Pudge: The Biography of Carlton Fisk

Pudge: The Biography of Carlton Fisk

The first complete biography of Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk, an icon in both Boston and Chicago.

Number 27 retired by the Boston Red Sox

Left field foul pole at Fenway Park, hit by the historic home run, named Fisk's Pole
Number 72 retired by the White Sox. Honored with a statue at Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field

To be released October 20, 2015 (the fortieth anniversary of one of baseball's most memorable moments--the twelfth-inning home run off the foul pole to win the greatest game in World Series history).

Available for order: here

Check out the article and Q & A in the September-October issue of The New England Baseball Journal

Excerpt in this week's Boston Globe

Q & A with former Chicago Tribune writer Ed Sherman


The Sports Bookie

The Sports Book Guy

Bostonbaseballhistory.com; Herb Crehan

New England roots: The birth of "Pudge"

They still proudly remember Carlton Fisk as the most famous resident of the tiny town of Charlestown, New Hampshire.

No one knows for sure exactly where the nickname came from--it was seemingly always there. Even Carlton's brother Calvin, three years older, does not remember a time Carlton was called anything other than Pudge. The prevailing theory among the family is that someone, maybe an aunt, thought the little guy looked, well, pudgy, when he was an infant. The name stuck--long after he was no longer pudgy.

Carlton (right, about 1) and big brother Calvin, ready for the cold New Hampshire winter, 1948.
The Fisk family (below), circa 1950. Carlton is at the bottom on the left. He had three brothers. They would later add two sisters. 

All the Fisk kids, circa 1955.

First grade

Second grade

Sixth grade

Junior High basketball tournament All-Stars, 1961. Carlton is at the far right.


Charlestown High School baseball team, 1965. Carlton is on the back row, fourth from the left. Also on the team were his younger brothers Conrad and Cedric.

Although he later made his mark on the baseball field, basketball was the dream game of the area when he was growing up. The kids spent many freezing winter days playing basketball in the loft of his grandfather's barn. The netless hoop is still there (in the upper part of the photo, above the loft opening):

The 1963 Undefeated Charlestown High School team. They were the Class M New Hampshire State Champions. Carlton, number 20, was a sophomore starter.

Number 20, in white, Fisk was a ferocious rebounder. He once pulled 38 rebounds in a state tournament game, along with scoring 40 points. That earned him a basketball scholarship to the University of New Hampshire.

After leaving the University of New Hampshire after one year, he was selected in the first round of the January 1967 baseball draft.

Posing with younger brother Conrad shortly after spring training, 1969

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After a short cup of coffee in 1969, Carlton was called up to the Red Sox for good in September, 1971. 

A player strike late in spring training in 1972 almost cost him a chance to make the team, but by midseason, he was one of the most talked-about players in the game.

He was selected American League Rookie of the Year in 1972 and returned to Charlestown that winter as a conquering hero. 

Along with his results, Fisk's style of play endeared him to Sox fans. This 1973 fight cemented his place in Boston lore.

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Fisk was loved by New England fans because he was one of them. He was Calvin Coolidge in John Wayne's body.

Grit and Determination

Along with the normal battering a catcher takes on a daily basis, Fisk overcame two severe injuries early in his career.

June 28, 1974, while he was having his best major league season and the Red Sox were leading their division, he was injured on a collision at the plate with Cleveland's Leron Lee. His knee was shredded. He was told the injury was worse than the one that had recently ended the career of football great Gale Sayers, that he probably would never play baseball again and would most likely be left with a permanent limp.

After a grueling winter of rehab, mostly performed on his own, he surprised everyone by showing up in Winter Haven, Florida for spring training 1975 ready to play.

In the second exhibition game, he was hit on the wrist by a pitch and sustained a broken arm, which kept him out until mid-season.

He returned to hit .331 the rest of the 1975 season and help lead the Red Sox to the pennant.

This collision in the tenth inning of Game 3 of the 1975 World Series resulted in one of the most controversial calls in history.

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Chicago: Changing Sox

With his deep New England roots, Carlton Fisk wanted to play in Boston forever. The new economic climate of the 1970s of free agency, agents and big salaries changed all that. A contract snafu by the Red Sox front office (more on that at a later date) rendered him a free agent in the spring of 1981.

Fisk became the first big signee of the new White Sox ownership team of Eddie Einhorn and Jerry Reinsdorf, immediately changing the image of the franchise.

Fisk became the rare free agent who stayed in town and delivered on the promise. By 1983 he had led the White Sox to a division title--the first championship for any kind for a Chicago team since the 1963 Bears.

His original contract with the White Sox was for five years. The team was concerned about the length due to the fact that he would be 37 years old in 1985--an ancient age for a catcher.

After a winter of sweating through a new intensive weight-training regimen, Carlton responded in 1985 with a career high 37 home runs. The training regimen would form the basis for him to continue performing at an All-Star level at the position of catcher throughout the decade. 

He went on to play until 1993--at the age of 45. He retired as the all-time White Sox leader in home runs and the major league leader in career home runs for a catcher and most career games caught.

He became the standard for dedication, work ethic and respecting the game--values that led to a memorable home plate confrontation with the Yankees' Neon Deion Sanders in 1990.

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