Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dear Mr. Fidrych

Detroit native Michael Cramer was 12 years old in 1976, the year Mark Fidrych took baseball by storm and became a national sensation.  Cramer was one of 50,000 fans in attendance the night Mark Fidrych beat the Yankees on national television and became a hero to young fans across America.  Like so many Tigers fans who were around to witness that incredible rookie season, Cramer idolized the Bird and has never forgotten the excitement he felt that summer.  Cramer, now a Chicago lawyer, was determined to share his memories of Fidrych in a special way.

Working on nights and weekends, Cramer wrote, directed and starred in an independent film titled "Dear Mr. Fidrych".  In the first half of the movie, Marty Jones (played by Cramer's son Noah) is an intellectual 12-year-old boy, who is teased by school bullies for his interest in poetry.   He also loves baseball and is frustrated at being stuck on a Little League minors team when he knows that he is good enough to play in the more competitive and esteemed Little League majors.

Marty writes a poem and sends it to Fidrych, who thinks it is "cool".  The Bird writes back telling Marty that the poem inspired him to beat the Angels the next night.  From that point on, things start to go well for Marty.  Most notably, he gets a chance to play in Little League majors and becomes one of the stars of the team.

The movie then goes forward thirty years where Marty (played by Cramer himself) is a Chicago advertising executive, who still dabbles in poetry.  His career and marriage are falling apart and he decides that he has to get away.  So, he takes a road trip with his son (played by his real life son Jack) from Chicago to Boston in hopes of meeting the Bird.  They do eventually meet Fidrych (who plays himself) on his farm in Northborough, Massachusetts.  The charismatic yet unassuming Fidrych did not disappointment in being his genuine friendly self.

Yesterday, I took my mother to see the movie at the Strand Theater in Clinton, Massachusetts, which is not too far from Northborough.  The theatre was built in the 1920s and definitely has the feel of an old-time movie theater.  It is unique in that it has comfortable seating with tables where people can eat a meal as they view.  I suspect many in the audience were relatives and friends of Fidrych and they were delighted to get the chance to thank Cramer personally after the movie.

The movie was artistic and skillfully done and I enjoyed it very much.  Cramer did a great job capturing the thoughts and feelings of a young baseball player and fan.  I also thought the storyline was realistic yet compelling from beginning to end.  The acting was good too and the younger Cramers - Noah and Jack - were especially talented.  Tigers fans of the 1970s will also enjoy the familiar names and sights which show up throughout the movie.  I recommend the movie to all Tigers fans and Fidrych fans if the movie ever shows in your area.

Sadly, Fidrych died in a tragic accident on his farm a couple months before the movie was completed.  Cramer was shocked by the news of the death and regrets that Mark never saw the final product.  However, he hopes that the movie will help keep the memory of Fidrych alive for those who experienced the Bird phenomenon and those who wish they did.

More information about the movie can be found at the following links:

Worcester Telegram

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lee:

    Thanks for sharing this. It looks like a great movie though I don't know when I'll get the chance to see it since I don't live in Michigan anymore. Anyhow it's wonderful that they were able to pay tribute to him and that kids and future generations will be able to learn about "The Bird."

    Go Tigers!



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