Major League CarrerEdit
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. Pudge 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.
The defining moment of Fisk's illustrious 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. This play was perhaps the most important catalyst in getting camera operators to focus most of their attention on the players themselves. Carlton Fisk becomes the first player in the series to hit one over the wall into the net. Red Sox win it 7-6 in 12 innings, and Carlton Fisk had a lot of little boy in him right there, Joe...—Dick Stockton on NBC television, calling Carlton Fisk's famous game-winning 12th inning home run off Pat Darcy in Game 6.Game tied, 6-6. Darcy pitching. Fisk takes high and inside, ball one. Freddie Lynn on deck. There have been numerous heroics tonight, both sides. The 1–0 delivery to Fisk. He swings...long drive, left field...if it stays fair, it's gone...home run! The Red Sox win! And the series is tied, three games apiece!—Ned Martin on NBC Radio, calling Fisk's home run.
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 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.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. As well as entering the Hall of Fame the Red Sox also retired his number in 2000.
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 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. 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 steals 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 Stadium.
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 (since surpassed by Ivan Rodriguez). 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.