In the clubhouse Coleman drew him aside and said, "Kid, that was awesome." Veryzer told him, "Thanks. I may never get to play in a World Series, but that's what it must be like." Bullpen coach Jim (Pie) Hegan, a veteran of 33 major league seasons as a player and coach, simply slapped Fidrych with his mitt and barked, "Good game, kid." But the old coach had gooseflesh.
Later, at his locker, the Bird was asked by the New York press corps what he had to say to Yankees catcher Thurman Munson, who had sat out the game but had nonetheless called Fidrych "fly-by-night" and "a showboat" after the game. "Who's Thurman Munson?" Fidrych replied.
"When I said that, the writers left," says Fidrych. "They didn't ask me another question; they just went running out of the clubhouse. I look over at Pie, and he's laughin' so hahd. He said, 'Mahk, I know you. But those guys don't. I hate to tell you, but Thurman Munson may be the best catcher in the big leagues, and tomorrow, all the papers in New York will say BIRD TO YANKEES: THURMAN WHO?"
Fidrych had genuinely never heard of Munson. The Bird was then, as he is now, without guile, the opposite of the calculating showboat that Munson had thought him to be. Munson realized that pretty quickly. Two weeks after his defeat of the Yankees, Fidrych became only the second rookie pitcher to start an All-Star Game. Munson was his catcher.
"He came over to me and said, 'How you doin, Mahk?' " recalls Fidrych. "He was laughin' and shakin' his head. He said, 'That was a pretty good quote you had about me.' After that, whenever we would see each other, it was like, 'Hey, Mahk,' 'Hey, Thurman.' We had kind of like this friendship."
After the Monday Night Baseball game, fans began to follow Fidrych home. He did all his grocery shopping after midnight at a 24-hour store. A resolution was introduced in the Michigan state legislature to raise his pay (from $16,500). A man named his newborn son after him. The Twins delayed one of his starts by 30 minutes to accommodate the walk-up throng. He finished the season 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA and 24 complete games. "I just think I was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time," says Fidrych. "I didn't really know how big it was until the season was over."
Before he could get used to it—to things like meeting Frank Sinatra, taking delivery of a free Thunderbird, filming an Aqua Velva commercial and running away with the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues' Man of the Year award—his fame began to flee. In his second spring training, while shagging flies, he tore cartilage in his left knee. Five-and-a-half weeks after returning from the disabled list, in a game in Baltimore, he tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder, an injury from which he never fully recovered. Fidrych finished the 1977 season with a 6-4 record and spent most of the next six years in the minor leagues, retiring in '83 after a season and a half with the Triple A Paw-tucket ( R.I.) Red Sox.
Fidrych floundered in his first years without baseball. "I raised pigs with my buddy Wayne," he says. "For a while I was puttin' in swimmin' pools with my buddy Wayne, but I thought, Do I really wanna do pools? I was a booze salesman for a little while, but that was goin' nowhere." While selling booze to Chet's Diner in Northboro, however, he met the owners' daughter—Ann the waitress—and married her within a year. In another year, after the house was built and the truck was bought, Jessica was born.
He enjoys his life now, filled with family and friends, and the odd leisurely leak on his land. Baseball built his farm and bought his truck, and Fidrych remains fiercely in love with the game—and all New England sports. "That's me at the Gahden," he says, pointing to a picture of a charity basketball game he played in. "Can you believe they let me on the pahkay floor?"
A couple of years ago he won, in a charity golf tournament, four tickets to sit in Boston Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette's box at Fenway. "Fenway Pahk, with the loyal fans, for a day game, it was neat," says Fidrych. " Duquette wasn't in the box, so my buddy Don gets on the phone: 'Get 'em up in the bullpen!' My buddies were like little guys in a candy store. 'I'm gonna call in a righthandah!' It was a good game and a good day. Don and Stan and me, we had a ton of fun. It was a neat thing to cherish, goin' to Fenway Pahk with great friends."