The 1976 American League Rookie of the Year died yesterday. Fittingly, he was crushed by a truck he was working on. You see, Fidrych, despite being extremely famous, never made a lot of money from baseball. Back in 1976, apparently, it was okay to have 21-year-old rookies throw 24 complete games. Today's top veteran pitchers, who make 100 times what Fidrych did, throw a handful of complete games per year - if that. (Which, of course, reminds me that the Pirates had Zach Duke, who is coming off arm troubles, throw 120 pitches in the cold yesterday. Not sure what they were thinking, but apparently they have a history of promising pitchers coming down with sore arms.) Anyhow, what in hindsight appears very predictable, Fidrych blew out his arm shortly after going 19-9 his rookie year and leading the league in E.R.A. He never pitched a full major league season after that and was out of the league by the time he was 25.
My grandfather, who was old enough to have seen Babe Ruth play at the old League Park in Cleveland, I remember being a huge Fidrych fan. He was impressed with the way he'd sprint on and off the field to and from the dugout and, of course, talk to the ball. My grandfather who was a dentist and apparently a pretty fair ballplayer in this time, also loved that Fidrych said that if he wasn't pitching he'd probably be back in his hometown pumping gas.
Anyhow, for some reason I have always been a Yankee fan and kind of resented Fidrych and the success he always had vs. the Yanks, something, which in retrospect (like Fidrych's throwing 20-plus complete games) I also realize was stupid. Oh well, here's to ya' bird. Let's hope at least one major leaguer over the next couple days, gets down on his hands and knees to smooth at the dirt around the mound!