We honor Carlton Fisk as the Boston Sports Then and Now Athlete of the Month. The story of Carlton Fisk is of the local boy done good. Born in Vermont in 1947 and growing up in Charlestown, New Hampshire, he was a New Englander to the core. He played baseball for Charlestown High School and collegiately for the University of New Hampshire.
Fisk was chosen by the Boston Red Sox with the fourth overall pick in the 1967 draft. He made his big league debut in 1969 appearing in just two games. Carlton Fisk wouldn’t play in the friendly confines of Fenway Park again until 1971. He appeared in just 14 games with the parent club that year.
The ’72 season is when “Pudge” Fisk made his splash in the big leagues. He was had a stellar campaign offensively and behind the plate for Boston. Fisk batted .293 with 22 homers, 61 RBI’s, and nine triples. His nine triples were good for tops in the American League along with Oakland’s Joe Rudi. Fisk is the last catcher to lead this statistical category.
Carlton Fisk not only made an impact with the lumber but with the leather as well. Fisk captured the AL Gold Glove for catcher. His year was capped off by winning the AL Rookie of the Year unanimously in 1972. He is the last player to achieve such a feat.
Fisk also finished fourth in AL MVP balloting in that magical season. This was just the beginning of great things for the New England’s favorite son.
In the ’73 season, he built on his offensive season by clubbing 26 homers and knocking in 71 runs. However the following season, was not kind to Carlton Fisk.
He only played 52 games after suffering a devastating knee injury due to a home plate collision. Fisk lost 177 games due to injury. He made his return to the lineup mid way through the 1975 campaign.
Fisk made an admirable comeback by hitting .331 with 10 homers and 52 RBI’s in 79 games. But Fisk would become a Boston folk hero in the 1975 World Series.
It was Game Six against the Cincinnati Reds and the Sox were down in the series three games to two. Boston rallied in the eighth inning to tie it up at six. The game would go into extra frames.
In the bottom of the 12th inning, Fisk hit a towering shot off the Reds’ Pat Darcy. The ball looked like it was going to go foul over the left field wall. However, Fisk seemed to wave the ball back fair to win the Game Six for the hometown team, 7-6.
The image of “Pudge” jumping and skipping down the first baseline is legendary.
Carlton Fisk had a very productive career in Boston from 1972-1980. He was one of the top catchers in the American League year after year. He averaged 20 round trippers and 70 RBI’s.
His best season in a Red Sox uniform was in 1977. In 152 games, "Pudge" batted .315 with 26 home runs and 102 RBI. Fisk was yet again a top 10 vote getter in the AL MVP race.
Sadly, he didn’t finish his career as the Boston Red Sox backstop. After a run in with the Boston Red Sox front office especially Haywood Sullivan, Fisk became a free agent in 1981. Legend has it that Sullivan sent a new contract to Fisk, one day after agreement expired.
Fisk changed his Sox from red to white by signing with Chicago in 1981 for $3.5 million. New England’s favorite son traded in his #27 for #72 in the Windy City.
He would play for the Chicago White Sox from 1981 to 1993. Boston would never have a catcher close in caliber and as productive as Fisk over that period of time.
Carlton ““Pudge”” Fisk would play 24 seasons (13 with Chicago and 11 with Boston) in the major leagues. Fisk batted .269 over his career with 376 home runs and 1330 RBI.
He was elected to the MLB Hall of Fame in 2000 and was inducted as a member of the Red Sox. His #27 was retired by Boston in 2000 and his #72 was retired by the Chicago White Sox in 1997. Fisk is only one of three players in major league history to have his number retired by two different teams.
And deservedly so.
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