A look at Major League Baseball's first-half phenoms

by Scott Munn and Jacob Unruh and Trent Shadid Published: July 19, 2013
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The crazy part was Fidrych's act seemed to work.

He was 7-1 the first half of the '76 season and earned the All-Star Game start. Fidrych was named American League Rookie of the Year after finishing 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA and an astounding 24 complete games.

People could not get enough of The Bird.

“He entertained people,” Clark said. “But he was also out there having fun, enjoying the game just like us.”

Knee and shoulder injuries limited Fidrych's career to five seasons, all with the Tigers. None were more spectacular than his rookie season. He died in 2009, at age 54, in a farming accident.

But he's still remembered for the Bicentennial summer when fans were pasted to television sets and packed stadiums.

“I wanted to be just like him,” Clark said. “I worked hard to come up with some kind of unique routine of my own as did most kids that pitched. Our Little League coaches laughed at us sometimes ... it was a fun time period to be growing up and playing baseball.”

‘VIVA PUIG'

Gordon Moody has been a Los Angeles Dodgers fan for as long as he can remember.

With the emergence of rookie phenom Yasiel Puig, the first half of this season provided some of the most unforgettable memories for Moody as a fan.

Puig — the Dodgers' top minor league prospect coming into this season — made his major league debut on June 3, starting in right field against the San Diego Padres. He wasted no time getting to work on what would be one of the most electrifying starts to a career in baseball history.

Puig hit leadoff in his debut, going 2-for-4 at the plate. But the most memorable moment that night, at least for Moody, came on a game-ending double play.

After making a catch just shy of the wall, Puig threw on a line to first base, doubling off the tying run and preserving a 2-1 victory.

“I said just ‘wow' when I saw that,” Moody said. “Not everyone can make that play. And to do it in his first start — that was pretty incredible.”

Not only has Puig provided jaw-dropping highlights and a scorching .391 batting average for the first half, but he's also turned the Dodgers' season around. Before Puig's arrival, the Dodgers were nine games under .500 and failing to live up to lofty preseason expectations.

“When he got called up, I was surprised but really excited,” Moody said. “It seemed like almost a desperation move at first because the Dodgers were playing so bad, but they had to do something. He's definitely stirred up the team with the way he plays.”

After Puig showed up, the Dodgers closed out the first half of the season going 24-15 to pull within striking distance of first place in the NL West.

Moody, 49, is a lifelong Oklahoman currently living in Tulsa. He still manages to watch every game he can with DirecTV's MLB Extra Innings package, which allows him to watch the Dodgers broadcasts.

“It's kind of funny when I listen to the Dodgers broadcast to hear Vin Scully call him the Wild Stallion,” said Moody, referring to the nickname Puig has received for his sometimes reckless play. “He's a guy that needs some polish, but despite the mistakes I think he plays the right way because he hustles. I've been watching baseball all my life and I've never seen a talent like this. He's not perfect, but he's been pretty incredible.”


by Scott Munn
Sports Assistant Editor
Scott Munn joined The Oklahoman/Oklahoma City Times sports staffs in October 1982. He spent a year as a formcharter, three years on the desk and 16 as a reporter. Scott has spent the last nine years as an evening assistant sports editor. Scott's...
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by Jacob Unruh
Reporter
Jacob Unruh is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He was born in Cherokee and raised near Vera where he attended Caney Valley High School.During his tenure at NSU, Unruh wrote for The Northeastern (NSU's student newspaper), the...
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by Trent Shadid
Copy Editor
Trent Shadid is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He was born and raised in Weatherford, Okla., and attended Weatherford High School. Before joining The Oklahoman, he spent two seasons as an assistant wrestling coach at Weatherford High...
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