Mark Fidrych, an eccentric All-Star pitcher nicknamed “The Bird,” was found dead on Monday in an apparent accident at his farm. He was 54.
Worcester County district attorney Joseph Early Jr said a family friend found Fidrych about 2:30pm on Monday beneath a dump truck at his farm in Northborough, Massachusetts.
He appeared to have been working on the truck, Early said.
The curly-haired Fidrych was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1976, when he went 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA and 24 complete games. He spent all five of his major league seasons with the Detroit Tigers, compiling a 29-19 record and a 3.10 ERA.
“The entire Detroit Tigers organization was saddened to learn of the passing of former player Mark Fidrych today,” the Tigers said in a statement.
Fidrych attempted a comeback in 1982 and 1983 in the Boston Red Sox organization. He pitched for their Triple A team in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, but he never pitched again in the majors after 1980 and retired in July 1983.
He later owned a trucking business.
Fidrych acquired the nickname “the Bird” because of his resemblance to the Big Bird character on the Sesame Street television show. During games, he would bend down and groom the mound with his hands, talk to the baseball and high-five teammates in the middle of the diamond.
But knee and shoulder injuries limited him to 58 major league games.
“Baseball will miss him. They missed him because he didn’t have as long as a career as everybody would have liked in the first place. It’s just horrible,” former Orioles pitcher and Hall of Famer Jim Palmer said. “He did embrace life. I remember him trying to play golf when he couldn’t play golf and enjoying every minute of it. He was a marvelous pitcher and I just hate to see him go.”
State police detectives are investigating the circumstances of his death, Early said.