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Mark Fidrych, 54, found dead beneath dump truck

Mark Fidrych, who captured baseball's attention for one season, was found dead Monday at his farm in Northborough, Mass. Fidrych, known as "The Bird," was 54.

Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said a family friend found Fidrych at about 2:30 p.m. Monday beneath a dump truck at the farm. He appeared to be working on the truck, Early said. The DA said state police detectives are investigating the cause of Fidrych's death.

Fidrych, born in Worcester, won American League Rookie of the Year honors in 1976 after putting up a 19-9 record and 2.34 ERA, striking out 97 and walking 53 in 2501/3 innings for the Tigers. His colorful personality and antics won him as much attention as his stellar results.

His nickname came from his resemblance to the "Big Bird'' character on "Sesame Street," and Fidrych would groom the pitcher's mound with his hands and appeared to talk to the baseball.

"The entire Detroit Tigers organization was saddened to learn of the passing of former player Mark Fidrych today,'' the Tigers said in a statement. "Mark was beloved by Tigers fans and he was a special person with a unique personality. The Tigers send our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.''

After that magical 1976 campaign, Fidrych totaled only 162 more big-league innings, scattered over the 1977-80 seasons with Detroit. Knee and shoulder injuries turned him into a one-hit wonder. He attempted a comeback with his home-area Red Sox in 1982 but never returned to the majors and retired for good in July 1983.

"Baseball will miss him. They missed him because he didn't have as long a career as everybody would have liked in the first place. It's just horrible,'' former Orioles pitcher and Hall of Famer Jim Palmer said. "He did embrace life. I remember him trying to play golf when he couldn't play golf and enjoying every minute of it. He was a marvelous pitcher and I just hate to see him go.''

Other notable deaths of 2009


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