Fisk still standard-bearer for catching

Fisk still standard-bearer for catching

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Seemingly superhuman durability. Consistent excellence. A timely flair for the dramatic hit.

All are rare and valued commodities in a baseball player, but especially so for a catcher.

So it is no wonder that Carlton Fisk's name evokes such respect across the range of baseball fans.

Fisk was the featured guest Saturday night at the National Baseball Hall of Fame's "Voices of the Game" interview series at the museum's Grandstand Theater.

Fisk's baseball resume is astonishing, even more so in this day and age of the less hale and hearty player. Elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000, the 11-time All-Star caught for 24 years and 2,226 games. After brief tastes of the bigs in 1969 and 1971, he came up for good with Boston in 1972 and, hitting .293 with 22 homers, became the first unanimous selection for American League Rookie of the Year that summer.

He was self-deprecating when asked to what he credited some of that remarkable rookie success.

"Stupidity maybe, naivety maybe," joked Fisk who, at 60, doesn't look a day older than he did when he retired in 1993. "Everything was such a new experience that I never thought about if I should be there or not."

Sure, Fisk is perhaps best known to the more casual baseball fan, the ones that don't really start watching the games on television until the postseason rolls around. He is forever known as the Boston Red Sox player who seemingly willed his 10th-inning game-winning home run down the left-field line against Cincinnati into fair territory in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series by "waving" it fair. The Sox would fall to the Reds in Game 7, but not without a fight.

The fact that the Red Sox, a prohibitive underdog in that series, had even made it to Game 6 was something of a stunner to most, but not to Fisk and his teammates.

"We were the little Beantowners, and they were the Big Red Machine," he recalled. "We were going to get crushed and swept and didn't have a chance. But I think we showed we were up to the task and played them pretty tough."

It was a highlight that he has relived many times.

"A few times," he added, "I've had nightmares that the ball hooked foul."

But fans of Fisk remember so much more than that one big hit.

Boston fans remember the New Hampshire kid who made good, spending the first nine years of his career with Boston and wearing that red "B" on his cap when he entered the Hall of Fame.

And Chicago White Sox fans recall the veteran leadership of the man who took over behind the plate in 1981 and stayed there until his retirement in 1993. Just this week he rejoined their organization as a "team ambassador" as part of the club's Speakers Bureau.

Fisk was given an honorary World Series ring by the Red Sox following their 2004 title the following spring, as well as one from the White Sox, who won the next year, the next summer.

Still, the honor that tops them all was, of course, his induction into the Hall of Fame.

"I had a hard time getting through my speech," he recalled. "You just don't realize the magnitude until you get on that podium and see those people out there. It was one of the most emotional days I've ever had."

Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.