September 11, 2012

The Summer of '76

In the summer of '76 …

I was merely four years old. I really couldn't qualify as a baseball fan. I was only four. 

But, I had my Old English D's, a Wilson glove, and probably some little kid cleats. I also had any and everything produced in celebration of Mark "The Bird" Fidrych. 

"The Bird" took Detroit — and America — by storm that year. He was the rookie sensation. And I was four. I lived near Detroit. 

The Bird was a star, a media star. A super star. 

Mark Fidrych in 1976. All you can say is, "Wow." 

Contrary to popular belief, his arm wasn't destroyed by overuse. He actually twisted his knee during Spring Training in 1977, rushed back from the knee injury, adjusted (wrongly), and … 

… in the summer of '06 …

Two rookies took Detroit by storm. One, Justin Verlander, was supposed to make it. He was a high draft pick and had great expectations. But, this Zumaya dude — where did he come from. 

I remember Ken Kreiner turning to me in Kansas City during the Opening Day game when Zumaya came into the game and threw and 86 MPH change up after slinging 100 MPH fastballs by the Royals and saying, 

"Wow. Did you see that. Where did he come from?"

 Zumaya had a huge impact on the '06 season — Kreiner has referred to him several times as that team's MVP. He had one great season before (first) injuring his arm helping his parents out during a wildfire near their home in San Diego. 

Verlander, of course, has gone on to have a great beginning to a career; Zumaya joined Fidrych in the one year wonder club. I've often posed the question:

"Would you rather have one incredible season like Mark Fidrych or Joel Zumaya, or several mediocre seasons like *Tom Underwood?" 

* You can insert anyone you want here! 

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