June 1, 2022

This video clip of a few minutes of a young man playing ball (shared out recently in a tweet by the peerless 1970s baseball raconteur Dan Epstein) is nothing special, and that’s the most amazing thing about it. Mark Fidrych only ever existed to most of us at the center of a glowing, cacophonous cultural phenomenon. You could see within that phenomenon his sincerity, his genuine enthusiasm, his humanity, but you also heard the cheers and chanting surrounding him, crashing down on him, saw the crackling heat lightning of a pop culture explosion, felt in the crowd that you joined instantly and completely something sunny but nonetheless ravenous, something like need. All of that is mostly absent from this clip, save for a few moments during which Fidrych signs a few autographs for kids. For the most part it’s just a guy doing something he loves. If you’re reading this you love it too, most likely, even if you haven’t done it in a while. Waiting your turn, and then taking it, gripping a bat in your hands, the pitch coming in, the crack of connection. What’s better?

You don’t know how much time you’re going to get in the box, and if you’re not careful you waste most of it worrying about things that don’t matter that much. Roger Angell, the great baseball writer, lived to 101. Mark Fidrych’s time was cut a lot shorter, but like Angell he made the most of the time he had. Angell and Fidrych crossed paths occasionally in the 1970s, and in one of those moments, during the Bird’s spectacular 1976 season, Angell did what he did best: he payed attention to what matters. A bunch of writers had surrounded Fidrych, and one of them asked the rookie about endorsements.

“What’s come your way so far, Mark?”

Fidrych thought for an instant and then smiled almost shyly. “Happiness,” he said.

from Five Seasons, by Roger Angell


Worcester Birds game notes:

  • G91: L 7-6 (Fidrych 10-6)
    • Staked to a 3-1 lead, Fidrych delivers a stinkbomb, surrendering 12 hits and 5 runs in 4.1 innings
  • G92: W 6-5 (15 innings)
    • Nothing is coming easy anymore. Tekulve pitches 3 scoreless for the win, and Munson collects 5 hits, including the hit that starts a 2-run game-tying rally in the 9th.
  • G93: L 8-2
    • Kucek is injured early and will be out for a while; Campbell is shelled; and Singleton keeps up his specialty of hitting well throughout the team’s tailspin.
  • G94: L 9-4
    • Doug Bird is battered, and he, the injured Kucek, and Larry Dierker are all on the chopping block. But why? Replacing their shitty pitching with other shitty pitching is probably not going to keep this ship from sinking.
  • G95: W 5-4
    • Another rare win, and another of the rare wins that’s a one-run squeaker. The heroes today are Morgan with 3 hits and McClure with 3 scoreless innings for the save.      
  • G96: W 3-0 (Fidrych 11-6)
    • Two wins in a row! And a winning margin of more than one run! And a Fidrych win on top of it! Marring things a little is the decision by the Ostrich to remove the Bird with two outs in the 9th, robbing him of a chance to earn his second shutout. (Geronimo, who collected two hits in the game, secures the last out with a spectacular catch in center field.) After the game, injured Jack Kucek and profoundly ineffective Doug Bird (7.09 ERA) and Larry Dierker (7.97 ERA) are cut and replaced by three other even cheaper options, collectively, all with a significant presence in the Cardboard Gods archives:

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