Year Inducted: 2000 (BBWAA, ballot #2, 397/499)
The scene from Fenway Park is now iconic. 1975 World Series, Game Six, tied 6-6. Bottom of the 12th inning in a back and forth affair. The last time a run had scored, Bernie Carbo had hit an emotional tying home run off of Reds’ closer Rollie Eastwick in the 8th inning. The crowd was buzzing, hoping for a miracle to keep the Sox season alive another day. After longtime legend Carl Yastrzemski makes an out to end the 11th, and Rick Wise works some magic to keep the game tied, the Sox still have some great hitters lined up to win it in the 12th. Rookie Pat Darcy goes back to work for the Reds. First pitch was taken for a ball. The next pitch is rifled deep down the left field line, and Carlton Fisk’s name is now etched in playoff lore forever. That moment may define Fisk’s career, but shouldn’t overshadow how awesome he was.
Fisk was one of the most durable catchers of all-time. Playing 24 years for both the Red and White Sox, Fisk hit .269/.341/.457 with a wRC+ of 117. Fisk clubbed 376 homers to go with his 421 doubles and 47 triples to be one of the most dominant hitting catchers of all-time, and played more than 2200 games at the position. Fisk was a feared hitter in the lineup, driving in 1330 runs and scoring 1276. Pudge, so named due to his size, was a decent baserunner, stealing 128 bases and being worth +2.5 runs on the bases.
Defensively, Fisk was no Bench. If that seems like an insult, it isn’t intended to as really only three other catchers could realistically compete with Johnny Bench defensively (Gary Carter, Pudge Rodriguez and Yadi Molina). Still, Fisk was a strong defensive catcher in his prime and ended his career with 133 runs above average defensively. The total is great and equally impressive when the length of Fisk’s career comes into play as his defense may have slipped with age, but was still solid late in his career.
Fisk retired after a brief decline phase. From 1991-1993, Fisk dropped off a cliff offensively. In 1990, Fisk posted a wRC+ of 133 in 137 games (116 of them behind the dish). In 1991, he posted a wRC+ of 97 in 134 games (106 as a catcher). From there, in two partial seasons, his wRC+ plummeted to 75 and 28 respectfully. Age had finally caught up to the legendary catcher, although it was his age 43-45 seasons that he started to decline.
Fisk was a legendary catcher, and should have been a first ballot inductee. The power, longevety and production that the original Pudge produced were incredible and something that will be hard to top.
Stay tuned for the next updates.
On deck 12/4/16:
#33- The first Expos player inducted into the Hall of Fame
#32- The first player on the cover of SI