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Bobby Madritsch Is 35 Years Old

Today's his birthday. He threw 92.1 innings in the Major Leagues.

It's interesting - Madritsch is a guy who those of us that sat through the 2004 season will never forget. In a year with a bad Jamie Moyer, a bad Ryan Franklin, a bad Gil Meche, an inconsistent Joel Pineiro, and a traded Freddy Garcia, it was Madritsch who came out of nowhere to be one of the best pitchers on the staff. And, looking back, it's crazy to me that he only made 11 starts. He started another game in 2005, and he also made four appearances out of the bullpen, but it's Madritsch's performance over those 11 starts that's forever cemented itself in our brains. Not a lot of people can make that sort of impression.

Over those 11 starts, he was good. Maybe not as good as his 3.30 ERA, but better than you'd expect from a guy signed out of the indy leagues. And he was otherwise memorable. He was covered in tattoos, with a medicine wheel on his neck and an Indian symbol resembling a swastika on his chest. He was the reason a lot of us learned of the Lakota. The Madritsch story was most certainly an unusual one.

I wonder if what really sealed it, though - what took Madritsch from being a fan favorite to being an unforgettable lefty of yore - was the injury. In his first start of the 2005 season, Madritsch tore his shoulder labrum, and he never came back. That allowed us all to wonder what could have been, and legends only grow over periods of inactivity. The further we got from seeing Bobby Madritsch on the mound, the more we relied on our minds to conjure images, and our minds emphasized the good while discarding the bad, and the mediocre, and the signs of impending regression. Bobby Madritsch - wasn't he the Indian guy who was supposed to be an ace? That was too bad about him.

Bill Bavasi had an interesting and characteristically candid quote upon Madritsch's waiver claim by the Royals in 2005:

We have been very concerned about Bobby's overall health and his approach to improving it. Bobby has a heart of gold and we wish him nothing but the best.

Bavasi and the organization didn't seem to have much faith that Madritsch could or would work his way back. And, sure enough, he didn't. The last pitch he threw with a Major League organization issued a walk to Juan Castro. He'd throw one more professional inning in his life, in 2008, for the Long Island Ducks, with whom all these players eventually seem to wind up. I don't know what Madritsch is doing now. I doubt that it's pitching.

Depending on your perspective, Bobby Madritsch either had a happy story, or a sad one. There's no denying that he went out on top. Because of the time and the way he went out, we'll always remember him, and we'll probably always remember him as being better than he was, but there are worse ways of being remembered.

Bobby Madritsch was really something. I hope he's had a good day.