Sunday, July 30, 2006

Mark Fidrych Diary - July, 1976

The Mark Fidrych Diary will be a regular feature on Tiger Tales during the course of the spring and summer. This year is the 30th anniversay of Fidrych's magical rookie season in 1976 and, to honor the memory of that campaign, I will be writing a regular diary of his season from the perspective of a fan who doesn't know what lies ahead. I will update the diary once or twice a week during the season. I was 13 years old that summer so I have some vivid memories but I will also be using and various newspaper archives to make sure I get the facts straight.

Entries for previous months can be found here: April, 1976 May, 1976 June, 1976

July 29, 1976

Trying to bounce back from his worst start of the year against the Indians last week, Fidrych pitched against the Orioles last night. He pitched with four days rest instead of three days and he was much sharper this time. Rudy may pitched for the Orioles and like so many of Fidrych’s starts this one would be a tight low scoring game.

Neither team mounted much of a threat in the early going and it was scoreless after 3 innings. In the top of the fourth, Bobby Grich singled with one out. Lee May followed with a another single to advance Grich to third. Ken Singleton then hit a grounder to Jason Thompson at first and Grich was thrown out at the plate. With two now out, Fidrych walked Tony Muser to load the bases. Fidrych then got Mark Belanger to ground to second and it looked like the inning was over but Pedro Garcia bobbled the ball and a run scored. Fidrych ended the inning by getting Doug Decinces to ground to third but the Orioles were leading 1-0 after 4 innings.

There would be no more scoring the rest of the way. The Tigers had 2 on with 1 out in the 6th and 2 on with 2 out in the 7th but could not score. May pitched a 6 hit shutout to even his record at 7-7. Fidrych pitched his 13th complete game allowing 6 hits and just 1 unearned run but took the loss. He is now 11-3 with a league leading 1.80 ERA. All of his losses have been shutouts. The other two were a 2-0 loss to the Red Sox and a 1-0 loss to the Royals.

July 25, 1976

The Tigers played the Indians on NBC’s Saturday game of the week yesterday. Fidrych was originally supposed to pitch today on four day’s rest but he was moved up one day so he could pitch in the nationally televised game. There were over 37,000 fans at Cleveland Stadium to watch the Bird.

The Tigers got off to a good start scoring a run in each of the first 4 innings against Jackie Brown. In the first inning, Tom Veryzer singled, went to second when Rusty Staub walked and scored on a double by Willie Horton. In the second, Ron Leflore reached on a fielders choice, stole second and scored on a single by Veryzer. Then, in the third, Jason Thompson hit a solo homer. Finally, in the fourth, Leflore walked, went to second on a single by Veryzer and scored on a Staub single. It was 4-0 Tigers after 3 ½ innings.

Fidrych allowed 3 hits but no runs in the first three innings. In the fourth, Rico Carty led off with a single. George Hendrick followed with another single and Carty came around to score when Staub bobbled the ball. Hendrick then scored on a Bruce Kimm throwing error. Boog Powell also singled but Fidrych escaped with no further damage. It was 4-2 Tigers after 4 innings.

In the fifth inning, John Lowenstein singled, Rick Manning doubled and Carty walked to load the bases with one out. Hendrick then tied the game with a two run single. At this point, Ralph Houk removed Fidrych from the game and replaced him with John Hiller. Hiller got out of the inning and it was 4-4 after 5 innings.

Hiller finished up the game pitching 4 2/3 shutout innings. The Tigers won the game 5-4 when Ben Oglivie hit a solo home run in the eighth. So the Tigers bailed out Fidrych but it was the first time in 14 starts that he failed go 7 innings and the second time he didn’t complete the game. Houk indicated after the game that Fidrych may have been tired: “He wasn’t sharp. He was pitching with too short rest. I was afraid he wouldn’t have good stuff and he didn’t.” It sounds like Houk might not hve been too happy with the front office’s decision to move him up for the game of the week. We can probably expect 4 days rest before his next start.

July 21, 1976

Fidrych faced the Twins at Metropolitan Stadium in Minnesota today. It was not a sell out but there were over 30,000 fans in Minnesota for the first time this year. The Twins had a little surprise for the Bird before the game. As Fidrych warmed up prior to the first ining, 13 pigeons were released around the pitcher’s mound. It was good natured fun but I think they were also hoping to mess with his concentration. I think the 13 pigeons were supposed to represent his 13th start.

Fidrych fell behind 3-0 after 4 innings. The Twins scored 2 runs in the 3rd and 1 in the 4th. Tony Oliva was involved in the scoring both innings, scoring a run in the 3rd and driving in a run in the 4th. He ended up 4 hits for the game.

Rusty Staub tied the game with a 3 run homer off Bill Singer in the 6th. Aurelio Rodriguez then singled home Jason Thompson to make it 4-3 after 6 innings. In the 7th, Bruce Kimm, The Bird’s personal catcher, led off with a double and Ron Leflore belted a 2 run homer. Thompson singled home another run making it 7-3 after 7 innings.

Staub completed the scoring with a sacrifice fly in the 8th. The final score was 8-3 Tigers. After so many late inning victories, including three 11 inning complete games, Fidrych finally had a relatively easy win. He is now 11-2 with 1.71 ERA and 12 complete games.

July 17, 1976

Fidrych pitched against the A’s last night after just two days rest. He only only pitched 2 innings in the all-star game Tuesday but I was surprised to see him pitch so soon. I thought they would give him a little extra rest. Are they pushing him a little too much? He pitched against Mike Torrez who came into the game 8-9 3.52. The Athletics have a couple of league leaders on their team – Sal Bando with 19 home runs and Bill North with 42 stolen bases.

Fidrych breezed through the first 6 innings allowing just a hit and a walk, facing the minimum number of batters and retiring 16 in a row at one point. Torrez was just as sharp giving up just a single and double.

Fidrych allowed two singles and a walk in the 7th but the A’s could not score. The A’s got two more men on base in the 8th but again failed to score. The game remained scoreless after 9 innings. Torrez, who allowed just 5 hits and no walks was relieved by Rollie Fingers in the 9th. The Bird stayed in the game.

It stayed scoreless until the bottom of the 11th. Ron Leflore led off with a single. Tom Veryzer sacrificed him to second. Rusty Staub was walked intentionally. Then, Willie Horton, in his second game since returning from his knee injury, singled home Leflore to win the game. Fidrych ran onto the field and gave Horton a big hug. The final score was 1-0 Tigers in 11 innings.

Fidrych is now 10-2 with 11 complete games (including 3 that went 11 innings) and a 1.60 ERA. There were 46,000 fans in Tiger Stadium. That makes 196,000 fans for the last 4 home games in which Fidrych has pitched. As usual, the crowd would not go home until Fidrych made a curtain call. Both managers commented on the festive atmosphere at the park. Chuck Tanner claimed that “It was better than a World Series game”. Ralph Houk said: “I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s the damndest thing.”

July 14, 1976

The all-star game was last night and these were the starting line-ups:

American League

Ron Leflore LF
Rod Carew 1B
George Brett 3B
Thurman Munson C
Freddie Lynn CF
Toby Harrah SS
Rusty Staub RF
Bobby Grich 2B
Mark Fidrych P

National League

Pete Rose 3B
Steve Garvey 1B
Joe Morgan 2B
George Foster CF
Greg Luzinski LF
Johnny Bench C
Dave Kingman RF
Dave Concepcion SS
Randy Jones P

It was cool to see three Tigers starting the game. I’ve talked a lot about Fidrych’s stats in previous entries but Leflore and Staub are also having good seasons. Leflore is batting .330 with 50 runs scored and 29 stolen bases. Staub is hitting .310 with 6 homers, 17 doubles and 48 RBI.

Fidrych did not have a good night. Rose led off the game with a single and scored on a triple by Garvey. Another run scored on a grounder by Foster. Fidrych pitched 2 innings allowing 4 hits and 2 runs. Two runs was all the National League needed as they went on to win 7-1. It was their 13th win in the last 14 years.

The other Tigers made contributions offensively. Leflore had a single in two at bats and Staub had two singles in two at bats. It was not nearly enough though. Now it’s back to the regular season with a 4 game series versus the A’s. Fidrych is scheduled to pitch Friday night on just two days rest.

July 10, 1976

Fidrych faced the Kansas City Royals, the top hitting team in the league, tonight. Dennis Leonard, who came into the game with a record of 8-3 3.07, pitched for the Royals. Once again, Tiger Stadium was filled with over 51,000 fans. The Bird has attracted 150,000 fans in his last three starts. He’s earning a lot of money for the team right now but makes only $16,500. It doesn’t bother him though. He said:”I was getting $2 an hour working in a garage only a couple of years ago. Right now, I’m making more money than my father.”

The first three innings of tonight’s game were scoreless. The Royals broke the ice in the top of the 4th. With one out, George Brett, John Mayberry and Hal McRae hit consecutive singles to score a run. The Royals led 1-0 after 4 innings.

There would be no more scoring for either team the rest of the game. Both pitchers went the distance. Fidrych did a great job scattering 9 hits and allowing just 1 run against a very tough team but Leonard was a little better. Fidrych is now 9-2 with 10 complete games and a league leading 1.78 ERA.

It was announced today that Fidrych will start the all-star game against Randy Jones (16-3, 2.53) of the Padres. It’s not too many times a rookie pitcher starts the all-star game. When asked what was his biggest thrill before the all star game, Fidrych responded:”Getting a minibike and working on cars.” Rusty Staub and Ron Leflore will also represent the Tigers in the game.

July 4, 1976

I just got back from the big bicentennial parade and am getting ready for the family cookout later. Fidrych faced the Orioles last night before another massive crowd of over 51,000. Mike Cuellar pitched for the Orioles. Listening to the radio, it sounded as if the fans went crazy on every pitch thrown by Fidrych. Once again, it felt like a playoff atmosphere. It is amazing how the Bird has caught on.

After Fidrych retired the Orioles in the top of the first, Ron Leflore led off the bottom of the inning with a single and then stole his 27th base of the year. Tom Veryzer then walked to put runners on first and second and Rusty Staub followed with a 3 run home run, his 6th of the year. The Tigers led 3-0 after one.

In the bottom of the 4th, Jason Thompson led off with his 12th home run of the year. He always seems to hit well with Fidrych is on the mound. The score was 4-0 Tigers after 4 innings.

There would be no more scoring in the game. Fidrych pitched his best game yet and earned his first shutout while allowing just 4 hits and 3 walks. He is now 9-1 with a league leading 1.85 Era and 9 complete games. Just like the previous game against the Yankees, the fans refused to leave when the game was over. They chanted “We want Bird” over and over until he came out of the dugout and waved to the crowd.

I read today that President Gerald Ford called him after the game to congratulate him. Fidrych, however, was so convinced that it was his teammates playing a joke on him that he refused to take the call. He doesn’t want to get a big head though. He said:”If that starts to happen I want somebody on the club to smack me down. I want somebody to say, “you’re too cocky. You’re not that good. You’re only a rookie.”

The Tigers have now won 10 of their last 13 and are 36-36 overall. They have also moved into third place in the AL East. That’s not bad for a team that lost 105 games last season.


  1. I don't think I can remember the last time a baseball player got this much attention so quickly.

  2. AnonymousJuly 21, 2006

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. AnonymousJuly 24, 2006

    Will the American League ever win the All-Star Game again ?

  4. I don't know. The National League seems to have more stars now and I don't see that changing soon.



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