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Carlton Ernest "Pudge" Fisk (born December 26, 1947) is a former Major League Baseball catcher who played for 24 years with both the Boston Red Sox (1969, 1971-1980) and Chicago White Sox (1981-1993). Known by the nickname "Pudge" due to his 6'2", 220 lb frame, he was the first player to be unanimously voted Rookie of the Year in 1972. He is best known for "waving fair" his game-winning home run in the 12th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, one of the greatest moments in World Series history. 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). A testament to his durability behind the plate, Fisk held the record for most games played at the position of catcher (2,226) until June 17, 2009 when he was surpassed by fellow "Pudge" Ivan Rodriguez. 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 3 Silver Slugger awards. Fisk was known as a fierce competitor, a superb handler of pitchers and a natural on-field leader. He was elected to the Hall of Famemarker in 1999.

Early life

Although born in Vermont, Fisk is quick to point out that he is actually from Charlestown, New Hampshiremarker, just across the Connecticut River from Bellows Falls, Vermontmarker. This being the case, Fisk graduated from Charlestown High School, playing baseball for the American Legion team in Bellows Falls. At the University of New Hampshiremarker, Fisk started for the basketball team, while also playing baseball.

Professional career

Boston Red Sox

Drafted by the Boston Red Sox in as the fourth overall pick of the draft, Fisk got the call to the big leagues for two games in . After some seasoning in the Boston minor league system and serving out a military commitment, Fisk was back with the Red Sox in , appearing in fourteen games. Pudge broke out for the Red Sox in his first full season in . 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. He was the first player in Major League Baseball history to be awarded Rookie of the Year by a unanimous vote.

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

The defining moment of Fisk's illustrious career came in the 12th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series at Fenway Parkmarker. 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 (it is referred to in the Gus Van Sant movie Good Will Hunting). 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 next day, the Reds won the first of back-to-back World Series championships.

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. This play was perhaps the most important catalyst in getting camera operators to focus most of their attention on the players themselves, and resulted in many future memorable World Series moments involving, among others, Kirk Gibson (1988), Joe Carter (1993) and Edgar Rentería (1997).

Last Years in Boston

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 Pudge averaged .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

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.

After joining the White Sox, he played an instrumental role in helping the team win its first American League Western Division title in . 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.

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.

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. At the age of 37, Fisk tied his career high for stolen bases with 17 thefts on the year.

On August 4, 1985 Fisk caught all nine innings of Tom Seaver's complete game 300th career victory, which was played in Yankee Stadiummarker.

Supremely well-conditioned, Fisk went on to play eight more seasons with the White Sox. He caught Bobby Thigpen as he set the then-record for most saves in a season (57) in 1990 and was instrumental in developing Jack McDowell who won the Cy Young award in 1993. Along the way, Fisk set the then-record for most home runs by a catcher with 351 (since surpassed by Mike Piazza) and most games caught in a career with 2,226. A single in the 1991 All-Star Game made him the oldest player to collect a hit in the history of All-Star competition. Fisk was also the final active position player in the 1990s who had played in the 1960s.

In a move that ended Fisk's relationship with the White Sox organization for many years, he was unceremoniously released from the White Sox mid-season just days after setting the games caught record. When the White Sox won the division title later that year, Fisk was reportedly not allowed to enter the clubhouse to congratulate his teammates of just a few months prior.

Almost a Yankee

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 deal was complicated since the White Sox would have to resign 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. The White Sox resigned 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

Thurman Munson

Fisk was known for his longstanding feud with New York Yankees counterpart Thurman Munson. One particular incident that typified their feud, and the Red Sox – Yankees rivalry in general, occurred on August 1, 1973 at Fenway Parkmarker. With the score tied at 2-2 in the top of the 9th, Munson attempted to score on Gene Michael's missed bunt attempt. Munson barreled into Fisk, triggering a 10-minute bench-clearing brawl in which both catchers were ejected. The feud ended in upon Munson's accidental death in an aviation accident.

In another incident typifying the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, Fisk was also involved in an altercation with Lou Piniella during a May 2, 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. Lee suffered a separated left shoulder in the altercation and missed much of the season.

Deion Sanders

In another memorable incident, pro-football and pro-baseball 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, "If you don't play it [the game] right, I'm going to kick your ass right here."

Reputation

Records and Legacy

Fisk retired with the then-record of 72 home runs hit after the age of 40, since eclipsed by Barry Bonds (79).

Pudge's .481 slugging percentage while with the Red Sox is the tenth best in that club's long history.

Fisk is one of only seven players in history who have caught more than 150 games in a season multiple times (Jim Sundberg, Randy Hundley, Ted Simmons, Frankie Hayes and Gary Carter).

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).

Pudge finished in the top ten in American League Most Valuable Player voting four times (1972, 1977-78, and 1983).

Honors

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

Fisk was known to fans by two endearing nicknames. While "Pudge" is a common name given to catchers (a nickname shared, for example, by catcher Iván Rodríguez), he is also known as "The Commander" for his ability to take control on the field.

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, and one of only three to have different numbers retired by two teams.

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

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.

The Fisk Foul Pole

On June 13, 2005, the Red Sox honored Fisk and the 12th-inning home run that won Game 6 of the 1975 World Series by naming the left field foul pole where it landed the Fisk Foul Pole. In a pregame ceremony from the Monster Seats, Fisk was cheered by the Fenway Parkmarker crowd while the shot was replayed to the strains of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. 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 Oct. 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.On the field, Fisk threw out the ceremonial first pitch to his former batterymate Luis Tiant. 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. Fenway's right field foul pole, which is just 302 feet from the plate, is named Pesky's Pole, for light-hitting former Red Sox shortstop Johnny Pesky. Mel Parnell named the pole after Pesky in when he won a game with a home run just inside the right field pole.

Rings

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

Statue

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

Career statistics

Carlton Fisk's career statistics.
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



References

  1. Bruce Lowitt, "Rats! Fisk's homer" St. Petersburg Times, November 23, 1999
  2. Seth Mnookin, "Feeding the Monster: How Money, Smarts and Nerve took a Team to the Top" pg. 40
  3. New York Times (December 14, 1985) "Baylor Trade Talks Off"
  4. Carlton Fisk biography and statistics @baseball hall of fame; accessed 15 August 2008
  5. Fisk statue stands tall at U.S. Cellular, 7 August 2005, Scott Merkin, @mlb.com; accessed 15 August 2008
  6. Chicago White Sox retired uniform numbers; accessed 15 August 2008
  7. Bostoned Red Sox retired uniform numbers; accessed 15 August 2008
  8. MLB All-Century Team final voting; accessed 5 March 2009
  9. MLB All-Century Team results @baseball-almanac.com; accessed 15 August 2008
  10. Fisk returns as White Sox ambassador, 13 May 2008, Scott Merkin, @mlb.com; accessed 15 August 2008
  11. A catchy new name in left: Fisk Pole, 14 June 2005, Marvin Pave for the Boston Globe; accessed 15 August 2008
  12. Ringing in the title: Sox get hardware, 4 April 2006, Scott Merkin, @mlb.com; accessed 15 August 2008
  13. Carlton Fisk career stats @mlb.com; accessed 15 August 2008
  14. Carlton Fisk bio & stats @baseball-almanac.com; accessed 15 August 2008


External links




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