November 28, 2014 at 12:01 am

Mark 'The Bird' Fidrych

1954-2009

As a 21-year-old rookie right-hander with the Tigers in 1976, Mark Fidrych became a baseball and pop culture phenomenon. He befuddled batters with a sinkerball at their knees as he racked up a 19-9 record, a league-leading 2.34 earned-run average and a spot on the American League All-Star team -- all ahead of being awarded American League Rookie of the Year honors.

But his stunning career ended nearly as abruptly as it began. Fidrych had surgery on a knee he injured during spring training in 1977 and later developed arm problems that ended his career in 1980. From 1977-80 he had a 10-10 record and experienced one sad comeback attempt after another.

Fidrych's life also ended too soon. He died in an accident at his farm in Northborough, Mass., on April 13. But the memories he created for us in 1976 live on.