Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Bird and Other Baseball Cuckoos (4/15/06)

What qualities make a great baseball player? Speed and power usually help. But sometimes eccentricity and goofiness come through in a pinch. Rube Waddell would leave the stadium to chase fire engines. Wade Boggs ate nothing but chicken before every game. Moe Drabowsky crank called the opposing team's bullpen to get pitchers warmed up. Jimmy Piersall ran around the bases backwards to celebrate his 100th home run. Turk Wendell brushed his teeth in the dugout. And then there's Mark Fidrych. The tall and skinny Fidrych bore an uncanny resemblance to Sesame Street's Big Bird, hence his nickname: The Bird. Fidrych endeared himself to fans by carefully manicuring the mound during games, talking to the ball before he pitched it, and demanding that balls with "hits in them" be removed from the game. The Bird's star shined brightly, but briefly, as injuries forced him to retire at the age of 29.

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