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Baseball for the birds

Posted by mikelink45 , 13 June 2018 · 446 views

teams players the bird
Baseball for the birds After two weeks of guiding hiking and birding trips my mind automatically finds feathered beauty and details so, of course, as I move back to the details of baseball my bird attention shifts with it. I see Blue Jays, Orioles, and Cardinals so the transition is easy.

Baseball is filled with bird incidents like the pigeon that landed on the field and then wandered over to Greg Bird on first base. There was the Kestrel that entertained Twins fans during a cold and rainy night when it was on the jumbotron catching insects (2010). The Toronto Star reported on an incident with former Twin and Twin City hero – Dave Winfield, “On August 4, 1983, more than 36,000 watched the Toronto Blue Jays play the New York Yankees at Exhibition Stadium. When Yankee star Dave Winfield threw a baseball at the end of the fifth inning warm-up, it came into disastrous convergence with a bird that had been watching in right-centrefield. The bird slumped lifelessly on the Astroturf.

“A police officer sitting on the edge of right field thought it was an intentional hit. Winfield said it was an accident. He was taken to 14 Division and charged with causing “unnecessary suffering to an animal.” The charge was later dropped, but the moment never really went away.”

The Minneapolis Tribune wrote an article about Gene Glynn, our Minnesota Coach, who watches birds at his home in Waseca. “I find birds in every city in every park near the baseball stadium,” Glynn says. “In Florida the shorebirds are all over the place, on the West Coast it’s all about gulls, terns and herons and in Central Park in New York you can see just about anything. Birds get me outdoors and keep me occupied.”

Besides the team baseball has Robins. Like Robin Ventura from the White Sox and Robin Yount from the Brewers and Robin Roberts from the Phillies – a pretty good threesome! Aaron Crow brings another of our common birds to the diamond and Dean and Don Crow had the proverbial cup of coffee. Mike Parrott played from 1977 – 1981.
Hawk Harrelson represents our raptors. Andre Dawson was known as the Hawk too. Turkey Gross in 1925 and Turkey Tyson in 1944 represent the bird that Ben Franklin wanted to replace the eagle as our national symbol. The Eagle was represented by Bill Eagle in 1898 and the Grey Eagle – Tris Speaker, hall of famer.

The German word for birds – Vogel – can be found in Otto Vogel from the early 1920’s and Ryan Vogelsong added the lyrics of our avian world too.

The Bird is well represented from the diminutive Birdie (actually he was not) Tebbetts, catcher, to Doug Bird, the pitcher who lasted 11 years in the majors. There was also George Bird in 1871, Frank Bird in 1872, and Greg Bird – current. But of course THE BIRD was Mark Fidrych who took the baseball world over during his too brief career.
THE BIRD would go 19 – 9 in his rookie yearwith a 2.34 era in 250 innings and the Tigers were 74 – 88 even with him. His 9.6 WAR and his 1.079 WHIP would satisfy any stathead, but his story goes downhill fast. He lasted five innings and won only 10 more games total and he would only live to be 54. There are numerous bios on Youtube but this one really captures the excitement of his year: https://youtu.be/sMSDo3BX5Ds and in books The Bird, by Doug Wilson, but seeing him in a Tigers Uniform that magic summer of his rookie year is something no one could forget. On the ground shaping the mound with his hands, and with his general demeanor Mark connected with the fans.

Willie Horton, his teammate said at his funeral, “Everyone playing in the major leagues today owes a debt of gratitude to Mark Fidrych. He brought baseball back to the people. He made it popular again. He helped save the game.”

Bird came in as the game was at a 1976 low point – owners had a lock out, free agency was just beginning and fans were disgusted. But Bird had such enthusiasm and charisma. People loved it when he talked to the ball, when he ran off the mound to congratulate teammates or when he shook hands with the umpire after the game.
He played for the $16,000 minimum wage and still loved everything about the experience. The unwritten rule (yup, one of those) in those days was not to take curtain calls. The Bird changed that. Described as “gawky, noisy and energetic with a huge mop of curly yellow hair…” he did not look like a typical ball player. In fact, he looked like Big Bird from Sesame Street and that gave him his nickname – a perfect fit.

His career ended because of a severely torn rotator cuff, maybe from his 24 complete games, but that was before the TJ surgery and the advances that now save pitchers careers. He was what baseball needs right now, a personality. Burn all the unwritten rules, we need authentic heroes on the diamond, we need real people we can relate to. THE BIRD was a savior and we need more of them. We may have a big fish – Mike Trout – right now, but it is the Bird, Reggie Jackson and others who jump out of the game and into the hearts of the fans that really make baseball.

  • Kevin, nclahammer and 3balls2strikes like this



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3balls2strikes
Jun 16 2018 10:50 PM

I agree. Trout and Harper are skilled players, but they're both boring. They remind me of Jimmy Johnson of NASCAR. Johnson won many NASCAR driver championships, but did nothing for the sport because he was just plain, boring and blah. We do indeed need more MLB players with unique and genuine personalities that capture people's attention, like Fidrych and Jackson. I'll have to say that young Mr. Rosario with the Twins is getting close. Rosario plays with a mixture of enthusiasm, recklessness and productivity that is captivating. 

    • mikelink45 likes this