In Michigan
9:40 am
Tue April 14, 2009

Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Mark Fidrych is dead at 54

(Detroit, MI) – Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Mark "The Bird" Fidrych is dead.

His body was found underneath a truck on his farm in Massachusetts Monday. Authorities say they believe his death was an accident.

Fidrych earned his nickname because of his curly hair, his gangly frame, and his quirky mannerisms such as talking to himself on the mound, though it looked like he was talking to the baseball.

Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell says Fidrych also reintroduced the "curtain call" to the national pastime.

"When he won a game, people wouldn't leave Tiger Stadium until Mark came out and took his bow and waved at them in front of the dugout," said Harwell. "So he was really a charismatic character, the most charismatic we've seen in Detroit."

Fidrych was 21 when he made his Tigers debut in 1976. He won 19 games that season, including a nationally televised Monday night victory over the New York Yankees.

He was named the American League Rookie of the Year and started the '76 All-Star Game for the A-L.

The following year he suffered the first of several injuries that shortened his career.

Fidrych pitched his last major league game in 1980.

He was 54.