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  • The Green Mountain Boys of Summer

    by Tom Simon
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    CARLTON FISK: From Charlestown to Cooperstown




    Born in Bellows Falls, Vermont, on December 26, 1947, Carlton Fisk embodies traditional New England values like pride, ruggedness, and individuality. That was what Boston Red Sox public relations director Dick Bresciani was trying to capture in 1997 when he wrote that Fisk was a "native of Vermont" on his original plaque for the Red Sox Hall of Fame. But the greatest baseball player ever born in Vermont -- and the man responsible for perhaps the most dramatic moment in New England sports history -- doesn't consider himself a Vermonter. Fisk grew up on the other side of the Connecticut River in Charlestown, New Hampshire, a town of less than 1,000 inhabitants-it just so happened that Bellows Falls had the nearest hospital. So in a display of traditional New England stubbornness, Fisk insisted that his plaque be re-cast (at a cost of $3,000 to the Red Sox) to delete the Vermont reference and reflect that he was raised in New Hampshire.

    Fisk
    Fisk in his youth
    Fisk did play American Legion baseball in Vermont for Post Five in the town of his birth, and for years a simple white sign with an "X" marked the spot at the Bellows Falls field where one of his blasts landed. In fact, in his first at bat for Bellows Falls back in 1965, Fisk crushed a home run at Cooperstown's famous Doubleday Field, on the site where baseball was supposedly invented. In storybook fashion, he'll return to Cooperstown in 2000 for his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

    Carlton Ernest Fisk inherited his extraordinary work ethic and athletic talent from his parents. His father, Cecil, worked for thirteen years as an engineer in the tool-and-dye industry in Springfield, Vermont. A job like that would be enough for most people, but Cecil also worked the Fisk family farm. Often he dismounted from the tractor, raced to a local tennis match, soundly defeated his opponent, then returned to the farm to resume his chores. In addition to tennis, Cecil also was a superb basketball player. Carlton's mother, Leona, was famous in her own right as a champion candlepin bowler. Certainly the gene for coordination ran deep in the Fisk family.

    The Fisks of Charlestown established an athletic dynasty. Carlton's older brother, Calvin, his younger brothers Conrad and Cedric, and his sisters, Janet and June, all exhibited unusual athletic prowess. In fact, the son who is destined for the Hall of Fame was not considered the most talented of the progeny. Carlton was chubby as a youngster, which is how and when he acquired his well-known nickname, Pudge. "If you saw him as an eighth grader, you would not believe he could accomplish the things he has," said Ralph Silva, his high school coach. But Carlton was strong, and Coach Silva honed that strength by implementing weight training long before it became commonplace.






    From Green Mountain Boys of Summer: Vermonters in the Major Leagues 1882-1993. Edited by Tom Simon. Copyright 2000 by Tom Simon.
    Reprinted with the permission of The New England Press, Inc., P.O. Box 575, Shelburne, VT 05482.
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