Inside Pitch

Dec. 22, 1980: Carlton Fisk becomes a free agent

December 20, 2010

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — During the 1980 season as a Boston Red Sox, Carlton Fisk hit .289 with 18 home runs, 62 RBIs and an All-Star Game berth, a solid season for the eventual 11-time All-Star catcher.

But prior the 1981 season, Fisk, then 32 years old, found himself in contract dispute with the Red Sox organization. The contract deadline established by the Basic Agreement was set for Dec. 20, and the Red Sox had until that date to resign Fisk to a new deal.

Carlton Fisk was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

However, it was 30 years ago this week that the Red Sox mailed their contract to Fisk two days after the deadline – ultimately making Fisk a free agent.

The beloved Red Sox catcher went on to sign a five-year contract with the Chicago White Sox just months later. Originally number 27, he changed his number to number 72 -- saying it was a turning point in his life.

Fisk, a native New Englander, commented on his departure from the Red Sox by saying, “To make an understatement, I had to make a monumental decision to leave Boston. It’s been very trying and rough on the entire family. A few months ago I never could have visualized this scene today.”

“Pudge” eventually spent 13 seasons with the White Sox, two more than his time in Boston.

He was no less productive than he was in Boston. In 1983, Fisk hit 26 home runs leading the White Sox to the American League Championship Series against the Baltimore Orioles. Two years later, at the age of 37, Fisk had his greatest offensive year with 37 home runs and 107 RBIs – setting an American League record for most home runs in a season by a catcher.

After eclipsing the Major League record with 2,226 games caught, Fisk called it quits after being released by the White Sox at the age of 45 in 1993.

At the time of his retirement, Fisk joined Johnny Bench and Yoga Berra as the only three catchers in baseball history with at least 300 home runs, 1,000 RBIs and 1,000 runs scored.

Matt Kramer was the 2010 public relations fall intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum


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