Kaline calls 'Bird' most popular Tiger
BOSTON -- Authorities are awaiting autopsy results on Mark Fidrych and trying to figure out how the former All-Star pitcher died on his Massachusetts farm.
The 54-year-old Fidrych was found dead Monday beneath a 10-wheel dump truck at his Northborough home.
Although he appears to have died from an accident, state law requires that all unattended deaths be investigated. The Worcester District Attorney's office said it does not expect autopsy results Tuesday.
Fidrych was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1976, going 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA and pitching 24 complete games for the Detroit Tigers. He won the hearts of fans across the country by talking to the ball and smoothing out the pitcher's mound between innings.
Fidrych only won 10 more games in an injury-ruined career, but "The Bird" remains a beloved figure in Detroit sports history.
"In the two years he was here, he was probably the most popular Detroit Tiger there has ever been," Hall of Famer Al Kaline said before Detroit's scheduled game against the Chicago White Sox was rained out on Tuesday. "He was a tremendous young man who won over everyone because he was having such fun out there."
Kaline said that his antics put a few people off at first, but no one stayed upset for long.
"When he started, there were people who thought he was trying to show them up, but everyone quickly realized that he was just being himself," Kaline said. "He was great for this city, because he brought back the older fans, and he brought in so many younger fans."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who managed Fidrych for three seasons in the minor leagues, was still too upset Tuesday to talk about him.
"I'm going to tell you right now that I won't be able to handle it," Leyland said. "I'm not going to discuss it, because I would just make a fool of myself."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press