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July 23, 2000
[Reads Fisk's plaque] Carlton "Pudge" Fisk. Boston Red Sox, 1969, 1971 to 1980. Chicago White Sox, 1981 to 1993. A commanding figure behind the plate for a record 24 seasons. He caught more games, 2,229, and hit more home runs, 351, than any catcher before him. His gritty resolve and competitive fire earned him the respect of teammates and opposing players alike. A staunch training regimen extended his durability, and enhanced his productivity - as evidenced by a record 72 home runs after age 40. His dramatic home run to win Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, is truly one of baseball's most unforgettable moments. Was the 1972 American League Rookie of the Year, an 11-time All-Star.
... And one of the great players of our generation. Carlton Fisk, welcome to Cooperstown.
[Puts on reading glasses] One of the concessions I have to make of getting old ... I couldn't see the last few years I played either. But I was so old.
I'd like to thank everyone on the Hall of Fame committee. Especially Jane and Dale for the ... just the generous hospitality they've shown us: my family and myself.
I'd like to congratulate Sparky and his family. I played against you in the '75 World Series, just for a few games. You might remember. I played against you a lot in Detroit, and boy did we have some games. I only wish I could have played for you. And I'm proud to stand up here with you. Thank you.
Seems to be a lot of the guys I played against here from the '75, for some reason. I'm not quite sure. But, I played against Tony in '75, and then he came to the Red Sox and I found out why they call him the Top Dog … Doggie for short. You know, unless you're the lead dog, the scenery doesn't change. The scenery doesn't change for a lot of people. But it changed for Tony. Because they shouldn't have called him just Big Dog, 'cause he was the lead dog and the Big Red Machine wouldn't have been working, and it would have sputtered dramatically without him. Congratulations to you and your family. And as you called it Marty, we won that series three games to four, you know that.
And everybody comes from somewhere. I came from Charlestown, New Hampshire. You know, it's a town so small, you can look both ways and see it all. And baseball was simple. It was batting averages, and RBIs, and strikes, and balls, and homers, and earned run averages, and wins, and losses, and spring training, pennant races, and World Series. It was a simple time. The teachers used to let us go to the cafeteria before you had a study hall in the afternoon so we could listen to the World Series on our transistor radios. And that's where my career started. Playing 12 games a year for Ralph Silva in Charlestown High School. He knew he had something, but he just knew at the time it was a loose cannon on deck. Plenty of power, but absolutely no direction. He started me in the right direction. And he started a lot of folks in the right direction, and he's in the New Hampshire Coach's Hall of Fame. So I got a Hall of Fame start to my career.
I went to the University of New Hampshire on a basketball scholarship. Dreamed of becoming a power forward for the Celtics. Power forwards don't usually stop growing about 6'1".
But, you know, that was the time when the country was in turmoil: the Vietnam War. And I really have a deep spiritual sense about my fate ... if it had not been for a couple guys. Sergeant Robert Kenyon, who is not here with us anymore, and Lieutenant Jim Carroll, the US Army Reserve in Chester, Vermont. In 1967 I joined them - was sent to basic training at Fort Dix. And throughout my minor league career the coaches I played for had to work around my monthly weekend army duties, and my two week summer camp. And they were most gracious and most understanding of some of the inadequacies they saw in me coming back from summer camp.
Rac Slider in Waterloo, Iowa, and Matt Sczesny in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Billy Gardner in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. And Darrell Johnson, who probably taught me more about the method to the madness of putting fingers down, than anybody up to that point. And I thank him for that. And by the way, my Army Reserve numbers: AR-11-4-8-5-5-2-9, Sir.
But, you know, as my professional career began, I found that baseball wasn't that simple anymore. There were new words that were connected to the game of baseball. And even though I've met a man who probably meant as much to me as far as carrying a phrase through my career ... that helped me in the tough times. My first year in the Instructional League, in 1967, Mace Brown told me, after some long days, and sessions catching and warming up pitchers that had a hard time finding the plate. (Getting it all the way in the air, as a matter of fact.) He said "Son, I want to tell you something my Daddy told me a long time ago. If you hadn't wanted to work, you oughtn't have hired out." And so my professional career started there, and it was a work in progress.
But there were new words around the game that I hadn't heard of, when I was growing up: Players associations, and agents, and free agents, and strikes, and lock outs, and reserve clauses, and options, and collusion, and arbitration, and damage awards.
And I'd like to thank a couple people here, because I really feel connected to this game, and I feel like I carry the torch for this game. There's some guys that carry the torch for this game, that cares so much about this game, that aren't thought of anymore ... aren't mentioned much anymore. I'd like to thank Curt Flood for his sacrifice; and it was a big one: the biggest. And Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally, for their courage. And Marvin Miller, and Don Fehr, for their tireless efforts in bringing the owners and players together. And the game has prospered as a result, for their care and concern in their work.
There were other words, more words, like licensing and multi-year contracts. And now six, seven, and eight-figure year contracts, strength and conditioning, and supplements, and MRIs, and arthroscopic surgery.
You know, without question, my career is a tale of two cities: Boston and Chicago ... and it was in that order. The two great cities, two great baseball cities, with rich storied histories. Two time zones, in two parts of my career. You know, I began my career in the big leagues with a nice cool 0 for 13, against Mickey Lolich, Stan Bahnsen, and Mel Stottlemyre. I didn't think I could play at this level and 1972 season I started the season as the number three catcher ... third string behind Duane Josephson and Bob Montgomery. I ended up that season as the first unanimous choice Rookie of the Year.
Up until that time, being an athlete was just that: expressing of your athletic talent. Nothing to worry about, just go play. And boy was it a lot of fun. But in '74, I learned there's just a lot more to catching, than just catching. I had my knee destroyed at home plate in a collision in Cleveland. The following spring I had my arm broken in Spring Training. I was told to consider giving up the sport. Catchers don't catch after having their knees reconstructed. But thanks to Dr. Tony Defeo and Dr. John Molloy, put my knee back together … reconstructed my left knee. Predicted I wouldn't play again ... wouldn't catch again. (Only for arthroscopic surgery back then. That would have been cool.)
You know, those early years bring back memories of some of the intense battles we have on the field. And we only determine they're intense because of the competitive nature of the teams that are intense. But those battles we had with the Yankees. Probably one of the greatest, or the greatest, rivalry that I have ever been involved with. Only because of comparable talent, comparable personalities, and the intensity with which we approached the game.
I played for Don Zimmer during those times. Zimmy, you were the easiest guy I ever played for, the easiest manager ever. Put your name in the lineup and he said go get 'em boys. Something like Sparky, I think. He knew what names to put in the lineup, and let your horses go. Maybe not the easiest manager not to play for, but if you're playing for him he was a gem.
I played with Rico, and Yaz, and Dewey, and Freddie, and Spaceman and Jim Ed, and Rooster. But the guy I had the most fun playing with, catching for: Luis Tiant. The best and most colorful pitcher I've ever caught, and the best and the most colorful ever, I think, in a Red Sox uniform.
Had an opportunity to go to Chicago after a technicality, which was exposed in 1981. It was a new team, in a new place, and jeez, Eddie, we had so many new uniforms, too. But they were big league uniforms, and they were in Chicago, and Chicago is a baseball town. In 1983 was our most complete season ... the most complete season I think a team had ever had that I played for. We ran away with the divisional race in 1983, with such unlikely names as the Bull, Wimpy, the Kooser, Kitty (who was Rookie of the Year), Lamarr (who was a Cy Young Award winner that year), Dotman, Wonky Boy, Salome, Juice Man, and the Buddha Boy. I look back at that, and if only we could have played a seven game series, we'd have won that.
But then in the middle of that decade, '86, and '7 and on, there were more knee operations, and broken hands. So catching isn't all glamour and glory. Thanks to Jim Boscardin, Dr. Terry Light, put me back together again, and I became a big league player again.
Over the years, I played a long time. I missed five and a half years due to injuries, and months and months getting back to speed. But I met a guy who maybe turned my career back on the positive road. Strength and conditioning wasn't quite heard of yet, but Phil Claussen introduced me to a whole new world of physical strength and conditioning preparation. We had some take-no-prisoners' approach to sessions we had testing my resolve to human endurance, as catching does. I'll always remember him, and be forever grateful. And I wouldn't be here without you Phil. Thanks.
Late night appointments with Tim Wilson, in the weight room after games, and Steve Odgers, who is now the strength and conditioning coach for the Chicago White Sox. He's an international track and field expert, and competitor, and his knowledge was invaluable. Steve, I just wish I was younger so you'd have had a lot more to work with.
I know I pushed the limits of how long you should play, how long I could play, at the most difficult, and demanding position in the game of baseball, and at the highest level that it's played. And the greatest temptation, the greatest temptation in the game, and in life, is to settle for a little less of yourself. Often approach, taking is, to take as much as you can, and give back as little as you can. Sometimes you think it would be better to change your passion for the glory that you might achieve. I feel I stayed true to my passion, 'cause there's certainly no glory in those weight rooms, I can tell you that.
There was the excitement of catching Tom Seaver as he approached his 300th win. And I had the pleasure to catch his 300th win in New York ... and it was against the Yankees.
In Chicago I played for Tony LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan, who taught me more about the things to think about in the game then I had ever experienced before ... parts of the game I'd never thought about: charting pitchers, and pitches pitched, and locations, and where they were hit, and to whom, and in what situation. I learned so much from them and I thank them for that.
Jeff Torborg, probably the nicest and most compassionate manager I've ever had. Maybe because he was a catcher, he understands what it takes to play, be a catcher. And only a catcher - John, Yogi - only a catcher can understand what it's like to be a catcher.
And I played with Jack McDowell ... one of the most fierce competitors ever. I watched him come from being a Stanford graduate and caught him in his Cy Young year. Robin Ventura: from the Pan Am games to a Gold Glove to an all-star. Ozzie Guillen: from an 18-year-old to the Rookie of the Year to the most exciting shortstop in the American League. Watching Bobby Thigpen, and participating in his rise as the most dominant closer in the American League, with a record 57 saves.
You know, there are other teachers that you have in life. And I think life's a long learning process. This isn't a destination, and never has been, and it never will be. This is a journey: I'm on it, you're on it, we're all on it. And I feel as though that it's been, so far, one of the most spectacular journeys I've ever been on.
But, there are teachers in your life that make a big difference. I'd like to recognize Charlie Lau, and appreciate and be grateful, forever grateful, for introducing Walt Hriniak to the art of hitting. Walt Hriniak is the single most important ... single most important person in my baseball life. He taught me a lot of things. But regardless of what goes on around you, maintain your focus, and your desire, and your motivation. But most of all be honest to yourself. Man, the time we spent in the bowels of every stadium: the sweat, the blood, the tears, the conversations, the relationship, the friendship, the closeness. I miss that, and I'll cherish it forever. And I wouldn't be standing here, Walter ... I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you, Walter. Thanks.
This has been such an overwhelmingly emotional week, it's been unbelievable.
You know, catchers too often get saddled, and manacled, and titled, and viewed, as the non-athletes ... throw him behind the plate because he can't move and we'll work something out later. But in the '70s there was a new generation of catchers that came along. Not just one here or there, but a generation of catchers: Bench, and Boone, and Carter, and Parrish, and Munson, and Fisk. That's when they started putting athletes behind the plate, and I think the whole game has elevated since. Maybe because you couldn't be involved in the game ... here's an athlete that could be involved in the game every pitch, all game long. We were insulted and refused to accept that we were wearing the tools of ignorance.
You know, an athlete, as an athlete, you always want to achieve something for yourself. But as a catcher you have to go beyond that for the cause. And I always felt that my duty and responsibility on the field was to my pitchers. I know offense is an important part of the game. But I would do whatever it took, to instill the confidence in my pitching staff, and ensure the feeling, that somehow, we - not you, not me, but we - could get through any situation.
My first year in the big leagues I go to the mound one time, and Gary Peters is pitching, bases are loaded, a couple runs in, nobody out. And you're taught to take charge of a situation as a catcher. So you walk out to the mound, I walk out to the mound, and I'm about to ... I really don't know what I was about to say, to tell you the truth. But I thought it was about that time I went out there. I get to the bottom of the mound and Gary Peters is standing on the mound, and he looked at me and says, "What the hell you doing out here?" And I went like that, and he said, "The next time you come out here, you better have a pretty good idea how we're going to get out of this situation." - not exactly in those terms or words, I can assure you. But, you learn some lessons the hard way in this game.
You know, synonymous with catching is the only other guy on the field that has a full view of what goes on on the field, and that's the umpire. Too often they go unnoticed, and under appreciated, or way too noticed and under appreciated. But I worked out a nice relationship, a good relationship with my umpires over the decades that I played. (Yeah, and I play in four.) And there was a lot of disagreements, but most were over differences of opinion, and didn't harbor any disrespect, and that's why we got along for as long as we did.
You know, some special people that I have to mention, that aren't here today, but they'd be proud ... they'd be proud. Jack Gable, my best friend. Willie Thompson, spent more time with him in the clubhouse, than I did my wife at times ... you old Hamma-knocker. I know you're lookin'. Uncle Bernie and Grandpa Adolph: we had something special.
You know ... [shout from the crowd, "We love you Pudge"] ... thank you. You know, there's an old Hopi Indian saying that says you cannot pick up a pebble with one finger. And I am but one finger. And it wouldn't be possible for me to be standing here if it were not for all the other fingers in my life. So I'd like to introduce some of them to you, so it might take a while if I can't make it through this, so bear with me.
Courtney, you're first ... my youngest daughter Courtney. She's one of the only ones I've watched grow up. I played too long to watch the other ones. I was able to watch her grow up, and she fills me up. Watched her play volleyball on the Lockport Township High School State Championship volleyball team. And I used to say "Hey Gumpy," and embarrass her half to death. So I told her I wouldn't do that today. She's newly engaged - sorry guys - and she's my baby.
And Casey, my son. He traveled with me as much as he could, and he batboyed. He was there when I hit my 300th home run ... the first guy that met me at home plate ... hugged me and kissed me. And that's all I need. Played at Illinois State University. I helped coach his team one year. He was Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week, and a Missouri Valley Conference Tournament All-Tournament team member. Married to Tracy, his wife ... obviously. (It wouldn't be his wife, if he wasn't married to her.) Met her at Illinois State and she's been a terrific addition to the family. The coach. She coaches the girls' basketball team at Ferris State University.
Carlyn, my baby, my oldest baby. Boy, she's so much like me. She's probably the best athlete in the family, including me. And she was - folks let me tell you something - she was really really good in volleyball. She made it here before I did. She's a Hall of Famer at UIC, University of Illinois in Chicago. So, she was really, really good. And John, sitting next to her, my son in law, the father of my two grandbabies. John's a football player. But guess what? He has an engineering degree. You don't see that happen very often. And they're holding the next generation: Grace and Anna.
You know, there's so much time you spend away from home, so far from home in this game. And it's so difficult to watch your kids grow up on the telephone. But, they know that I had to do what I had to do, so that I could take care of you.
Linda's parents, Loraine and stepfather Norm, and our favorite fourth base coach, Nani Detta. And we all love them.
My brothers and sisters are here. I don't think there's anybody left in New Hampshire, to tell you the truth. I think there all sitting right over here. You know it made for a full house: three brothers, two sisters, six of us in all. House of sibling rivalries in the house of friendly competition. My oldest brother Kyle, on the end, and Cettie, and Conrad, and June, and Janet. Janet's married to one of my teammates, ex-teammates: Rick Miller. He's just really lucky that he met me, because if he didn't meet me, he wouldn't have met her.
And my mom and dad at the end here. My mom Leona. She was the warmth in our family. She was the warmth and the comfort and the love. And we wouldn't have made it without her. She bakes the best cinnamon rolls in Sullivan County and I can guarantee you that.
And the guy who contributed the most to me being stubborn, and me being determined, my dad Cecil. He always said, "Keep your eye on the ball. Cripes, if you can't run around there for an hour or two shouldn't even have been out there." Well, Dad, I was out there for 30 years. You know, sometimes good didn't seem to be good enough, but I always wanted you to be proud of me, Dad. And sometimes just because you could have done better, doesn't mean you've done badly. You know, through the years you always made sure that people knew that I was your son ... and I'm proud of that. But this weekend, guess what? You're Carlton's dad, this weekend. And you did that in one weekend too. I went from being Cecil's boy and you went to being Carlton's dad.
You know, sometimes you think people ask you, "What are you going to miss about baseball?" "What do you miss about baseball?" I miss this. I miss this. I miss being at the ballpark. I miss being there on a warm summer's evening with the smells of hot dogs and brats filling the air ... and the excitement, just the energy, overflowing at the ballparks. And you feel so good, and you feel so alive, and your mind and body are so sharp. I miss singing the National Anthem ... standing at home plate before a home game. I miss singing the seventh inning stretch, but what I miss most, I miss that very very good feeling that you know, that you're part of something special. And I was part of something special in Boston, and I was part of something special in Chicago. But most of all, I'm part of something special here today. Sometimes they say, "It's not what you achieve in life that defines you, it's what you overcome." And I feel that baseball offers a lot of those lessons, because there's so much to overcome. Failure is so closely connected with success. And there would be no success, if there were no failure. So you have to understand that we are Hall of Famers, but we are not perfect. I am thrilled, absolutely thrilled, and proud to stand here ... in front of them and before you, and everybody in Boston and Chicago, and here in Cooperstown, to say to you that I am a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Year of 2000.
And this all is nice and exciting, but this wouldn't happen if it wasn't for the most special person in my life. Linda, that's you. She's been there all these years. I've known her since I was 17 years old. She's been there all these years. Ups and downs and good times and the bad times. She's my friend, my lover, and the mother of my children, and I love you. Thank you.
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