Bird, he was out of the majors by the end of the 1980 season.
“I know he enjoyed himself and lived life the way he wanted to,” former Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell said on the Tigers’ website (http:/detroit.tigers.mlb.com).
“For myself, as far as being selfish as a ballplayer, I wish I could’ve played with him longer. He was special when he was doing his thing.”
Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington
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