Carlton Fisk

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Carlton Fisk
Carlton Fisk - Baseball HOF Induction 2013.jpg
Catcher
Born: (1947-12-26) December 26, 1947 (age 66)
Bellows Falls, Vermont
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 18, 1969 for the Boston Red Sox
Last MLB appearance
June 22, 1993 for the Chicago White Sox
Career statistics
Batting average .269
Home runs 376
Hits 2,356
Runs batted in 1,330
Teams
Career highlights and awards
Induction 2000
Vote 79.6% (second ballot)

Carlton Ernest Fisk (born December 26, 1947)[1] is a retired Major League Baseball catcher. During a 24-year baseball career, he played for both the Boston Red Sox (1969, 1971–1980) and Chicago White Sox (1981–1993). The 6'2", 220 lb Fisk was known in the majors as "Pudge", his childhood nickname as he had been a chubby youngster,[2] or "The Commander".[3] He was the first player to be unanimously voted American League Rookie of the Year (1972).

Fisk is best known for "waving fair" his game-winning home run in the 12th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. At the time of his retirement in 1993, he held the record for most home runs all-time by a catcher with 351 (since passed by Mike Piazza). Fisk held the record for most games played at the position of catcher (2,226) until June 17, 2009 when he was surpassed by another "Pudge", Iván Rodríguez. Fisk still holds the American League record for most years served behind the plate (24). Fisk was voted to the All-Star team 11 times and won three Silver Slugger Awards which is awarded annually to the best offensive player at each position.

Fisk was known as a fierce competitor, a superb handler of pitchers, and a natural on-field leader.[4] He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000.

Early life[edit]

Fisk was born in Bellows Falls, Vermont but, according to Fisk, that was only because Vermont had the nearest hospital. He grew up across the Connecticut River in Charlestown, New Hampshire, attending Charlestown High School, where he played baseball and basketball. He considers himself a native of New Hampshire and demanded that the Red Sox remove its characterization of him as a Vermont native from his plaque in the Red Sox Hall of Fame.[2]

He played on the Charlestown High baseball team, appearing at third base, catcher and pitcher. Two of his teammates were his brothers Calvin and Conrad, who were drafted by the Baltimore Orioles and Montreal Expos, respectively, but never made it to the minors due to Calvin being drafted and inducted into military service during the Vietnam War and Conrad hurting his arm.

Since the high school baseball season was limited to 17 games annually due to the inclement New England weather, he also played in the American Legion baseball league, appearing with the Claremont, New Hampshire team in the 1964 season. In 1965, he played for the Legion Post 37 team in Bellows Falls that had won the 1964 Vermont State Championship.[2]

Fisk excelled at playing basketball. His play in a 1965 high school basketball tournament in the Boston Garden drew the attention of Boston Celtics owner Walter Brown, who told a local reporter, "You have got to tell me--who is that kid?" He was awarded a basketball scholarship by the University of New Hampshire, where he started for the UNH Wildcats while also playing baseball. He met his wife Linda Foust while at UNH.[2]

The freshman squad that Fisk played for was undefeated for the 1965-66 season. In his sophomore year, the Red Sox drafted him in the first round of the January 1967 amateur draft, and his athletic future was set. Fisk gave up his dreams of basketball glory. "I could never be a six-foot-two power forward and play for the Celtics," he said.[2]

Professional career[edit]

Boston Red Sox[edit]

Bosret27.svg
Carlton Fisk's number 27 was retired by the Boston Red Sox in 2000.

Drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1967 as the fourth overall pick of the draft, Fisk got the call to the big leagues for two games in 1969. After some seasoning in the Boston minor league system and serving out a military commitment, Fisk was back with the Red Sox in 1971, appearing in fourteen games. Fisk broke out for the Red Sox in his first full season in 1972. Fisk hit .293 with 22 home runs, 28 doubles and a .909 OPS. He led the American League with nine triples (tied with Joe Rudi of the Oakland Athletics), and was the last catcher to lead the league in this statistical category. As the result of his 1972 season, Fisk won both the AL Gold Glove at Catcher and the AL Rookie of the Year awards.

In June 1974 Fisk suffered a devastating knee injury when Cleveland Indians Leron Lee collided with him at home plate, tearing several knee ligaments. After undergoing reconstructive knee surgery, Fisk was told he would never play again, yet the backstop returned just twelve months later to hit .331 in 1975.

1975 World Series[edit]

Main article: 1975 World Series

A well-known moment of Fisk's career came in the 12th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series at Fenway Park. He hit Cincinnati Reds pitcher Pat Darcy's second pitch down the left field line that appeared to be heading into foul territory. The enduring image of Fisk jumping and waving the ball fair as he made his way to first base is considered by many to be one of baseball's greatest moments. The ball struck the foul pole, giving the Red Sox a 7–6 win and forcing a seventh and deciding game of the Fall Classic.

The image of him waving the ball fair changed the way baseball was televised. During this time, cameramen covering baseball were instructed to follow the flight of the ball. In a 1999 interview, NBC cameraman Lou Gerard admitted that the classic shot was not due to his own skills as a cameraman, but because he had been distracted by a nearby rat. Unable to follow the ball, he kept the camera on Fisk instead.[5] This play was perhaps the most important catalyst in getting camera operators to focus most of their attention on the players themselves.[6]

Last years in Boston[edit]

Fisk was among the top offensive catchers in the American League in his eight full seasons with the Boston Red Sox. Over that time, he averaged 20 home runs and 70 RBIs per season. His best year in Boston was in 1977 when Fisk hit .315 with 26 HRs and 102 RBI.

Fisk was reportedly among a group of several Red Sox players who lobbied Boston management for players to be paid what they deserved, which made him none too popular with Haywood Sullivan, the Boston general manager. When Fisk's contract expired at the end of the 1980 season, Sullivan in fact mailed him a new contract, but put it in the mail one day after the contractual deadline. As a result, Fisk was technically a free agent and he signed a $3.5 million deal with the Chicago White Sox, beginning with the 1981 season.

Chicago White Sox[edit]

SoxRetired72.PNG
Carlton Fisk's number 72 was retired by the Chicago White Sox in 1997.

Fisk was signed by the White Sox on March 18, 1981. At that time, his old number 27 was held on the White Sox by pitcher Ken Kravec. Fisk flip-flopped his old number and thus wore the unusual baseball number of 72 on his jersey. Although Kravec was traded just ten days later, Fisk retained the number 72 throughout his career with the White Sox. As the season got under way, Fisk was interviewed by the media concerning his switching teams, and joked that that "after a decade with the Red Sox, it was time to change my sox!"

On opening day 1981, Fisk started the season with the White Sox against his former team in Fenway Park. In the eighth inning, Fisk knocked a three-run homer to put his new team on top, 5-3.[7]

After joining the White Sox, he played an instrumental role in helping the team win its first American League Western Division title in 1983. His .289 batting average, 26 home runs, and 86 RBI, as well as his leadership on the young team, helped him to finish third in the MVP voting (behind Baltimore Orioles teammates Cal Ripken, Jr. and Eddie Murray). Fisk also caught LaMarr Hoyt that season, the 1983 Cy Young award winner.

On May 16, 1984 Fisk accomplished the rare feat of hitting for the cycle in Comiskey Park against the Kansas City Royals. Fisk's triple in the bottom of the 7th inning off Dan Quisenberry was the only triple he hit in the season, joining Bill Salkeld (1945) as the only catcher in the 20th century to hit the season's only triple in a cycle.[8]

Injuries once again befell Fisk in the 1984 season, limiting him to just 102 games and a .231 average. The experience led him to begin a new training regimen which he would use for the rest of his career. In his Hall of Fame induction speech, Fisk credited White Sox strength and conditioning coach Phil Claussen for his turnaround. Claussen introduced Fisk to a more scientific approach to physical conditioning which included long sessions of weight training. Fisk often credited the training program to extending his career.[9]

In 1985, following the advent of his new training program, Fisk had the most productive offensive year of his career. He hit 37 home runs and drove in 107 runs, both career-high numbers; the home run numbers tied Dick Allen's 13-year White Sox single-season record. At the age of 37, Fisk tied his career high for stolen bases with 17 thefts on the year. For his performance, Fisk was voted to the All-Star team, won the Silver Slugger award and finished 13th in the A.L. MVP voting.[10]

On August 4, 1985 Fisk caught all nine innings of Tom Seaver's complete game 300th career victory, which was played in Yankee Stadium. Fisk caught Bobby Thigpen as he set the then-record for most saves in a season (57) in 1990. In 2005, Jack McDowell credited Fisk as being instrumental in his development into a pitcher who won the Cy Young Award in 1993.[11]

On August 17, 1990 in the second game of a twi-night doubleheader in Arlington, Texas Fisk broke Johnny Bench's career home run record for catchers by hitting his 328th longball as a catcher off Charlie Hough in the top of the second inning.[12] He went on to end his career as the all-time leader in home runs by a catcher with 351. On May 5, 2004 Mike Piazza surpassed Fisk's record by belting his 352nd as a backstop.[13] Fisk still holds the American League record for homers by a catcher.

A single in the 1991 All-Star Game made him the oldest player in MLB history to collect a hit in an All-Star game.

On June 22, 1993 Fisk broke Bob Boone's record for career games caught with his 2,226th game behind the plate. Fisk was passed on this list by Ivan Rodriguez on June 17, 2009.[14]

Six days after breaking Bob Boone's all-time games caught record, Fisk was unceremoniously and abruptly released by the Chicago White Sox. Fisk was notified of his dismissal in his hotel room in Cleveland while on a road trip with the team. It is reported that he was ordered to turn in his equipment and fly back to Chicago immediately, and alone.[15] Fisk was one of two final active position player in the 1990s who had played in the 1960s. The other was Nolan Ryan. He is one of only 29 players in baseball history to date to have appeared in Major League games in four decades.

It is rumored that this end to Fisk's tenure in Chicago was the culmination of years of conflict with White Sox management, particularly team majority owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Fisk made mention of the fireworks between himself and Reinsdorf in his Hall of Fame induction speech.[16] To add insult to injury, it is reported that Fisk was thrown out of the White Sox clubhouse later that season when he stopped by to wish his teammates good luck in the playoffs.[15]

Fences began to be mended with the White Sox with the retirement of Fisk's number 72 on September 14, 1997 and the dedication of his statue in U.S. Cellular Field in 2005. In 2008, Fisk officially rejoined the White Sox team, becoming a team ambassador and part of the White Sox speaker's bureau.[17]

Almost a Yankee[edit]

After the 1985 season, the White Sox came close to trading Fisk to the New York Yankees for designated hitter Don Baylor. Baylor was unhappy with the Yankees since he did not play every day as he wanted (despite being the team's regular DH) and asked to be traded. The potential deal was complicated in that the White Sox would have to re-sign Fisk, a free agent, and that both players would have to agree to the trade. Negotiations between the two teams ended when they were unable to reach an agreement.[18] The White Sox re-signed Fisk, who remained with the club until the end of his career. During spring training in 1986, the Yankees finally traded Baylor to the Boston Red Sox for designated hitter Mike Easler.

Notable feuds[edit]

Fisk was known for his longstanding feud with New York Yankees counterpart Thurman Munson. One particular incident that typified their feud, and the Yankees – Red Sox rivalry in general, occurred on August 1, 1973 at Fenway Park. With the score 2-2 in the top of the 9th, Munson, attempting to score on Gene Michael's missed bunt attempt, barreled into Fisk, triggering a 10-minute bench-clearing brawl in which both catchers were ejected. As John Curtis let his first pitch go, Munson broke for the plate. Michael tried to bunt, and missed. With Munson coming, the scrawny Yankees shortstop tried to step in Fisk's way, but Carlton elbowed him out of the way and braced for Munson, who crashed into him as hard as he could. Fisk held onto the ball, but Munson tried to lie on top of him to allow Felipe Alou to keep rounding the bases.

Fisk kicked Munson off him and into the air, and swiped at him with his fist. Michael grabbed Fisk, and as Curtis grabbed Munson—his former Cape Cod League roommate—Fisk threw Michael down with his left arm and fell to the ground. "Fisk had his left arm right across Stick's throat and wouldn't let up," said Ralph Houk, the Yankees' manager at the time. "Michael couldn't breathe. I had to crawl underneath the pile to try to pry Fisk's arm off his throat to keep him from killing Stick. All the while he had Michael pinned down, he was punching Munson underneath the pile. I had no idea Fisk was that strong, but he was scary."[19]

In another incident typifying the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, Fisk was involved in an altercation with Lou Piniella during a May 20, 1976 game at Yankee Stadium. In the sixth inning of this game, Piniella barreled into Fisk trying to score on an Otto Velez single. Fisk and Piniella shoved each other at home plate, triggering another bench-clearing brawl. After the fight apparently died down and order appeared to be restored, Fisk's pitcher, Bill Lee, and Yankee third baseman Graig Nettles began exchanging words and punches, igniting the brawl anew.[20] Lee suffered a separated left shoulder in the altercation and missed much of the season.

In another incident, NFL and MLB player Deion Sanders, then with the Yankees, hit a pop fly, and declined to run to first base, suspecting that the ball would be easily caught. Fisk yelled at Sanders to run the ball out and told Sanders during his next at-bat, "There is a right way and a wrong way to play this game. You're playing it the wrong way. And the rest of us don't like it. Someday, you're going to get this game shoved right down your throat."[21]

Legacy[edit]

Pudge works harder than anyone I know, because he sets goals for himself and then follows through. I think he's the ultimate professional.[22]

—Former White Sox manager, Jim Fregosi

Notable statistics[edit]

  • 1972 American League Rookie of the Year. The first player to have received the award with a unanimous vote.[23]
  • 1972 Gold Glove winner.[23]
  • 3x Silver Slugger award winner: 1981, 1985, 1988.[23]
  • Led all American League catchers in fielding percentage in 1989.[23]
  • Oldest catcher in Major League history to hit 20 home runs in 1987.
  • Oldest player to record a hit in an All-Star game in 1991.
  • Holds the record for most home runs hit after the age of 40 (72).[4]
  • Holds the record for most years played as a catcher with 24 (1969, 1971–1993).[4]
  • At the time of his retirement in 1993, he held the records for most home runs all-time by a catcher with 351 (since passed by Mike Piazza) and most games played at the position of catcher with 2,226 (surpassed by Iván Rodríguez on June 17, 2009).[4]
  • Fisk is one of only sixteen catchers elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Among those, Fisk has the most hits (2,356) and runs scored (1,276).
  • Fisk holds the record for the longest game by a catcher. On May 9, 1984 he caught all 25 innings of the White Sox's 7-6 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. Fisk threw out four runners attempting to steal during the game. The former record of 24 innings was shared by 5 players: Mike Powers (9-1-1906), Buddy Rosar and Bob Swift (both on 7-21-1945), Hal King and Jerry Grote (both on 4-15-1968).
  • Fisk finished in the top ten in American League Most Valuable Player voting four times (1972, 1977–78, and 1983).
  • Fisk's .481 slugging percentage while with the Red Sox is the tenth best in that club's long history.

Honors[edit]

Fisk was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000, choosing the Boston Red Sox cap for his plaque, although he played for more seasons with the Chicago White Sox.

Fisk is also one of a small numbers of baseball players embraced by the fans of two teams. The Chicago White Sox retired his uniform number 72 on September 14, 1997. The Boston Red Sox retired his uniform number 27 on September 4, 2000. He is one of eight people to have their uniform number retired by at least two teams,[24][25] and one of only three to have different numbers retired by two teams. Fisk joined Nolan Ryan and Reggie Jackson on that list when the Red Sox retired his #27; Fisk, Ryan, Jackson, Hank Aaron, Rollie Fingers, Rod Carew, Frank Robinson, and Greg Maddux are the only players to have had their numbers retired by two teams.

In 1999, he was selected as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team, and finished third in the balloting.[26][27]

In 2000, Fisk was elected to the Chicago White Sox All-Century Team.

In 2004 he was named the greatest New Hampshire athlete of all time.

In May 2008, Fisk returned to the White Sox as a team ambassador, and a member of the team's speakers bureau.[28]

The 2004 baseball-themed film Mickey features a character who, like Fisk, is a catcher, is known as Pudge, and hits a home run similar to Fisk's 1975 World Series home run.[citation needed] Footage of Fisk's home run appears in the 1997 film Good Will Hunting, during a scene in which the character Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) tells the story of how he met his wife on the same day the game occurred.

The Fisk Foul Pole[edit]

On June 13, 2005, the Red Sox honored Carlton Fisk and the 12th-inning home run that won Game 6 of the 1975 World Series by naming the left field foul pole, which the famous home run contacted, the Fisk Foul Pole. In a pregame ceremony from the Monster Seats, Fisk was cheered by the Fenway Park crowd while the shot was replayed to the strains of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus, the song longtime Fenway Park organist John Kiley originally played following the home run. The Red Sox scheduled the ceremony to coincide with an interleague series against the Cincinnati Reds, who were making their first trip back to Fenway Park since the '75 Series.

Thirty years later, the video of Fisk trying to wave the ball fair remains one of the game's enduring images. Game 6 is often considered one of the best games played in Major League history. The crowd remembered that magical moment at precisely 12:34 a.m. ET early on the morning of October 22, 1975, when Fisk drove a 1–0 fastball from Cincinnati right-hander Pat Darcy high into the air, heading down the left-field line. "The ball only took about two and half seconds," recalled Fisk. "It seemed like I was jumping and waving for more than two and a half seconds." Two and a half seconds later, the ball caromed off the bright yellow pole, ending one of the most dramatic World Series games ever played and giving the Red Sox a 7–6 win over the Reds in 12 hard-fought innings.[29]

On the field, Fisk threw out the ceremonial first pitch to his former batterymate Luis Tiant.[30] From now on, like the Pesky Pole down the right-field line, the left-field pole will officially be called the Fisk Foul Pole. The idea was the inspiration of the countless fans who contacted the Red Sox about recognizing the historic moment.[29] Fenway's right field foul pole, which is just 302 feet from the plate, is named Pesky's Pole, for former Red Sox shortstop Johnny Pesky. Mel Parnell named the pole after Pesky in 1948 when he won a game with a home run just inside the right field pole.

Rings[edit]

After the June 13 ceremony in Boston, Fisk received an honorary World Series ring from the Red Sox commemorating their 2004 World Series victory.[30] On Saturday, August 12, 2006, the Chicago White Sox presented Fisk with another ring, this one in honor of the White Sox' 2005 championship.[31]

Statue[edit]

The Chicago White Sox unveiled a life-sized bronze statue of Carlton Fisk on August 7, 2005. The statue is located inside U.S. Cellular Field on the main concourse in center field. It joined similar statues depicting Charles Comiskey, Frank Thomas and Minnie Miñoso and eventually Luis Aparicio, Nellie Fox, Billy Pierce and Harold Baines.[32]

Personal life[edit]

Fisk is a supporter of the Cancer Support Center. He and his wife Linda serve on the Honorary Board.[33]

Fisk and his wife Linda have three children, and five grandchildren.[32]

On October 22, 2012, Fisk was charged with a DUI in New Lenox, Illinois after he was found in the middle of a corn field, unconscious behind the wheel of his vehicle.[34] He pleaded guilty to the charge on December 27, 2012.[35]

Career statistics[edit]

Carlton Fisk's career statistics.[36][37]

G AB H 2B 3B HR R RBI SB BB IBB SO SH SF HBP AVG OBP SLG
2,499 8,756 2,356 421 47 376 1,276 1,330 128 849 105 1,386 26 79 143 .269 .341 .457

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Carlton Fisk Statistics and History". statistical and professional information. Baseball Reference.com. Retrieved 2 December 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Stevens, Brian. "Carlton Fisk". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved 29 September 2013. 
  3. ^ Chuck, Bill; Kaplan, Jim (2008), Walkoffs, Last Licks, and Final Outs: Baseball's Grand (and not-so-grand) Finales, Skokie, IL, USA: ACTA Sports, ISBN 978-0-87946-342-7, (p. 155) Before the game played against the Texas Rangers, Fisk was given a motorcycle by his teammates and a shadowbox of homeplate by the team. Signs like "Fisk Forever" and "The Commander" festooned the stands. 
  4. ^ a b c d Fisk Biography and Stats at Baseball Hall of Fame
  5. ^ Bruce Lowitt, "Rats! Fisk's homer" St. Petersburg Times, November 23, 1999
  6. ^ Seth Mnookin, "Feeding the Monster: How Money, Smarts and Nerve took a Team to the Top" pg. 40
  7. ^ Fisk bio on newhampshire.com accessed 27 March 2011
  8. ^ Fisk Chronology at baseballlibrary.com
  9. ^ Fisk HOF Induction Speech
  10. ^ Fisk stats at baseballreference.com
  11. ^ Fisk Statue Stands Tall
  12. ^ Washington Post article on Fisk HR Record
  13. ^ NY Times article
  14. ^ ESPN article
  15. ^ a b Sports Illustrated article on Fisk dismissal accessed 27 March 2011
  16. ^ HOF induction speech
  17. ^ Fisk returns as ambassador
  18. ^ New York Times (December 14, 1985) "Baylor Trade Talks Off"
  19. ^ Rappaport, Ken (2 August 1973). "Munson, Fisk fight". The Free Lance-Star. Retrieved 27 March 2011. 
  20. ^ "Bill Lee injured as Boston-Yankees brawl". Youngstown Vindicator. 21 May 1976. Retrieved 27 March 2011. 
  21. ^ Boswell, Thomas (26 May 1990). "Fisk A Relic From Non-prime Time". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  22. ^ "Fisk, Carlton". National Baseball Hall of Fame. Retrieved 27 March 2011. 
  23. ^ a b c d Fisk Stats at baseball-reference.com
  24. ^ Chicago White Sox retired uniform numbers; accessed 15 August 2008
  25. ^ Bostoned Red Sox retired uniform numbers; accessed 15 August 2008
  26. ^ MLB All-Century Team final voting; accessed 5 March 2009
  27. ^ MLB All-Century Team results @baseball-almanac.com; accessed 15 August 2008
  28. ^ Fisk returns as White Sox ambassador, 13 May 2008, Scott Merkin, @mlb.com; accessed 15 August 2008
  29. ^ a b "Sox honor Fisk with left-field foul pole". boston.redsox.mlb.com. 2007. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  30. ^ a b "A catchy new name in left: Fisk Pole", 14 June 2005, Marvin Pave for The Boston Globe; accessed 15 August 2008.
  31. ^ Ringing in the title: Sox get hardware, 4 April 2006, Scott Merkin, @mlb.com; accessed 15 August 2008
  32. ^ a b Fisk statue stands tall at U.S. Cellular, 7 August 2005, Scott Merkin, @mlb.com; accessed 15 August 2008
  33. ^ Cancer Support Center - About Us
  34. ^ Carlton Fisk charged with DUI, 23 October 2012, Roman Modrowski, @espn.go.com; accessed 24 October 2012
  35. ^ "Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk pleads guilty to DUI". Washington Post. Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  36. ^ Carlton Fisk career stats @mlb.com; accessed 15 August 2008
  37. ^ Carlton Fisk bio & stats @baseball-almanac.com; accessed 15 August 2008

External links[edit]