"That's the beautiful part of the contract," said Mark Fidrych, 1976 rookie of the year whom the Detroit Tigers found one of the easiest of all baseball stars to sign in the offseason. "It's such a good contract, I took a cut in pay."

Howzat? Recollect that when The Bird began drawing record crowds to the Tiger games for which he was named starting pitcher, a lot of fans griped that Curly was being grossly underpaid at the major league minimum, then $16,000 (it's $19,000 in '77). But he got a $3,000 retroactive raise; $7,500 in bonuses under the conditions of his original contract, and an estimated $34,500 more after having won 19 games and attracting more than 900,000 fans.

In all, Fidrych earned about $60,000. But his current contract is for only about $55,000 a season.

Never fear, though, again there are bonus provisions, although Fidrych says, "You can't count that. A bonus is a bonus; pay is pay. It's not the same . . . (but) if I draw 900,000 people again, don't you think they (Tigers) will be glad to give me another bonus?

"If they didn't they'd be horse manure. And they're not horse manure . . .