Eggy lives in London now, but he was once the Austin College roommate of my Barnes buddy and good friend Chappelletti (a.k.a. Stick, a.k.a. Hawke), who is the instigator of email traffic involving a number of others, who mostly look askance on how things in the world are going these days.  When I sent him my take on Rutgers (1), he circulated it to the rest of the crew.  Eggy took issue with the claim that college football was born at Rutgers, pointing out that football like we might actually recognize it was first played 5 years later by a team from McGill, where the ball was oblong, not round, could be carried and advanced, stopped with a tackle, and limited by downs (2).  Although the game was played at Harvard, it was the Canadian boys that came up with these innovations, and the Harvard boys took these alterations to the rest of their games, to be spread throughout collegiate football.

As my baby half-sister Jazz (for Jasmine) got her law degree at McGill, I feel a certain kinship to the school.  Excellent academically, often called “Harvard of the North”, I didn’t know they cared about sports, but indeed they do.  They claim McGill men also had roles in getting basketball and hockey started (3).  But they’ve run into a little woke problem with their team name (4).  Since 2005, their mascot has been Marty the Martlet.  Whazzat?  Turns out martlets are a fictional bird appearing in heraldry, basically a martin with no feet.  Thus from birth to death they never alight, symbolizing constant effort.  McGill teams once had a perfectly respectable name: the Redmen.  This was said to honor founder James McGill, a Scot with red hair. 

Over time, Redmen became Indians, complete with symbols.  In the 60s, McGill’s women’s teams were the “Super Squaws”.  Oh my!   Students led the charge to get all the Indian stuff wiped away in the early 90s and a second movement in the mid twenty teens to change the name succeeded.  Men’s teams became “Redbirds”, and women the “Martlets”, the latter also as mascot, although I believe marlets are usually depicted in heraldry as blue or black. But they’re red in McGill’s emblem.

They also seem to have grown feet.

As Eggy and I went back and forth about birds, I decided to throw the Trashman’s chestnut at him (5)

Though he didn’t recall the Trashmen, he sure remembered the song!

As I wrote him, I think they were one-hit wonders. But what a hit!

But if you’re a Dee-troit boy like me, you can’t hear that song without thinking about THE BIRD!  So I had to tell him.

I don’t know if you’re a baseball fan, but my Tigers had a pitcher in late 70s name of Mark Fidrych.  He was an absolute phenom: not a blazing fast ball but an assortment of other pitches, over which he had excellent control, that kept batters off balance, sometimes ridiculously so.  In his first season with the Tigers – 1976 – he led the majors with a 2.34 ERA as well as complete games, won 19 games, and was near-unanimous AL rookie-of-the-year and 2nd in Cy Young voting.  He was the first rookie to start an All-Star game, but gave up 2 runs and took the loss.  But he also was an incredible character.  Every time he got to the mound, he’d dig around and smooth it out to his liking then wouldn’t let the groundskeepers touch it. He talked to the ball, saying it focused him.  After every out, he’d strut around the mound in celebration. He’d go out and shake a teammate’s hand after a good play.  And he played with a joyous exuberance.   Fans packed the stadiums, home and away, when he started.   He was tall and geeky, with curly blonde locks and a slightly prominent proboscis.

One of his coaches in Lakeland, Detroit’s A minor league affiliate, noted a resemblance to Big Bird of Sesame Street, and thereafter he was The Bird.  And yes, they played the Trashmen when he walked on the field.  He blew out his knee the next spring doing kung-fu kicks in the outfield with fellow flake, pitcher Dave Rozema.  He tried to come back, but was never the same, although the antics were still there.  It was his arm that got him, not properly diagnosed as a rotator cuff injury till 8 years after it happened.  He’d last 5 more seasons, winning only 10 more games. 

He retired to his farm in Northborough, Massachusetts and led a happy life.  He also worked as a contractor hauling gravel and asphalt in a ten-wheeler.  On weekends, he helped out in his mother-in-law’s diner, and would frequent the local baseball field to help teach and play ball with the kids. While working on his dump truck April 13, 2009, his clothes become entangled with a spinning power takeoff shaft on the truck, suffocating him.  He was 54.  There’s never been another like him, and likely won’t ever be.

There are several videos about him in YouTube. This one – nearly a half hour – put together by the Detroit local sportscasters (6).


1. Ike B. an evening in Piscataway. WordPress 11/7/22.

2. McGill. Channels. THIS DATE IN HISTORY: First football game was May 14, 1874. 5/14/12.

3. McGill.CA / ABOUT MCGILL / History / 10 McGill stories. The birth of three sports.

4. McGill Redbirds and Martlets. Wikepedia 5/14/22.

5. VDJ MikeyMike. The Trashmen – Surfin Bird – Bird is the Word 1963 (RE-MASTERED) (ALT End Video) (OFFICIAL VIDEO).


Published by rike52

I retired from the Rheumatology division of Michigan Medicine end of June '19 after 36 years there. Upon hitting Ann Arbor for the second time (I went to school here) it took me almost 8 months to meet Kathy, 17 months to buy her a house (on Harbal, where we still live), and 37 months to marry her. Kids never came, but we've been blessed with a crowd of colleagues, friends, neighbors and family that continues to grow. Lots of them are going to show up in this log eventually. Stay tuned.

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