Major league baseball’s most visible contribution to the nation’s bicentennial celebration in 1976 could be summarized in two words:  “The Bird”.  Mark “the Bird” Fidrych exploded on the baseball world as an unheralded twenty-one year old rookie pitcher, but he soon revealed his formidable talent in each of his nineteen victories for the Detroit Tigers.  Those performances, coupled with the quirkiness of his public conversations with both the baseball and pitching mound, and his genius in combining the two, made him an international phenomenon.  Fidrych and rookie Tiger catcher Bruce Kimm achieved a nearly unconscious rapport on the field, and Bruce became The Bird’s sole catcher throughout that whirlwind season.  Fidrych won the American League “Rookie of the Year” award that year, and Kimm began his major league career in a way never seen before.

Bruce Edward Kimm, great grandson of German emigrant Silas Kimm, was born on June 29, 1951, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Lyle and Mary Alice (Disney) Kimm of nearby Norway.  He was the third of four children, following elder sisters Nancy and Carma, and four years ahead of youngest sibling Ann.  

While attending St Michael’s Catholic School, in Norway, Iowa, Bruce played baseball with local Little League and Pony League teams, and then spent four years with the Norway High School varsity until graduating in 1969.  Growing up, as gifted athletes in smaller towns often will, he played several positions in the field.  It was not until 1966, as a fourteen-year old, that he became a catcher.  

The high school players, as they had for years, also suited up for the Norway town team.  Playing a full season slate against other small communities in the Iowa Valley League, the high school team was able – legally – to more-than- double their playing time together, almost forcing a higher degree of cohesion and fundamental skill.  Before one particular town contest, neither Norway catcher was available to play.  The coach asked Bruce to substitute behind the plate and, reluctantly, Kimm complied.  On such twists, lives change forever.

In 1967-68 Kimm, now a full-time catcher, also played for Cedar Rapids American Legion team.  The 1967 team was the Iowa State Legion Champion, and that year Bruce earned the “Earl.H. Proctor Award” as Most Valuable player in the state tournament.   During 1968, Bruce won the state legion “triple crown” by leading the league in batting average and RBIs, and tying for the lead in homeruns.  

During his scholastic career, Kimm played on six of Norway’s twenty state championship squads for coach Bernie Hutchison and, later, assistant coach Jim Van Scoyoc, and was named to the Iowa All-State team in 1968 (1st team) and 1969 (2nd team).  As a freshman in 1965, he played right field on the fall season team that brought Norway their first state title that October.  In 1966, in the championship game against Mason City (a city then twenty times larger than Norway), Kimm hit an inside the park homerun that broke a 2-2 tie, and led to Norway’s 4-2 win.  

Off the field, Bruce was equally adept at basketball.  In the 1969 Iowa high school tournament semi-final game against Paulina, he tied a state post-season record by scoring 46 points in a single game.  That record stood for eleven more years.  The 1968 Norway team record posted a 25-1 record, and the 1969 team went 26-2, with their only losses coming in the state tournament.  Bruce was three times All-Conference (1st team) and All-State (3rd team).  Additionally, as a senior in 1969, he was on the state All-Tournament team.

His greater gifts, however, were in baseball.  As his stellar scholastic career drew to a close, and Kimm considered college options, he ultimately selected Arizona State University.  Chicago White Sox scout Ken Blackman, however, proved more persuasive, and when the team selected Kimm in the seventh round of the 1969 draft, Bruce agreed to a contract .

Chicago assigned the seventeen-year old to their rookie team in the Gulf Coast League, and he reported to Sarasota on June 21, 1969.  In his first thirty six professional games he hit .310.

He began the next year, 1970, and the new decade as a reserve in Appleton, Wisconsin, while waiting for Duluth’s season to open in June.  The Dukes won the Northern League title with relative ease, and in July Kimm was named ‘Player of the Month’ by the Topps Baseball Card Company.  At the end of the year he added yet another award, this one from the Duluth fans who voted him ‘Most Popular’ player on the team.

After playing in the Florida Instructional League in the fall of 1970, Bruce suffered a setback in 1971 spring training.  While blocking home plate in a game he injured his left knee and missed the first nine weeks of the Midwest League season.  Returning to Appleton after rehabilitation, he appeared in only fifty four games, and the team’s 1971 campaign ended in playoff defeat.  Despite batting only .167, however, Kimm’s defense sparkled, and the White Sox rewarded him with another off-season in the Florida Instructional League. 

Bruce began the 1972 campaign in Knoxville, Tennessee, and – due to injuries – played briefly for the AAA club in Tucson, Arizona.  In June he was returned to the AA squad in Knoxville, but the organization’s faith in their prospect, and their evaluation of his talent, were further validated when he was selected to play in the Southern League All-Star game.

On September 1st Kimm’s career veered west when he was sent to the California Angels as “the player to be named later” in an earlier trade.   That fall the Angels sent Bruce to the Arizona Instructional League, but the off-season was far more memorable for the Kimms as they welcomed their first child, son Matthew Tyson (a future draftee of the Philadelphia Phillies), on November 30.  Later , in November, 1975,  Bruce and Debbie had a second child, daughter Heidi., and followed her with another son, Joshua, in 1979.  As of 2010, the Kimm clan has grown to include five grandsons and two granddaughters.

Bruce never did suit up for the Angel’s franchise in the regular season, however, as he was traded to the Detroit Tigers during spring training in 1973 in a straight-up swap for Bobby Brooks. Kimm played most of the season for the Southern League (AA) champion Montgomery Rebels, and finished that year with the Toledo Mudhens of the (AAA) International League.  In 1974, he started in Montgomery and, after seventy four games, was promoted to the Evansville Triplets (who had, by now, replaced Toledo as the Tiger’s AAA team) of American Association.  His contract was moved to the (major league) Tigers in the off season.  

1975 found Bruce in Evansville.  He was opted to Tucson, of the Pacific Coast League, for 5 games, but promptly returned to the Triplets due to an injury on the Tigers.  Following his return to Evansville, the Triplets rallied from a nine game deficit to win the American Association title.  The team capped their season by defeating the Tidewater Mets in the Little World Series (American Association and International League for the AAA level championship).
In 1976 Bruce started the season in Evansville, but after starting backstop Milt May broke his ankle and became sidelined for the year, the 5’11”, 183-pound Kimm was summoned to Detroit and made his major league debut against the Minnesota Twins on May 4.  

On May 15, Fidrych won his first major league start in dominating fashion, tossing a complete game “2 hitter” against the Cleveland Indians, with fellow rookie Kimm catching all nine innings.  During the game, Fidrych introduced some flair to the game, conspicuously talking to the baseball and patting down the mound on hands and knees.  The unusual behavior drew some local attention, but the baseball world took full notice after his eleven-inning complete game win over the Brewers on May 31.  The Fidrych/Kimm battery then mowed down the American League competition, as the Tigers beat Bert Blyleven and Nolan Ryan in consecutive games, and then reeled off five consecutive wins, culminating in a nationally televised game against the Yankees on June 28.  "Every time I catch we draw 50,000 people," is how the catcher explained (tongue firmly in cheek) the record-breaking crowds in Detroit to “Sports Illustrated” magazine.

Without Kimm behind the plate, Fidrych took the loss in the 1976 All Star game.  After his reunion with Bruce, however, “the Bird” finished the season with nineteen victories.  In a 2009 interview with Dave O’Hara, Kimm said, “…I was his personal catcher.  He was the best pitcher in baseball in 1976 and he had the best pitches and control of any pitcher that I’ve ever seen.  He was always a great guy and teammate, Mark never let the special treatment go to his head.”

Kimm finished the 1976 campaign with a .263 average in 152 at-bats, and also notched his only major league home run, a solo shot off the Angel’s Frank Tanana in August in front of over 52,000 fans, that snapped a 2-2 tie and enabled Fidrych to pick up another victory.  Immediately following the season, Norway held a “Bruce Kimm” day celebration on October 10, just as they’d done for Hal Trosky forty-two years earlier.

The next year, 1977, Kimm started the season as a backup, and didn’t catch Fidrych’s first two starts.  After the Bird’s two early losses, Kimm caught the pitcher’s next five starts.  Fidrych won all five.  After two more losses, however, Fidrych confessed to having a “dead arm”, later diagnosed as a torn rotator cuff, and he was placed on the Disabled List.  With ‘the Bird’ grounded, and Kimm hitting only .080, the catcher was optioned to Rochester (International League).  

Bruce returned to Evansville in 1978, but the team was eliminated from playoff contention on the last day of the season.   Bruce played for the Triplets again in 1979 but, as his batting average passed the .283 mark, to complement his 10 home runs and 75 RBIs, he was sold to the Chicago Cubs on August 30th.  

Kimm appeared in nine games for the Cubs that September, and made the final out of the season against the “We Are Family” Pirates (eventual world champions) as Pittsburgh clinched the pennant.  At the end of the year, on December 3, he was reclaimed by the White Sox in the Rule 5 draft, and then played winter ball in Puerto Rico.   In Puerto Rico Bruce developed pain from a bone spur in his right elbow.

In 1980 Kimm played in 100 games for the White Sox but, despite hitting a respectable .243, he appeared in what became his final game professional game on September 19, against the Minnesota Twins, filling in for defensive purposes late in the game.  He went to the Dominican Republic to play winter ball, and there he hurt his right shoulder while trying to break up a double play.

That winter, 1980, Bruce was dropped from the White Sox major league roster.  With his shoulder still not healed, he retired from baseball.  In 1981, now out of baseball, Bruce drove a bread truck and sold life insurance.  

In 1982, at his wife Debbie's urging, Bruce returned to baseball.  The Tigers named him manager of their Lakeland team in the single-A Florida State League.  He was, actually, offered the opportunity to either play again or manage but, due to his sore shoulder, chose the latter.  The next season, 1983, he managed the Cedar Rapids Reds, of the Midwest League, to a 76-64 record and a playoff berth.  At that point, the major league team noticed, and Kimm spent the next five years in Cincinnati.

Under manager Vern Rapp, Kimm was named the Red’s bullpen coach.   Even after Rapp’s dismissal on August 15, and the appointment of Pete Rose, Bruce’s depth and breadth of baseball experience was so great that he was retained by the new manager.  He stayed on as bullpen coach through 1986, and Rose promoted him to Third Base coach for the 1987 and 1988 seasons.  In 1988, Norway celebrated another All-Star appearance when Kimm served as bullpen catcher for the game in Cincinnati.

In 1989 he began a prominent association with certain future Hall-of-Fame manager Jim Leyland, and served as Pittsburgh Pirates’ bench coach.  The 1990 team, one that included Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla, won ninety-five games in the regular season before losing to the Cincinnati Reds in a six-game National League Championship series.  

 In 1991 Bruce left the Pirates in order to return to the major league pension plan, but he did not stay away for long.  In 1991 and 1992 Kimm was Third Base coach for the San Diego Padres, and in 1993 returned to managing, this time for Greenville Braves of the (AA) Southern League.  Greenville lost in the league playoffs, but Kimm was promoted to AAA Richmond as Third Base, hitting, and infield coach under manager Grady Little.  In the 1994 International League championship, Richmond swept Syracuse in three games to claim the title.

In 1994 he also enjoyed the first of three (to date) career awards when he was enshrined in the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall-of-Fame.  That recognition was followed by his 1999 selection to the Iowa Legion Baseball Hall-of-Fame, and his 2003 induction into the Cedar Rapids Baseball Hall-of-Fame.

 In 1995 Kimm was named manager of the Southern League Orlando Cubs, and the team’s 76-67 record was enough to earn Bruce the league’s Manager-of-the-Year award.  Following a winter managing in the Arizona Fall League and one more season in Orlando, Bruce rejoined Jim Leyland with the Florida Marlins as bullpen coach during their improbable World Series championship season.  Following another season with the Marlins, which included another appearance as a coach for the National League in the All Star game, and 1999 as bench coach with the Rockies, he spent the 2000 season as an advance scout for Colorado.  
In 2001, Kimm was named manager of the Chicago Cubs AAA team in Des Moines, Iowa.  That the team finished the regular season with a blistering 83-60 record made Kimm the ‘next hot coach’ to get a shot managing in the majors.  No less prestigious a periodical than “The Sporting News” named Kimm their “Best Minor League Managerial Prospect”, and on July 5, 2002, when the Cubs fired Don Baylor, Chicago promoted Kimm to interim manage the major league team.

The club was losing when he took over, so the 33-46 mark they posted during his tenure was not terribly surprising, but by September 23, Ken Rosenthal of “The Sporting News” had already written about his status on the ‘hot seat’.   

Throughout his long baseball career, Kimm was widely regarded as a hardnosed catcher, a player willing to do whatever it took to win.  Bruce was a talented athlete, and worked hard every day of his baseball career, but he earned his nicknames “the Gamer” and “the Champ” due to a competitive ferocity rare even in the elite circles of major league baseball players.   Despite his tireless efforts to motivate the team, the players did not respond on the field.  As is too often the case in professional sports, it is much simpler to fire the manager than punish the players, so Kimm was released on the last day of the season.  

He returned to the White Sox (as Third Base coach) for 2003, but retired after the season.  As of 2010, he lives in the Norway area, and fills his days with family, golf, hunting, and fishing.  After thirty four years in professional baseball, he succinctly summarized his career :  “What a ride.”

But Kimm’s baseball life is far from complete.  As one of the founding owners of “Perfect Game” (which now includes son Tyson, himself a draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1995, as Vice President), The Perfect Game is an extensive scouting and college-preparatory enterprise that organizes and conducts elite ‘showcase’ youth baseball tournaments, and manages a scouting service that reports on thousands of players every year.  With tens of thousands of U.S. prospects already in the database, the company intends to expand internationally in the coming years.  While Bruce’s baseball career was successful, his greatest contribution to baseball may still lie ahead.


1969 –             Drafted by Chicago White Sox (7th Round) – American League Sarasota – Gulf Coast League (rookie)
1970 –             Appleton – Midwest League (A) Duluth – Northern League (A)
1971 –             Appleton – Midwest League (A)
1972 –             Knoxville – Southern League (AA) Tucson – Pacific Coast League (AAA)
1973 –             Montgomery – Southern League (AA) Toledo – International League (AAA)
1974 -           Montgomery – Southern League (AA) Evansville – American Association (AAA)
1975 –             Evansville – American Association (AAA) Tucson – Pacific Coast League (AAA)
1976 –             Evansville – American Association (AAA) Detroit – American League (Major)
1977 –             Detroit – American League (Major) Rochester – International League (AAA)
1978 –             Evansville – American Association (AAA)
1979 –             Evansville – American Association (AAA) Chicago Cubs – National League (Major)
1980 –             Chicago White Sox – American League (Major)


1981 -              Out of Baseball
1982 -              Lakeland  Tigers – Manager – Florida State League (A)
1983 -              Cedar Rapids Reds – Manager – Midwest League (A)
1984-1988 –    Cincinnati Reds – Coach National League (Major)
1989-1990 -    Pittsburg Pirates – Coach National League (Major)
1991-1992 -    SanDiego Padres – Coach National League (Major)
1993 -             Greensville Braves – Manager Southern League (AA)
1994 -           Richmond Braves – Coach IL
1995-1996       Orlando Cubs – Manager – Southern League (AA)
1997-1998       Florida Marlins – Coach National League (Major)
1999 -              Colorado Rockies – Coach National League (Major)
2000 -              Colorado Rockies Advance Scout
2001 -              Iowa Cubs – Manager – AA
2002 -              Iowa Cubs – Manager – AA Chicago Cubs Interim Manager National League (Major)
2003 -              Chicago White Sox -  Coach American League (Major)


1970 -1971      Sarasota - Florida Instructional League
1972                Mesa - Arizona Instruction League
1979                Puerto Rico – Winter League
1980                Domincan Republic – Winter League
1995                Manager: Arizona Fall League


A Message from Bruce:
I can’t imagine growing up in a better environment than Norway, IA with people who worked hard and enjoyed their community - kids loved to play sports and played to win – parents who encouraged me and a town that backed their sport teams.

Many great players wore the Norway uniform.  Alan Schulte and Butch Boddicker were my local heroes as a youngster, however, my biggest heroes were my dad (Lyle) and mom (Mary Alice). Mom made sure I had good equipment. Dad played catch with me every Sunday after church and coached our little league teams. Their encouragement and involvement were key to me having a career I thoroughly enjoyed. My battery mate,  Dick McVay was a fantastic pitcher and athlete who was key to Norway being known as the “Baseball Capital of Iowa” and “The Giant Killers.”   Dick McVay’s high school success and athleticism is legendary to me.

Thank you to my wonderful wife, Debbie (my personal hero and #1 supporter), my family, my deceased parents, my sisters, my cousins ( especially Wayne), friends and other great people from Norway for making me feel that “Life really is great!”
Signed Bruce Kimm 2010