Though he’s largely remembered for one swing and the immediate seconds that followed, Carlton Fisk established a legacy of longevity behind the plate. He finished among the top 10 in Most Valuable Player Award balloting in four of his first 12 full seasons and ranked between 13th and 18th on three other occasions.
On Fisk's 74th birthday, here’s a list of 10 other accomplishments or moments that defined his career.
1. Fair or foul?
Oct. 21, 1975
Fisk’s signature moment was his 12th-inning homer that enabled the Red Sox to outlast the Reds, 7-6, in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series -- widely considered one of the finest ballgames ever played. A television camera caught Fisk, who pulled Pat Darcy’s 1-0 pitch down the left-field line, briefly yet urgently making waving motions as he willed the ball to reach fair territory. The image of the fervent Fisk has etched itself into baseball history.
2. Setting standards
Through his 24 seasons in the Majors, a record for catchers, Fisk gave other receivers goals to pursue by establishing two significant career marks for his position: catching in 2,226 games and hitting 351 homers as a backstop. Fisk hit his 328th homer to pass Johnny Bench on Aug. 17, 1990; Mike Piazza surpassed Fisk on May 5, 2004. Fisk eclipsed Bob Boone for most games by a catcher on June 22, 1993. Ivan Rodriguez overtook Fisk on June 17, 2009.
3. The only choice
Fisk became the American League’s first unanimous Rookie of the Year Award winner by garnering all 24 first-place votes. He batted .293 with 22 home runs and nine triples, a rare total for a catcher, while compiling .370 OBP, .538 SLG and .909 OPS marks.
4. Changing Sox
April 10, 1981
Most casual fans probably associate Fisk more with the Red Sox, for whom he played 1,078 games in his first 11 seasons. Indeed, the cap on his Hall of Fame plaque in Cooperstown bears the Red Sox logo. But he actually spent the majority of his career with the White Sox (1,421 games in 13 seasons), whom he joined as a free agent following the 1980 campaign. Fisk’s White Sox debut was especially dramatic: He mashed a three-run, eighth-inning homer off Bob Stanley at Fenway Park to erase Boston’s 2-0 edge and lead Chicago to a 5-3 win.
5. Singular slugger
Fisk’s 37 homers in 1985 set a single-season record for AL catchers and tied Dick Allen’s club record set in 1972. Fisk also amassed a personal-best 107 RBIs and matched a career high with 17 stolen bases. Somewhat remarkably, he hit only .238 that year, compared with his lifetime average of .269.
6. I’m here to play
Fisk caught 151 and 154 games in these two seasons, respectively. The handful of others who reached or exceeded the 150-game level in multiple seasons includes Gary Carter, Randy Hundley, Ted Simmons and Jim Sundberg.
7. Stunning recovery
Logically, much of this should not have happened. Fisk tore multiple knee ligaments in a home-plate collision with Cleveland’s Leron Lee in June 1974. Fisk was told that he would need reconstructive surgery that could end his career. Instead, he was back on the field in ’75.
8. A cycling we will go
May 16, 1984
Fisk simply did things that few other catchers could do. On this date, he hit for the cycle against Kansas City in a 7-6 White Sox loss, tripling in the seventh inning off Royals relief ace Dan Quisenberry to complete his milestone performance.
9. Respect your elders
July 9, 1991
Earning All-Star recognition for the 11th and final time in his career, Fisk made his Midsummer Classic swan song a memorable one. By singling in the sixth inning off Houston right-hander Pete Harnisch at Toronto’s Skydome, he became, at age 43, the oldest player to hit safely in All-Star competition.
10. Respect, period
May 22, 1990
As was his custom, Deion Sanders, the two-sport star who began the baseball half of his career with the Yankees, scrawled a dollar sign in the dirt by the batter’s box with the knob end of his bat during a game against the White Sox. Then Sanders declined to run hard to first base on a routine play. Incensed by what he considered a lack of respect for the game, Fisk immediately admonished Sanders and continued his lecture as the game elapsed.