by Tom Simon
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Among the dozen Hall-of-Fame catchers for whom numbers are available (complete statistics don't exist for Negro Leaguer Josh Gibson), Carlton Fisk ranks first in total games caught, putouts, at-bats, hits, and doubles; second in total home runs and runs scored; third in RBI; and tied for fourth in fielding percentage. Fisk's stolen bases for modern Hall-of-Fame catchers are second to none. He was an eleven-time All-Star. The White Sox retired his number 72 in 1997, the same year he was elected to the Red Sox Hall of Fame. Fisk's election to the National Hall of Fame was almost a bygone conclusion, but it was made official in January 2000.
After some delay, Fisk provided the answer to a difficult question by announcing that he will wear a Red Sox cap into the Hall, even though he spent thirteen years with the White Sox and only nine full seasons with the Red Sox. "I would like to say that this has always been my favorite hat, and I will be wearing this hat probably for the rest of my career," said the man who currently works as a special assistant to Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette. At that same press conference, Duquette told a surprised Fisk that the team had decided to retire his number 27. "I didn't think I met the criteria," said Fisk. "It gives me goose bumps to think about it. I didn't think it was at all possible." In the past, the Red Sox have stated that they will retire a number only for a player who is in the Hall, spent more than ten years with the team, and finished his career in Boston.
Fisk will always be remembered for his dramatic home run in the '75 Series, but the incident that best represents how he played the game came on an otherwise unmemorable night in 1989 when Deion Sanders, then a rookie with the New York Yankees, failed to run out an infield grounder. The next time "Neon Deion" came to the plate, the forty-two-year-old Fisk growled, "Listen to me, you #%*^. Next time run it out."
Even though Sanders played for the opposition, and the hated Yankees, at that, he'd violated the Fisk Code of Baseball Ethics. Thou shalt hustle. Thou shalt run it out. To Fisk, the proper way to play the game was always important-with passion, preparation, hard work, integrity, and respect. He acquired those values on the farm in Charlestown, and they propelled him all the way to Cooperstown.
by Brian Stevens
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.