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Fun Cards: 2019 TWJ Carlton Fisk

Fisk

One of my favorite parts of this card is the different White Sox logos. He played in Chicago for 13 seasons but the team went through so many jersey changes during that time. They seem to be stuck on that black and white design now; I personally wish they would go back to the early 80s looks.

I’ve had a blast following Carlton Fisk‘s baseball card career via The List of Fisk. I don’t always agree with his assessment of the cards, but I’m not as well versed in printing processes and the like. He is currently in the late 1980s, with about a post a week, and by his rules he is only collecting cards issued during the catcher’s playing days so he will probably be wrapping up by the end of this year or early next.

Another big Fisk fan is Steve of White Sox Cards, although he has been all about Harold Baines lately thanks to his Hall of Fame selection. I used to send Steve my extra White Sox cards but haven’t sent anything to him in a while. Maybe this summer I will get around to putting some packages together again and send something up his way.

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Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Carlton Fisk

Fisk

He is the fourth-best catcher in history (according to JAWS), but it took two tries on the ballot for Carlton Fisk to get into the Hall of Fame. Granted, 1999 was a pretty loaded ballot…but fourth-best in history! Eleven All-Star selections, 1972 Rookie of the Year, and that Game 6 homer in 1975 defined the original Pudge’s career.

Pudge: The Biography of Carlton Fisk by Doug Wilson (2015)

Pudge

Pudge: The Biography of Carlton Fisk
by Doug Wilson
Thomas Dunne Books, 2015
368 pages

One of the best catchers to ever play the game, Carlton Fisk never backed down when facing an opponent on the diamond or in the front office. He hit one of the most legendary home runs in World Series history in 1975, but is also remembered for butting heads with ownership in both Boston and Chicago when he felt he was being treated unfairly. Opponents on the field also faced the wrath of Fisk if he felt they were not respecting the game—just ask Deion Sanders (or read chapter 17 in this book).

Author Doug Wilson has made a name for himself with some excellent baseball biographies on Brooks Robinson (Brooks, 2014) and Mark Fidrych (The Bird, 2013), and Pudge: The Biography of Carlton Fisk is no exception. Wilson spends a good four chapters on the catcher’s early life, from his boyhood through the minor leagues, before arriving in Boston in chapter 5. Several chapters are devoted to a single season apiece, with special attention paid to Game Six in 1975, Fisk’s departure from Boston prior to the 1981 season, and the collusion battles of the mid-1980s. Wilson’s conversational style makes reading a joy, and he succinctly explains difficult and complex topics with ease.

Pudge: The Biography of Carlton Fisk is an entertaining read (just as Wilson’s prior books), highly recommended to baseball fans.

Learn more about Thomas Dunne Books.

Purchase Pudge: The Biography of Carlton Fisk by Doug Wilson.

Who is the greatest catcher of all-time?

Bench 2002 Topps

A few weeks ago, I set out on a mission to discover who was the greatest player at each position on the baseball diamond. I decided on a mixture of traditional statistics and modern metrics, threw in a few decimal points here and there, and came up with a system of ranking players. I decided not to include the “steroid” guys, so don’t expect Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, or Ivan Rodriguez to pop up on any of these lists. Over the next several days, I’ll be revealing some of those results, starting today with the backstop.

Berra 1973 Topps

The number one guy on this list was really no surprise to me. Who in the world would doubt that Johnny Bench was the greatest to ever wear the tools of ignorance? His final score was 262.36, taking into account not only his offensive production, but his defensive contributions, awards, and midsummer appearances. Yogi Berra (255.05), Carlton Fisk (233.45), Gary Carter (229.3) and Mike Piazza (223.86) round out the top five in that order (if awards and All-Star seasons are included in the calculations…more on that later), but the big surprise is in the bottom half of the top ten.

Piazza and Gibson

Only three more Hall of Famers appear in the number 6-10 slots: Gabby Hartnett (#7, 204.08), Bill Dickey (#9, 202.25), and Roy Campanella (#10, 189.55). The sixth greatest catcher of all-time is the current Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations, Joe Torre. Granted, he was not a career catcher, retiring the gear after the 1970 season and moving to first and third base. Regardless, Torre’s offensive output was impressive, scoring 206.33 in this project.

Simmons 1986 Topps

The eighth greatest catcher of all-time took over catching duties for Torre when he moved to the infield. Ted Simmons hit 248 home runs and drove in 1389 runs over a 21-year career while keeping a .285 average, all pretty impressive numbers for a guy who crouches for a living. How was Simmons rewarded for his work behind the plate? One year on the Hall of Fame ballot, only 17 votes for 3.7%, the year Steve Carlton was ushered in with 95.6%. Is Simmons the most overlooked full-time catcher in history?

Fisk 1988 Fleer

Back to the inclusion of awards and All-Star appearances. About halfway through the project, I decided I was being a bit unfair to old-timers who never had a chance to win an MVP or be invited to the All-Star game. So I made another column that omitted those calculations, and what happened surprised me. Bench still comes out on top, but Berra got knocked down a few notches. In fact, only one player was replaced in the top ten list. Without awards, the top ten is Bench, Fisk, Carter, Berra, Piazza, Simmons, Dickey, Torre, Hartnett, and Lance Parrish. Campanella actually dropped six spots on the list without his three MVP awards and eight All-Star seasons.

So perhaps Parrish is the most underrated backstop in history? I would never personally support Parrish as a Hall of Famer, but the numbers are there to give his supporters some room to argue. In the case of Simmons, however, I believe the Hall of Fame voters should be charged with a passed ball.

Retired Numbers: > #50

This will be the last of the Retired Numbers posts that actually feature numbers, but there are a couple more posts to follow, so stayed tuned!


Don Drysdale, Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers

Did you know that Drysdale only received 21% of the vote in his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot? That it wasn’t until his tenth year on the ballot he eclipsed the required 75% for enshrinement? He won a Cy Young Award and was an All-Star several times, but the coolest thing Drysdale ever did was appear in an episode of “The Brady Bunch” in 1970. Barry Williams (who played Greg Brady) has said several times that Drysdale was his favorite guest star.


Trevor Hoffman, San Diego Padres


Carlton Fisk, Chicago White Sox


August Busch, Jr., St. Louis Cardinals


The Fans, Cleveland Indians

Retired Numbers: #27 & #28

Talk about a killer rotation…how would you like these Hall of Fame pitchers on your staff, being caught by this Hall of Fame catcher?


Juan Marichal, San Francisco Giants

Marichal had an impressive streak of eight consecutive All-Star seasons from 1962-1969, winning 20+ games in all but two of those years. When he retired in 1975, he had compiled 243 wins with a 2.89 ERA and 2303 strikeouts. Marichal had to wait until his third year on the ballot for the Hall of Fame, going from 58.1% to 73.5% to 83.7% in 1983. His son-in-law, Jose Rijo, never had the personal success that Marichal enjoyed, but he did do something Juan couldn’t do during his career: win a World Series.


Carlton Fisk, Boston Red Sox


Catfish Hunter, Oakland A’s


Bert Blyleven, Minnesota Twins

Gypsy Queen – Carlton Fisk

I found this photo while looking for Bo Jackson pictures, and thought it looked good enough for a card. Maybe it’s not true to the Gypsy Queen style, but I like it anyway. Carlton Fisk, one of the greatest catchers in the history of the game.

Pudge is a featured Legend

Steve from the White Sox Cards blog has written an article for the Baseball Legends site profiling the career of Carlton Fisk. Check it out!

My trip to the card shop…

My son and I visited one of the local card shops this afternoon, and I walked away pretty happy (as did he). He picked up some singles…Ken Griffey Jr., Chone Figgins (have no idea why he picked him out), Warren Spahn, another baseball guy (can’t remember who though), and Michael Jordan (normally, I’m against basketball cards, but I make an exception for MJ). I picked up several packs, including a few from the dollar bins. Here’s what I got…

1988 Topps

I grabbed two cello packs of these bad boys, even though I already have a ton. I just couldn’t resist the shiny All-Star cards on the top (pictured above). Add to that a Bo Jackson showing through the back of one of the packs, and it was a no-brainer. $1 per pack and 42 cards in each. Even if they are all doubles (which is quite possible), I still got Eric the Red and the HOF 3B Mike Schmidt.

1989 Fleer League Leaders

This is actually a set, 44 cards, and was only a buck. Again, Eric Davis is in the set, as well as Mark Grace, Don Mattingly, Jose Canseco…lots of late 1980s/early 1990s superstars. I would have picked up two if I had seen another box of them, but this was all I saw.

2006, 2007, and 2008 Topps

The 2006 and 2007 packs were $1 each, I think they were series 2, and there wasn’t much to brag about in them. I think I did score a Mantle (I don’t care how much they’re worth, I just like pulling the Mantle cards). I also got a Mantle out of the 6 packs of 2008 I got, as well as the Joey Votto A&G card, a couple of the All-Star Rookie 50th Anniversary cards, an Ichiro base cards and the A-Rod pictured above.

I was pretty happy with my purchases today. And I almost bought…

1988 Donruss Baseball’s Best

I’ve already got this set, but I was thinking the other day about how nice these cards would look autographed. The set was only $5, which I thought was a steal, but for some reason I just couldn’t bring myself to buy it.

When I got home, I hopped on Beckett.com and looked it up (using the “My Collections” tool). The 336 cards in the set all add up to $70.90. $70.90!?!? The guy was selling it for $5…what’s wrong with him? I then headed over to eBay, and found this. Go down to the very bottom, and there’s a “Buy It Now” for $74.99…and that’s for a whole CASE of sets. Not sure how many came in a case, but I’m betting at least 12 or 15.

In any case, I will be making a purchase the next time I’m at the store, just because I really think they would look nice autographed and don’t want to break the set in case someone doesn’t return the cards.

They also have some old wax boxes cheap…1988 and 1989 Score for $5, 1988 and 1990 Donruss, and some football and basketball stuff too. I can’t wait for my tax refund to hit the bank.

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