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SPORTSDAY 'Bird' act couldn't fly now

SPORTSDAY  'Bird' act couldn't fly now
You can't imagine the eccentricity of the sort embodied by Mark Fidrych in today's culture of Baseball.

The game's oxygen does not exist to let someone like Fidrych breathe.

With the exception of someone like Manny Ramirez, if you are a flake, you are not allowed to celebrate your flakiness as much as Fidrych did in the second half of the 1970s.

Talking to baseballs and himself. Micro-gardening the dirt around the mound. High-fiving infielders. How would that survive in the big-business Baseball of today?

Fidrych died Monday. He was 54.

During his rookie season, on Oct. 2, 1976, Fidrych and his Detroit Tigers team came to Milwaukee County Stadium to play the hapless Brewers , who where trying to avoid finishing the season with a worse record than the previous season, 68-94.

No such luck. Fidrych ended his amazing rookie season with a 4-1 victory over the Brewers .

In a contest that lasted 1 hour 46 minutes, Fidrych improved his record to 19-9 and his earned run average to 2.34, the best in the league for a starting pitcher.

Only 9,044 fans attended the game.

"He made their season for them, I'll tell you that," said then- Brewers manager Alex Grammas, referring to Fidrych. "They'd have been a hell of a lot worse off without him."

Before the game, the Tigers announced that Fidrych was to receive a bonus and new three-year deal for his remarkable season.

At the time, "The Bird" was getting the league's season minimum, $16,500.

On May 11, 1979, the Brewers faced Fidrych in a game at Tiger Stadium where 42,563 fans showed up to watch him pitch at home for the first time since April 17, 1978, as he tried to come back from injury.

The Brewers won, 5-1, behind a five-hitter by Lary Sorensen, who is from the Detroit suburb of Mount Clemens.

"He was doing the same old stuff, talking to the ball, getting ready, all that crap," Sorensen told The Milwaukee Journal, referring to Fidrych. "He threw pretty well, but he used to throw harder. That was the consensus among our guys."

When Fidrych was aiming at a comeback in 1982, Brewers general manager Harry Dalton talked to Fidrych's agent about inviting the former Tigers pitcher to the Brewers' minor-league camp in Peoria, Ariz. But Dalton said he had no major-league interest in him. Fidrych eventually signed with the Boston Red Sox, but he never pitched again on the major-league level.

In 1993, Fidrych, then 39, came to Milwaukee to promote the Upper Deck Heroes of Baseball game at County Stadium.

He told the Milwaukee Sentinel he didn't watch much Baseball.

"I'll maybe catch a game when I'm at the Legion hall or watch the All-Star Game, but I don't follow it that much," Fidrych said.

He said the game had been changed by all the money. He chided players' use of video and modern training techniques.

But he said Baseball would survive because it still produces heroes.

"There are kids who live next door to me," Fidrych said. "When they're at the bus stop, I'll say, 'Hey, I'm going to Milwaukee this week.' They'll go, 'You're going to see Robin Yount? Wow! Oh, could you get him to sign this for me?'

"As long as there are heroes, as long as there are people to look up to, it'll be around. Oh, yeah."

Conflict clears up

Outstate Brewers fans, some who subscribe to DirecTV, wondered why they could not see recent Brewers telecasts carried on WMLW-TV (Channel 41).

They wondered if the rest of the telecasts on WMLW will be available to them.

According to Fox Sports Wisconsin, WMLW telecasts after Wednesday for the rest of the season will be available to those viewers.

"The recent Milwaukee Brewers telecasts . . . were over-the-air games distributed by WMLW," said Becky Ross, a spokeswoman for Fox Sports Wisconsin. "Fox Sports Wisconsin has an agreement with WMLW to televise Brewers games to markets outside of Milwaukee when there is not a conflict date with Milwaukee Bucks programming. The recent Brewers games may have appeared to be unavailable; however, the WMLW games were just overlapping with Fox Sports Wisconsin's Milwaukee Bucks schedule."

The Bucks' season ends Wednesday, and after that Brewers games will be available to out-of-market viewers on FS Wisconsin, she said.

A bargain at that

When you sign a $161 million contract, you do have some housing options available to you that most people do not.

New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, who pitched for the Brewers last season, bought a 12,000-square-foot, six-bedroom house on a two-acre plot in Alpine, N.J., for $14.9 million.

According to the New York Post, his neighbors include Sean Combs, Mary J. Blige, Stevie Wonder, Chris Rock and Britney Spears.

Call SportsDay at (414) 223-5531 or send e-mail to

Copyright 2009, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 15, 2009

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