Saturday, September 30, 2006

Mark Fidrych Diary - September, 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

October 3, 1976

The Tigers finished their season with a 5-2 victor over the Brewers today. The winning pitcher was Dave Roberts who finished with a record of 16-17. The Tigers ended up 74-87 and in 5th place 24 games behind the division winning Yankees. This was a 17 win improvement over last year when they went 57-105.

The Bird ended up 19-9 with a league leading 2.34 ERA in 250 innings. He also led the league with 24 complete games in 29 starts. The leading Tiger reliever was John Hiller who pitched 121 innings pitched over 56 games. He finished with a record of 9-6 with 13 saves and an ERA of 2.38.

Ron Leflore finished among the top ten batters with a .316 average. He was second in the league in steals with 58 and scored 93 runs. He should be an exciting player for years to come. Rusty Staub batted .299-15-96 in his first year with the Tigers. He led the team in RBI. He finished 4th in the league in on base percentage, an obscure but interesting stat. Jason Thompson led the team in home runs with 17. He only batted .218 but he’s just 22 and should have a great future.

October 2, 1976

The Tigers played the Brewers today at County Stadium in Milwaukee. I was able to watch the game on TV as it was on the Saturday Game of the Week. They always have the Tigers on The Game of the Week when the Bird is on the mound. His opponent was Jim Slaton. This was Fidrych’s last game of the year as the season ends tomorrow.

The Tigers scored first in the 2nd inning when Bruce Kimm walked, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a grounder by Pedro Garcia. It was 1-0 Tigers after 2 innings.

In the 5th inning, Garcia walked, went to third an a single by late season call-up Marvin Lane and scored on a sacrifice fly by Rusty Staub. That made it 2-0 Tigers.

In the 7th inning, the Tigers scored 2 more runs to go up 4-0. Garcia doubled and scored on a single by Staub. Staub went to second on a passed ball and scored on an error by Robin Yount.

The Brewers scored their only run against Fidrych in the 9th on singles by Yount and George Scott and a sacrifice fly by Darrell Porter. The final score was 4-1 Tigers.

Fidrych finished his incredible rookie season with a 19-9 record, a 2.34 ERA and 24 complete games. He currently leads the league in ERA and complete games with one day left in the season.

September 28, 1976

The Tigers played a doubleheader against the Indians today. The Bird pitched in the first game against hard throwing but wild Jim Bibby. Fidrych got 6 days rest between starts due to a couple of rained out games this week.

The Tigers scored 2 runs in the 4th inning to take the lead. Willie Horton homered with one out to make it 1-0. Jason Thompson then singled, went to second on an error and scored on a single by Bruce Kimm making it 2-0 Tigers.

In the 5th inning, Dan Meyer hit a 2 out single, stole second and scored on a single by Rusty Staub. Staub scored on a double by Willie Horton to make it 4-0 and this was the final score.

Fidrych pitched one of his best games of the year – a complete game shutout on 5 hits and 1 walk. Perhaps, the extra rest was good for him. He is now 18-9 with a 2.39 ERA, 23 complete games and 4 shutouts.

The Tigers ended up with a split of the doubleheader as the Indians took the second game by a score of 6-1.

September 21, 1976

The Bird pitched against Rick Waits and the Indians tonight. Fidrych had not been having a great month so I was really hoping for a strong start as I listened to Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey broadcast the game.

The Tigers gave Fidrych an early lead when they scored 2 runs in the first inning. Rusty Staub walked and Willie Horton singled to put runners on first and second with two outs. Mickey Stanley then got a two run double.

In the 7th inning, Phil Mankowski led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice and scored on a single by Mark Wagner. Ben Oglivie then hit a two run homer to make it 5-0.

Meanwhile, Fidrych pitched shutout ball for 7 innings before running into trouble in the 8th. He loaded the bases on a single by Tommy Smith and two walks before anybody was out. Rick Manning followed with two run single to make it 5-2. Fidrych managed to get out of the inning with only one more run scoring on a grounder by Larvell Blanks. The score was 5-3 after 8 and that was how it ended.

As usual, Fidrych went the distance for his 22nd complete game. He is now 17-9 with a 2.48 ERA. He has 2 or 3 games left.

September 17, 1976

The Bird faced the Red Sox and Luis Tiant tonight. It was on TV here in Massachusetts so I got a chance to see it. It wasn’t a pleasant night though as Fidrych got knocked out in the 3rd inning after giving up 7 runs. It’s usually fun to watch Tiant but not when he’s beating the Tigers.

About the only highlights for the Tigers were a couple of home runs. Willie Horton hit a 2 run homer in the 4th to make it 7-2 at the time. It was his 13th homer of the year. Ben Oglivie added his 14th homer in the 8th inning making it 8-3 which was the final score.

Fidrych is now16-9 with a 2.46 ERA. Vida Blue has now taken the league lead with a 2.45 ERA. Fidrych seems to be tiring down the stretch.

Fidrych was quoted in The Boston Globe this morning as saying that he has been offered a basketball scholarship by the Detroit University. He said: “I was pretty good in basketball in high school. I might take it if they have a good auto mechanics course.”

September 12, 1976

The Tigers and Yankees played a doubleheader before 53,000 fans in Yankee Stadium today. The first game featured Fidrych and Dock Ellis. The second game was a matchup between rookie Ed Glynn and Ed Figueroa.

In the 4th inning of game 1, the Tigers scored when Rusty Staub walked, Alex Johnson singled to left and Mickey Stanley singled to center.

The Tigers made it 2-0 in the 6th when Willie Horton reached on an error by Willie Randolph, Ellis balked and Mickey Stanley singled.

In the 7th inning, Mark Wagner led off with a walk and then Ben Ogilivie homered to make it 4-0. It was Oglivie’s 13th home run of the year.

The Tigers scored 2 more in the 8th to make it 6-0. Chuck Scrivener reached on an error, went to second on a passed ball and scored on a triple by Wagner. Meyer then singled to score Wagner.

It was The Bird’s third shutout of the year and he improved his record to 16-8. Since he probably still has 4-5 starts left, he has a chance to win 20 games. He also lowered his league leading ERA to 2.24.

In game 2, the Yankees defeated the Tigers 3-1 to gain a split. Ed Glynn, who allowed just 1 run in 6 innings in his debut last week, pitched another good game today. He allowed 3 runs (2 of them earned) in 8 innings. He was a little wild allowing 5 walks but overall it was a good start against a tough Yankee team. He is a pretty good prospect so I’m looking forward to his next start.

September 8, 1976

In yesterday’s game, The Bird was hoping to bounce back from his worst start of the season. He was up against the dreaded Orioles and was facing a tough opponent in Wayne Garland who entered the game with 15-6 record and a 2.75 ERA. There were only about 16,000 fans in Tiger Stadium for this one. I don’t know whether the novelty of The Bird is wearing off or whether it’s because school has started. At any rate, it turned out to be a very sloppy game.

The Orioles scored a run in the third on a double by Lee May and errors by Jason Thompson and Chuck Scrivener.

The Tigers came back with 3 runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. Ron Leflore struck out but was safe at first on a wild pitch. Rookie Phil Mankowski, who was called up from Toledo at the end of August, singled and Ben Oglivie was hit by the pitch to load the bases. The first run scored on a wild pitch. Then, after Rusty Staub was walked intentionally to re-load the bases, Thompson walked to force home a second run. Dan Meyer then hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-1 Tigers.

The Orioles tied the game 3-3 with 2 runs in the 5th. The runs scored on singles by Bobby Grich and Reggie Jackson, a ground out by Ken Singleton, and a double by Tony Muser.

In the Orioles 7th, an error by Mark Wagner contributed to 2 unearned runs. Grich led off with a single, Jackson reached on Wagner’s error and May singled to load the bases. The go ahead run scored on a sacrifice fly by Muser and another run scored on a single by Doug DeCinces. This gave the Orioles a 5-3 lead and that would be the final score.

It was not The Bird’s best game (he allowed 11 hits) but there were 4 errors behind him and only 2 of the 5 runs were earned. The loss dropped Fidrych to 15-8. He did manage to regain the American league ERA lead at 2.34. Vida Blue and Bill Travers are tied for 2nd at 2.38. Fidrych will face the division leading Yankees at New York on Sunday.

September 3, 1976

Fidrych faced the Brewers tonight at Tiger Stadium. Jerry Augustine was the Brewers starter. It turned out to be the worst start of the year so far for The Bird.

The Brewers jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back. The highlight of the inning was a 2 run double by Mike Hegan. Hegan, a back up first basemen/outfielder, came into the contest batting a modest .247-4-18 in 58 games but this would be a game he’ll likely never forget.

Hegan hit a solo home run in the 3rd to make it 5-0 Brewers. In the 4th, the Brewers scored 4 more runs to knock Fidrych out of the game and took a 9-0 lead. Again, Hegan got the big hit. This time, it was a three run triple giving him 6 RBI for the day and leaving him a single short of the cycle.

Hegan singled off Bill Laxton in the 6th to complete the cycle. It was the first cycle in Milwaukee Brewer history. With the game hopelessly lost at that point, I was actually rooting for him to get the cycle just because it’s such a rare event. I was also hoping he would add to his big day later in the game. However, he flied out and walked in his last two at bats to finish the day 4-5 with 6 RBI.

The final score was 11-2 Brewers. It was the first in 15 home starts that Fidrych failed to pitch a complete game. He gave up 9 runs (7 of them earned) on 8 hits and 3 walks in 3 2/3 innings. The loss dropped The Bird’s record to 15-7 and raised his ERA to 2.35. Bill Travers of the Brerwes now leads the league with a 2.34 ERA. We can only hope this was just a bad game and not a sign that Fidrych will run out of gas down the stretch.


  1. The Tigers called up Marvin Lane and Ed Glynn. Glynn is supposed to be a pretty good prospect.

  2. Rozema had an outstanding year for Montgomery. 1.57 ERA and just 15 walks in 126 innings. He's just 20.

  3. I doubt they'll ever get to the point where they actually have pitch counts. It's hard to imagine telling some of these veteran pitchers they need to come out because they've thrown too many pitches. I can see them getting a little more careful though.

  4. Thanks Ozz. I had fun doing it. It brought back a lot of memories. I'm going to try to get his address so I can send it to him.



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