His career was like a shooting star, bright and brief pitching only parts of five major league seasons. As a long haired teenager with a mop of hair similar to the Mark "The Bird" Fidrych made his debut talking to the baseball, manicuring the pitching mound with his hands. This bit of insanity made me an immediate fan.
Fidrych took the American League by storm in 1976. Not expected to make the Tigers roster, he earned his place on the team as a non-roster invitee to spring training. He would wouldn't get a start until May 15, in era of four man rotations, and quality pitchers went the distance in games opportunities had been few. In his first outing he pitched six no-hit innings before allowing a single, and went the distance in a 2-1 game. It would be the first of twenty-nine starts that season. He would complete 24 of them. By comparison in today's era of specialization with pitching staffs the San Francisco Giants led all of major league baseball with 10 complete games as a staff.
Fidrych would go 9-1 in his first ten decisions, which included a seven game winning streak. He did his pitching with cunning, he allowed only 7.8 hits per nine innings, and 1.9 walks, and 3.5 strike outs per nine. He would finish the season with a won-loss record of 19-9, and he would finish second to Jim Palmer in the Cy Young balloting. He was named Rookie of the Year, and led the American League in ERA 2.34. He would be an all-star in both 1976 and 1977. He would only make 27 more starts in his career.
In 1977, he would begin the season by tearing cartilage in his knee during spring training. He was just as effective upon his return, but in July of that year he tore his rotator cuff in a game against the Baltimore Orioles. It was an injury that wouldn't be diagnosed by doctors until 1985, and was to bring about treatments that are remarkable today. He turned down his all-star invitation due to injury. He would finish his injury riddled career with a 29-19 record and a 3.10 ERA. In 2009, he would die in a tragic accident on his farm.