The first biography of the eccentric pitcher, rookie All-Star starter, 70s pop icon, and first athlete on the cover of Rolling Stone
Mark Fidrych exploded onto the scene in the summer of 1976 with the Detroit Tigers, capturing the hearts of Americans from coast to coast. Lanky with a curly mop, a nickname born of his resemblance to Sesame Street’s Big Bird would only hint at the large personality that was about to take baseball in a new direction. Known for wildly endearing antics such as throwing back balls that “had hits in them,” manicuring the mound of any cleat marks, talking to himself (and the ball for that matter), and shaking hands with just about everyone from groundskeepers to cops after games, The Bird infused each game with the fun, All-American spirit of 1970s baseball. A two-time All-Star player, Fidrych won nineteen games, along with the Rookie of the Year Award, becoming one of the biggest individual drawing cards baseball has ever seen.
Recreating the magic of an unforgettable era of baseball, The Bird shows how Fidrych was the player that brought a smile to your face, becoming a crossover pop culture icon and household name. Through meticulous research and interviews, Doug Wilson vividly recounts Fidrych’s struggles and final shining moments in the Minors, the tragic injury that signaled the beginning of the end of his career, through to his sudden death in 2009.
The Bird gives readers a long overdue look into the life of the refreshing rookie the likes of which baseball had never seen before, and has never seen since.
*New York Post Required Reading*
A finalist for the 2014 Society for American Baseball Research Seymour Medal and selected as a 2014 Michigan Notable Book by the Library of Michigan
“Solid, understated prose allows both the happy and sadder moments to shine through on their merits. He [Wilson] has a fine ear for anecdotes—which he has collected from friends and family, teammates and secondary sources—and he never strangles the subject with too much inside baseball…The Bird is a well-written, definitive book about a good guy with a great story.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“There had never been a biography written about The Bird. Leave it to an eye specialist to bring Fidrych’s life and career into proper focus…Wilson helps the reader see how much joy Fidrych had — and gave to baseball fans.”
“It's a Cinderella story: Out of nowhere, a flaky, infectiously enthusiastic pitcher captures the nation's attention, a happy reminder that baseball is fun and a business…The "Bird" he captures is a reminder that there's still joy in the game, in playing and sharing the experience.”
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Anyone who remembers the magical summer when the Bird spun gold every time he took the mound will love reliving the stories here…This is a fun book about a regular guy who never changed, even after exploding into a national sensation. The next time the business side of the modern game gets you down, “The Bird” should prove the perfect antidote.”
“Wilson makes plain by means of a skillful weaving of distant accounts and contemporaneous stories, many raising a tear, that Mark Fidrych deserved his celebrity and our admiration. Highly recommended…and explanation of the mania that last engulfed the National Pastime in a worthwhile way.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
“For a short time in the 1970s, the country was in thrall to Mark Fidrych, who came to be known as ‘The Bird’ for his resemblance to Big Bird. Fidrych emerged seemingly from nowhere in the summer of 1976 and became an unlikely but legitimate phenomenon. Wilson tells the Bird’s story in this biography of the Massachusetts native whose antics included tending to his own pitching mound during games and allegedly talking to the baseball. Wilson also dispels a few myths along the way, namely disputing the demotion of Fidrych to a ‘flake,’ despite his antics. He also paints Fidrych as a product of his time and argues that only in the 1970s could someone like Fidrych become such an icon. The beloved pitcher’s every move drew national attention, and his appearances sold out stadiums, whether for away games or for the home games of some lousy Tigers teams. Unfortunately, knee and throwing-shoulder injuries curtailed the career of the Bird….Fidrych transfixed the country, albeit too briefly. This book serves as a reminder of why.”
“Wilson interviewed many former teammates, managers, friends, and family members in the course of researching this biography of the ballplayer and the man…A compassionate, engaging biography of a player whose star shone brightly, if briefly.”
“In chronicling the sudden rise and fall of Fidrych, Wilson takes us into the Tigers organization and the Major Leagues to show how an obscure baseball player could capture the hearts of fans nationwide.”
“Mark Fidrych's sudden emergence in the spring of 1976 was a gift from the baseball gods; his equally sudden fall from glory was one of the game's more puzzling disappointments. With THE BIRD, Doug Wilson clears away the myths and misconceptions surrounding Fidrych and his brief but magical career, leaving us with an inspiring portrait of a unique individual who truly played the game (and lived his life) for the pure joy of it.”
—Dan Epstein, author of Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swingin' '70s
“Mark Fidrych's magical single-season flight into baseball history exploded into rock star legend. In The Bird, Doug Wilson captures the essence of this unlikely icon with extensive insight from family, friends, fans, teammates, opposing players, managers and media. This portrait of a once in a lifetime phenomenon is a must read for all baseball romantics.”
—Dan Ewald, author, baseball writer and former Tigers executive