At age 54, former pitcher Mark (the Bird) Fidrych (above), in an apparent accident on his farm in Northborough, Mass., on Monday. A family friend discovered Fidrych beneath a dump truck that he appeared to have been working on. (The cause of death was not known when SI went to press on Monday night.) Fidrych burst onto the scene as a gangly, mop-headed rookie with the Tigers in 1976, acquiring his nickname because he resembled the Sesame Street character Big Bird. He became hugely popular as much for his quirky behavior—he appeared to talk to baseballs and himself, manicured the mound by hand, aimed the ball like a dart—as for his pitching success. Fidrych went 19--9, won the AL Rookie of the Year award and became a pop culture phenomenon worthy of the covers of SI and Rolling Stone. Fidrych flamed out nearly as suddenly as he arrived, however. He suffered a knee injury in spring training of 1977 and tore the rotator cuff in his pitching shoulder later that season; he pitched only 27 more big league games before quitting the game in 1983. For the last 23 years Fidrych lived with his wife and daughter in Northborough, a few miles from where he had grown up, and where he had a trucking business. "I just think I was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time," Fidrych, referring to his rookie year, told SI in 2001. "I didn't really know how big it was until the season was over."
This is an article from the April 20, 2009 issue
At age 56, former NBA center Marvin Webster. The cause of death was believed to be coronary artery disease. Nicknamed the Human Eraser, Webster led Morgan State to the 1974 NCAA Division II championship, then was a first-round pick in both the ABA and NBA in '75. Webster's best season of his 10-year pro career came in 1977--78, when he averaged 14.0 points and 12.6 rebounds and helped lead the SuperSonics to the NBA Finals. "I loved being on that team," Webster said years later. "I had no idea I'd be gone so shortly." Unable to agree to a new deal with Seattle, he signed with the Knicks that summer, and his numbers steadily declined.
At age 73, Phillies play-by-play man Harry Kalas. Blessed with a deep baritone that became one of the most recognizable voices in sports, Kalas reached a national audience doing voiceovers for NFL Films and narration for Inside the NFL. Harry the K, as he was known in Philadelphia, was inducted into the broadcasters' wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002. He collapsed in the booth before Monday afternoon's Phillies-Nationals game in Washington and died at the hospital. "We lost our voice today," said team president David Montgomery.
Its world championship, the U.S. women's hockey team. The Americans got two goals from Caitlin Cahow to beat Canada 4--1 in Sunday's final in Finland. The win pushed the U.S. ahead of Canada atop the world rankings for the first time.
In a small ceremony in Switzerland, Roger Federer and his longtime girlfriend, former tennis pro Mirka Vavrinec. The couple (left) met at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. "[The wedding] was a beautiful spring day and an incredibly joyous occasion," Federer wrote on his website. Federer, who lost the world No. 1 ranking to Rafael Nadal last summer, and Vavrinec are expecting their first child later this year.
After a year in which his team's Final Four appearance was overshadowed by off-court events, Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun. After the season, Calhoun, who ranks sixth alltime with 805 career wins, said he would take a "few months to reflect on things." In February, he drew unwanted attention to himself by angrily defending his status as the state's highest-paid employee. Then he missed UConn's first NCAA tournament game after being hospitalized with dehydration, and before the Sweet 16 Yahoo! Sports reported that the Huskies were being investigated for recruiting violations. "In many ways the journey of this past season has made me realize how much I love coaching," Calhoun, 66, said last week.
They Said It
Oregon football coach, on having little interest in using Twitter to contact players: "Who cares what I had for breakfast? You think a recruit's going to come to Oregon because I ate Oreos?"
SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
The Leander, Texas, school board president said he wants to change the name of the town's new athletic facility, Tumbleweed Hill Stadium, because students might make jokes about marijuana.