Former All-Star pitcher Mark "The Bird" Fidrych was found dead Monday afternoon, the victim of an apparent accident at his farm in Northborough, Mass. He was 54.
Worcester County district attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said a family friend found Fidrych at about 2:30 p.m. beneath a pickup truck that he appeared to have been working on, Early said.
The colorful right-hander was the American League rookie of the year in 1976 when he went 19-9 with a 2.34 earned run average. It was a magical season during which he charmed America by halting play to talk to the baseball or kneel to the ground to groom the mound.
But he also threw 250 1/3 innings, including a now unheard of 24 complete games. The following spring he was struck by a case of "dead arm" and over the next four season he managed to pitch only 162 innings, compiling a 10-10 record. It wasn't until 1985 that he was diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff.
During his minor league career he was given the nickname "The Bird" by one of his coaches, a nod to his resemblance to Big Bird of "Sesame Street" fame.
He spent all five of his major league seasons with the Detroit Tigers, compiling a 29-19 record and a 3.10 ERA. After his final big league appearance he toiled for another three seasons in the minors, but was unable to regain the form that had made him a phenom.