April 14, 2009

THE COOLEST:

For all his oddities, Fidrych was an overgrown kid living the dream (Joe Posnanski, 4/14/09, Sports Illustrated)

The love affair with Detroit began almost immediately. Fidrych was unlike anyone else. He talked to the baseball. Later, he would say that he was talking to himself ... but, no, it seemed pretty clear that he talked to the baseball. He got on his knees and smoothed out pitching mounds with his hands. He said hilarious things. He sprinted out to congratulate fielders who made nice plays. He never took any of it for granted. "It's either this," he often said, "or working at the gas station back home."

And he did not pitch like any 21-year-old anyone had ever seen. He had impeccable, almost freakish, control. He hardly ever walked anyone. He walked one batter in an 11-inning victory at Texas on the fifth of June, and followed it up by walking nobody his next time out against the California Angels. He won nine of his 10 first decisions. He allowed just one run against the New York Yankees on Monday Night Baseball. He threw an 11-inning shutout against Oakland on July 16.

By then, he was a national sensation.

It's impossible to look back at Fydrich's remarkable 1976 -- knowing what we know now about pitch counts and such things -- and not cringe at the way manager Ralph Houk abused him. Of course, nobody was counting pitches in 1976, but even so it's hard to believe a manager would allow a rookie to throw five extra-inning games. Five! Or how about this stretch: From July 29th to August 29th, The Bird threw a nine-inning game, a seven-inning game, a nine-inning game, another nine-inning game, another nine-inning game, a 10-inning game, a nine-inning game and an 11 1/3 inning game -- each one on three-days rest. Imagine that: Fydrich threw 73 1/3 innings and seven complete games in a month.

To give you a comparison, K-Rod threw 68 1/3 innings all last year.

To give you a comparison, Johan Santana has thrown nine complete games in his career.

But then, nobody was thinking about the future. To a 9-year-old kid in Cleveland, Fidrych was simply the coolest guy in the entire world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 14, 2009 6:04 AM
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