Monday, August 28, 2006

Mark Fidrych Diary - August, 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 May June July

August 29, 1976

The Bird pitched at Oakland today against Mike Torrez and the Athletics. There was no way to watch or listen to the game on a Sunday afternoon in Massachusetts so I had to rely on updates from local radio stations WEEI and WHDH. It turned out to be another pitcher’s duel.

In the top of the first, Ron Leflore singled , stole second, went to third on a ground out and scored on a wild pitch. This gave the Tigers an early 1-0 lead. Leflore’s steal was his 49th of the season. He added another one later to give him an even 50.

The Athletics tied it up 1-1 in the 3rd on a home run by Phil Garner. That was all the scoring for a while as Fidrych retired 17 of the next 18 batters and the Tigers didn’t have any better success against Torrez. It was still 1-1 after 11 innings. It was quite a duel.

In the 12th, Torrez was replaced by Rollie Fingers who retired the Tigers easily. The Bird kept on pitching into the bottom of the 12th. This was the 5th time Houk stayed with Fidrych into extra innings but the first time he went into the 12th. Don Baylor led off with a single and eventually came around to score on a one out single by Gene Tenace. The final score was 2-1 Athletics in 12 innings.

Like most of Fidrych’s rare losses, this was a tough one. The Bird is now 15-6 with a 2.08 ERA and 19 complete games in 22 starts.

August 26, 1976

The Bird was looking to get back on track last night after his disasterous 10th inning in his previous start. I still think Ralph Houk left him in there too long and deserves some of the blame for the 4 run 9th. Anyway, they were facing the White Sox tonight and Bart Johnson was the opposing pitcher.

The Tigers scored first in the 4th inning. With two out, Jason Thompson singled to left and then surprised everybody in the park by stealing second. According to Ernie Harwell, Thompson was able to steal easily because Johnson failed to pitch from the stretch pitching from a full windup instead. I guess he was really confident that Thompson would never try to steal. Thompson scored on a single to center by Aurelio Rodriguez.

In the top of the 5th inning, Jack Brohamer led off for the White Sox with a single to right. After two were out, Jerry Hairston singled to right and Brohamer came around to score when Ben Oglivie let the ball go through his legs. It was an unearned run but the score was now tied 1-1.

In the Tiger 6th, Oglivie made up for his error by tripling to center with one out. He scored when Alan Bannister had trouble picking up the ball. Rusty Staub followed with a walk and went to third when Thompson singled. Rodriguez then hit a sacrifice fly to center scoring Staub to make it 3-1 Tigers. There was no more scoring in the game after that.

Fidrych is now 15-5 with a 2.11 ERA and 17 complete games. In an interview after the game, The Bird said his goal was to win his 16th game and keep his ERA around 2.00. He also claimed that he needs to improve his control. With only 37 walks in 188 innings, I’m not sure how better he can get. The Tigers are now 60-65 and in 4th place 16 games behind.

August 22, 1976

The Bird pitched on The Saturday Game of the Week yesterday so I was able to watch him again. He was facing Pete Redfern and the Minnesota Twins. The game got off to a good start with the Tigers scoring 3 runs in the first inning. With one out, Dan Meyer walked. Ben Oglivie singled him to second and Rusty Staub followed with a two run double. Jason Thompson then singled home Staub to make it 3-0.

The Twins bounced back with two of their own in the second. Lyman Bostock led off with a single. Steve Brye followed with his first home run of the year to make it 3-2.

There was no more scoring until the 7th. In the top of that inning, Bostock and Brye singled to put runners on first and third. Bostock scored on a Larry Hisle single to tie the score 3-3.

It was still tied after 9 innings. Fidrych stayed in to pitch the 10th and got the first man but then it all unraveled. Here is how the inning went:

Steve Brye grounded out to shortstop
Bob Randall singled
Steve Braun singled
Roy Smalley singled (Randall out at plate)
Rod Carew walked
Disco Danny Ford was hit by the pitch (Braun scored)
Butch Wynegar scored (Smalley and Carew scored)
Lyman Bostock doubled (Ford scored)
Mike Cubbage grounded out to shortstop.

When all was said and done, the Twins had scored 4 runs to take a 7-3 lead. I have no idea why Fidrych was not taken out of the game.

The final score was 7-3 and, after the game, Fidrych said: “Well, I guess I’m human. Maybe, it’s for the best. It’s hard to believe. Seven runs. Earned too.” Fidrych is now 14-5 with a 2.22 ERA and 17 complete games.

August 18, 1976

Fidrych pitched versus fireballer Frank Tanana (who came into the game 14-8 with a 2.77 ERA) and the California Angels last night. I know I mention attendance figures a lot but it’s really amazing how many fans come out to see The Bird. Last night, there were 51,822 fans in Tiger Stadium, their biggest crowd in 6 years. Fidrych enjoys the big crowds: “They make my body kind of rush, get my blood flowing a lot.” He also likes to talk to them away from the park: ”I don’t have a phone so they can’t call me. A lot of people come to my apartment, kids and things, but I don’t mind rapping with them. What else do I have to do during the day?”

Fidrych cruised through the first 4 innings but then allowed a solo home run to Ron Jackson in the 5th. In the Angels 6th, Dave Collins singled to right, went to second on a sacrifice by Jerry Remy, went to third on wild pitch and scored on a Bruce Bochte sacrifice fly. That made it 2-0 Angels.

In the bottom of the 6th, Bruce Kimm walked with one out and scored on a triple by Ron Leflore. Alex Johnson then hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game 2-2.

It was still 2-2 in the bottom of the 8th when The Bird’s personal catcher, Bruce Kimm led off the inning. Kimm smashed a home run to left field to put the Tigers in front 3-2. It was Kimm’s first career home run and he raised his arms in celebration as he ran around the bases. This pumped up an already enthusiastic crowd to another level. I was listening to Ernie Harwell’s description but it must have been a sight to see.

The final score was 3-2 Tigers as Fidrych outdueled Tanana for his 14th win of the season. He now has 16 complete games and still leads the league with 1.97 ERA. The Tigers are now 56-60 and are in 4th place 15 games behind

August 14, 1976

Fidrych turned 22 today. Happy Birthday to The Bird!

August 12, 1976

Fidrych pitched against the Rangers last night before over 36,000 fans at Tiger Stadium. I read in The Sporting News this week that the Tigers have averaged about 36,000 fans in Fidrych's home starts including close to 46,000 in his last 5 starts. In Tiger home games when Fidrych has not pitched, they have averaged about 17,000 fans. So, you could say the The Bird brings in almost 30,000 extra fans per start. That's not bad for a guy who is making a league minimun $17,000.

Facing Fidrych was Gaylord Perry who came into the game with a record of 11-8 and a 3.31 ERA. Perry has been accused of throwing spitballs his whole career but has never actually been caught. Most people seem to think he does throw it and that many others do as well. He is also constantly touching his belt and his cap to make batters think it is coming whether it is or not.

It was a see saw game throughout. The Rangers scored first in the 2nd inning on a passed ball by Bruce Kimm which brought home Mike Hargrove who had singled to lead off the inning. The Tigers tied it 1-1 in the 3rd on consecutive singles by Dan Meyer, Rusty Staub and Jason Thompson.

The Rangers took the lead back in the 4th on a Mike Hargrove home run. The Tigers then tied it 2-2 in the 5th on Rusty Staub’s 11th home run of the year.

The Tigers took the lead 3-2 in the 6th when Aurelio Rodriguez tripled and scored on a single by Alex Johnson. The Rangers came back in the 7th to tie it 3-3 when Gene Clines singled home Juan Beniquez. It was the 4th tie of the game.

The game remained tied until the bottom of the 9th. Willie Horton pinch hit for Jerry Manuel to lead off the inning. He promptly deposited a Perry slider (or maybe it was a spitter) deep into the seats in left to give the Tigers a 4-3 victory. It was The Bird’s 15th complete game and he improved his record to 13-4 with a 1.97 ERA.

August 8, 1976

The Tigers played the Indians on The Game of The Week today. One of the great things about having The Bird on the team is that they show up on the game of the week quite a bit. Without Fidrych, they would never show a game between these two teams. Fidrych had not won a game since July 20 and had not been as sharp recently as he was earlier in the season. There was talk on the pre-game show about his perhaps being tired.

The Tigers got off to a quick start in the first inning. After Ron Leflore led off with a single, Dan Meyer was safe at first when Leflore was forced at second on his grounder. Meyer then stole second and went to third on a Ben Oglivie single. Rusty Staub followed with a sacrifice fly to drive home the first run of the game.

Fidrych pitched perfectly through the first four innings and he looked very determined and in control doing it. Rico Carty led off the 5th with a walk for the Indians first base runner. He went to second on a single by Buddy Bell. Alan Ashby singled to center to tie the game at 1-1.

The Tigers came right back in the bottom of the 5th. Chuck Scrivener led off with a walk and Bruce Kimm sacrificed him to second. Leflore then singled to left scoring Scrivener and he moved up to second on the throw. Leflore scored on a single by Meyer. Ben Oglivie followed with a single advancing Meyer to third. Finally, with two out, Jason Thompson singled home Meyer to make the score 4-1 Tigers.

The Tigers did some more damage in the 6th. Kimm doubled with two outs. Leflore and Meyer both walked to loads the bases. Oglivie then singled home two runs and upped the lead to 6-1. This would be the final score.

Fidrych allowed 1 run on 6 hits in route to his 14th complete game. He did not look at all like a tired pitcher in today’s game. He is now 12-4 with a 1.91 ERA. The Tigers are now in 5th place with a record of 50-56 and are 14 games behind.

August 4, 1976

Fidrych faced the Yankees last night for the first time since that Monday night game in June where he beat the Yankees and gained national recognition for his pitching and his antics on the mound. This one was played in Yankee Stadium before 44,000 noisy Yankee fans.

The Tigers got off to a good start in this one. In the first inning, Ron Leflore singled and stole second. Rusty Staub walked with one out. Willie Horton reached on an error by Graig Nettles and Leflore scored on another error by Sandy Alomar. Jason Thompson then hit a sacrifice fly to score Staub.

The Yankees came back in the third. Fred Stanley led off with a single. One out later, Roy White hit a two run homer to tie the game 2-2.

It didn’t take long for the Tigers to get the lead back. In the top of the 4th, Veryzer led off with a single. Rusty Staub followed with a walk. Horton then singled to score Veryzer for the go ahead run. The Tigers led 3-2 after 4 innings.

In the Yankee 7th, Nettles led off with a single. Oscar Gamble followed with a two run home run to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead. This was only the second time Fidrych had given up more than one homer in a game. He has allowed 7 homers in 16 starts for the season. John Hiller replaced The Bird in the 8th. The final score was 4-3 Yankees. Fidrych is now 11-4 and still leads the league with a 1.96 ERA.

Billy Martin tried to psych out Fidrych before the game. He bought some black beans and had Nettles spread them around the mound before The Bird pitched in the first inning. After the game, Martin said: “I was feeding the Bird during the game. You’re allowed to feed the Bird, aren’t you? I fed The Bird home runs.” It wasn’t all bad from Martin though. Later, he admitted: ”He’s a damn good pitcher, that kid. He’s colorful too.”

Fidrych said that he saw the beans but ignored them. He also had no excuses: ”I can’t believe it. Those pitchers were low and they golfed them out. I talked to the ball but that’s life I guess. I shoulda won the game. But I blew it. I had my defense behind me. They played un-godly behind me and I gave up two taters.”



Blog Archive


My Sabermetrics Book

My Sabermetrics Book
One of Baseball America's top ten books of 2010

Other Sabermetrics Books

Stat Counter