By Tom Cole
We all like to recall past events, those nostalgic days with memories of great performances of musicians, outstanding athletes and other fond events. Considering those recollections, I named this column after a 1971 Bob Seger song titled “Looking Back.” Let’s Look Back!
Rockin’ Robert Seger
Before he made it big, Bob Seger was the opening act for anyone that played the Toledo Sports Arena. A good friend of mine was working in Michigan and he was invited to a party and in walked a thin, long haired guy, and they started to chat. My college friend listened patiently and found the long haired man incredibly nice as he explained that he was in a band. My college football friend, Rich, was talking with a young Bob Seger, who explained that he was cutting an album to make him, and his band a national act.
My college friend nodded his head, regarding this as just ‘party talk’. Bob caught the look of doubt on Rich’s face and said, “Listen, I’ve got the demo tape in my car. No one has heard it yet, except for me and my band.” Bob gets the tape and he plays the cassette for my friend— a music fan, but not from the Midwest, so he had never heard of Bob Seger. Rich listened to the entire cassette and looked squarely at Bob and told him, “ I think you have a major hit there!”, replying to a rough cut of Seger’s mega-hit, gold album “Beautiful Loser.”
Forty years ago a Super Nova pitcher came on the scene for the Detroit Tigers, Mark (“The Bird” ) Fidrych. A player unlike anyone before, Mark talked to the baseball. He talked to the fans, the umpires and the grounds crew. Mark turned a baseball game into a spectacle of a rock concert. No one has ever effected a baseball crowd the way the Bird did; he made the game fantastically fun.
In his magical rookie season Mark pitched 24 complete ballgames, won 19 games, was voted rookie of the year and pitched in the All Star game. Of those 24 complete games, three or four went into extra innings. Mark’s career was far too short! The common belief is that the Tigers over-pitched him, rushing him back too soon after an injury, because he delighted the crowd and sold out the Stadium every time he pitched.
After the Bird’s remarkable major league career (from 1976 to 1980) and barely able to pitch, he was all but through. He played for the Pawtucket Red Sox (the Triple A farm club of the Boston Red Sox). One summer night he came to Toledo with the Pawtucket club, to pitch against the Mud Hens at Skeldon Stadium. The Hens drew about 2000 people to a home game back then, when The Bird pitched that night at Skeldon Stadium, 10,000 people were there, standing room only. Mark went 9 innings and won 5-4. After the game The Bird remained outside the locker room, signing thousands of autographs, honoring every request.
That is called “class.” As we get older, it’s fun to, as Bob Seger sang, do a little Looking Back. Bob Seger and Mark Fidrych, incredibly charismatic performers, have left us with great memories.
Tom Cole has over 20 years of broadcasting experience with BCSN as host of several programs and serves as a football analyst on the Friday Night Sports show. Tom has authored childrens’ books with another sports book due for publication soon.