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Dec 6, 2014 T&G - Remembering Mark 'The Bird' Fidrych with donation to T&G Santa


Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Mark "The Bird" Fidrych may not have been the most popular player in baseball, though he was one of the most colorful during his brief career, and he remains the all-time favorite in at least one Northboro home. 

Stanley and Theresa Elbe make a generous donation to the Telegram & Gazette Santa Fund every year in Mr. Fidrych's memory. 

"He was our neighbor and our friend. He was like a son to us," Mr. Elbe said. 

They have three children, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and they counted Mr. Fidrych as one of the family. 

Mr. Fidrych, was born in 1954 in Worcester and grew up in Northboro, where he played Little League, Babe Ruth and American Legion baseball, then played on the Algonquin Regional High School and Worcester Academy teams. 

The right-hander was drafted by the Tigers in 1975, and was named the American League Rookie of the Year in 1976 after going 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA. The lanky, long-haired free spirit graced the covers of "Sports Illustrated" and "Rolling Stone," among other magazines. 

Knee injuries put him on the disabled list the next year, and after five years in the majors, his injuries forced him to retire when he was just 29. 

He returned to Northboro, where he settled on the 107-acre family farm and worked in the trucking industry, married his wife, Ann, and welcomed their daughter, Jessica. 

Mr. Fidrych dedicated his spare time to special needs children, and was active in the Special Olympics, Jimmy Fund and Genesis Fund. 

In 2009, Mr. Fidrych was killed in a freak accident under a 10-wheel dump truck on his farm in Northboro. 

The outpouring of support and sadness led to the establishment of the Mark Fidrych Foundation Inc., which was established in his memory "to enhance the lives of children and adults with special needs or disabilities through sports, sports education and other means." 

An annual "Make Your Mark" softball tournament is held each August in Northboro to benefit the foundation. 

Mr. Elbe said, "Mark was a great guy. We donate every year to the (Telegram &) Gazette Santa in his memory for the children. He'd have liked that."