White Sox vs Red Sox Flashback: Carlton Fisk Changes his Socks

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The connective tissue between the Red Sox and White Sox stretches more than 40 years. That connective tissue resides in the DNA of one Carlton Earnest Fisk, the kid who was called Pudge ever since he weighed 105 pounds as an eight-year-old.

He grew up in the hamlet of Charlestown, New Hampshire. His high school baseball team played only eight games a season. At home, he played catch between the cows.

His sport of choice was basketball, earning him a scholarship to the University of New Hampshire. In one state high school tournament game, he scored 40 points with 36 rebounds as visions of playing power forward for the Celtics danced in his head. His baseball hero was Bill Russell (not the Dodgers’ shortstop).

Cecil and Leona Fisk instilled in Carlton a non-negotiable work ethic. “We didn’t get allowances,” Fisk once told Sports Illustrated. “My parents believed that you shouldn’t get paid for doing things around the house that had to be done. I still can’t comprehend it today when kids get red Camaros for their 16th birthdays. For what? For nothing? If we wanted money, we worked.”

That blue collar attitude ricocheted around Red Sox Nation. So did his performance as the 1972 American League Rookie of the Year, the league’s first unanimous selection, after a season in which this catcher led the A.L. in triples.

His walk-off home run in the 1975 World Series still resonates as loudly as the church bells that rang across New England that night he willed the ball fair. A moment forever frozen in time, it is the signature moment of one of the greatest Fall Classics ever and will forever define him.

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The narrative of his Hall of Fame career must start with that legendary blast, what may have been the greatest moment in one of the greatest games in Red Sox history. At his every stop now and forever, the subject always comes back to The Home Run.

Five years later, what the Red Sox DIDN’T do with Carlton Fisk’s contract in December, 1980, became a case study in contract law in every business school in this country.

But long before the rupture, Fisk’s relationship with the Boston front office gradually deteriorated.

In 1978, he cracked his ribs diving into the stands for a pop fly, then hurt his elbow and played the last six weeks in pain. The next spring, he could barely throw. Concurrently, the Red Sox refused to renegotiate his contract, (after having done so for Jim Rice). Owner and General Manager Haywood Sullivan said at that time, “I think Fisk’s contract is hurting him more than his elbow.” The next day, Fisk kicked open the door to Sullivan’s office and demanded a public apology.

That was the beginning of the end.

December 20, 1980 was the deadline for clubs to mail out contracts for the following season. Astoundingly, the Red. Sox did not go to the mailbox for another 48 hours.

Sullivan had been advised by lawyers in the commissioner’s office that he didn’t have to send the contract on time because the Sox had the right of first refusal on Fisk’s expiring five-year contract with an option for a sixth year.

Problem was they didn’t.

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The clause had been quietly removed from Fisk’s contract by Marvin Miller, the founding Executive Director of the Players Association, who then filed for free agency on his behalf.

Arbitrator Raymond Goetz ruled in February of 1981 that Carlton Fisk, one of the best catchers in baseball, was a free agent. A son of New England who so perfectly symbolized the region, an All-Star catcher and hero to a generation of fans, was suddenly on the open market.

“That stuff doesn’t just slip by,” Fisk told Inside Sports, suggesting it was more than an oversight. “Teams have legal people, financial people who know those things.”

On March 10, 1981, Fisk signed a five-year $2.9 million dollar deal with the Chicago White Sox. He had worn #27 in Boston but sported #72 in Chicago because “it represents a turn-around in my career.”

But Carlton Fisk had said unequivocally, “I don’t want to leave the Red Sox.”

“A New Englander playing for a New England team, that’s everybody’s dream. That dream was smoked in 1980. And that hurt, and that could have been the beginning of the end if I didn’t consciously and with effort try to block it off.”

And yet, there was doubt in Chicago’s front office in signing the 33-year-old. General Manager Roland Hemond said, “Fisk has only three years left, but we’ll have to pay him for five.”

They paid him for 13… through age 45.

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As fate would have it, the visitors on Opening Day ’81 at Fenway Park were the White Sox. With the Red Sox leading 2-0 in the eighth inning, who should step up to the plate and belt a three-run homer off Bob Stanley? The prodigal son returning, of course. Four days later, in the home opener against Milwaukee, he hit a grand slam his second time up.

Throughout his White Sox career, Fisk tortured the Red Sox, batting .309 with 27 home runs and 67 RBIs in 105 games, providing Boston fans with a constant reminder of management’s betrayal of an iconic player. “I played with a little more emotion, if not motivation, against those guys after that,” he admitted. “Only because they did me badly.”

Fisk’s career numbers are staggering. He caught a major league record 2,226 games (since eclipsed by the other Pudge, Rodriguez) and became baseball’s most prolific home run-hitting catcher at the time with 351. He hit 25 additional homers playing other positions (that 376 homer tally has since been eclipsed by Mike Piazza).

He also stole 128 bases and is the only catcher in the modern era with at least 100 home runs and 100 stolen bases.

He was only the third catcher to hit at least 300 homers, score 1,000 runs and drive in 1,000 runs, joining Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench. Mike Piazza has since joined that list as well.

He divided his career almost evenly between Red Sox for 11 years and 1,078 games and the White Sox for 14 and 1,421 games.

In 2000, upon a vote of the Baseball Writers Association of America, he was permitted henceforth to sign his checks ‘Carlton Fisk HOF.’ Even though he played longer for the White Sox, he chose to have a Red Sox cap on his plaque. He told USA Today, “New England is still where my roots are. And I’m a New England person.”

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No matter which socks he wore, few catchers could combine his durability, defense and power, as well as a guardian for the institution. “I always carried a torch for the game.”

The rays of light from that torch shone brightly in Boston, Chicago…and in Cooperstown forever.

Mr. Stats’ Notes: Playoff picture starts to take focus

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This is the time of year that baseball turns from a marathon to a sprint. The Toronto Blue Jays are steps ahead of other teams for a spot in the postseason. Toronto finished one game out of the playoffs a year ago. Will this year be different?

On Sunday, in a game streamed on Peacock beginning at 12 pm eastern, the Blue Jays will play the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In 2021, the Jays finished one game behind the Yankees for the Wild Card; and 39 games better than the division rival Orioles. Can Baltimore pass Toronto in the final weeks to nab the third and final Wild Card?

It’s time to sharpen up the predictions to pick out some potential October matchups and storylines.

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Wouldn’t it be something if…the Pittsburgh Pirates win the World Series?

Well, not the 2022 Pirates.  But several former Pirates.

The 2017 Pirates team had Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon in their starting rotation. By 2018, Cole was gone but Clay Holmes was in the Bucs pen.  If the New York Yankees win the 2022 World Series, it will almost certainly be with heavy lifting being done by Cole, Taillon, and Holmes. Jameson (12-4, 3.97) leads the Yankees in wins. Cole is their ace. Holmes should be the closer.

And if the New York Mets win the World Series this year, they will lean heavily on two other Pirates from those Clint Hurdle-managed teams. The Mets don’t hurdle through the National League without Starling Marte and, to a lesser degree, Trevor Williams.  Marte is slashing .309/.359/.511 with 41 extra-base hits in 93 games since May 1, and for the season his bWAR is 3.7. Williams, meanwhile, has not allowed a run in a career-high 24.0 straight innings. Trevor has a 0.88 WHIP, a .190 opponent’s average and a .483 opponent’s OPS during that span.

Pittsburgh fans can find someone to root for even if the San Diego Padres win the World Series (Joe Musgrove), or the Atlanta Braves (Charlie Morton) repeat.

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Wouldn’t it be something if…the Cardinals beat the Mets in the postseason (with Adam Wainwright getting the final outs)?

In 2006, the Mets won 97 games. The Cardinals won 83 games. But the two teams met in the NLCS, and in Game 7, the Cards had a 3-1 lead entering the bottom of the ninth. Rookie Adam Wainwright closed it out, slamming the door and eliminating the Mets by striking out Carlos Beltran with the bases loaded to end the game.

Wouldn’t it be something if all these years later, the Cardinals once again eliminated the heavily-favored Mets in the deciding game with Wainwright (9-9, 3.09) on the mound!

And if that happened…

Wouldn’t it be something if…the Cardinals beat the Yankees in the World Series (with Jordan Montgomery eliminating his former team)?

Jordan Montgomery was traded from the Yankees to the Cardinals in exchange for Harrison Bader. Montgomery, in his first five starts for St. Louis, is 4-0, with 1.76 ERA and a WHIP of 0.815. How great would it be for Monty, who started the season as the Yankees’ No. 3 starter, eliminates New York.

Of course, October is a long way away. Perhaps Harrison Bader will run down a long blast by Nolan Arenado or Paul Goldschmidt to save a game for the Yankees.

I know what you’re thinking. Even if the Cardinals make the World Series, the Yankees may fall in the ALCS to the Astros. And if that were the case…

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Wouldn’t it be something if…the Cardinals and Astros meet in the World Series, a rematch of the 2004 NLCS (when St. Louis won) and the 2005 NLCS (when Houston won)?

Albert Pujols was the MVP of the 2004 NLCS versus the Houston Astros. Albert batted .500 (14-28 AB) with 1.000 SLG, 1.563 OPS, and 4 HR in the series! Imagine if he has a surge in the very late stages of his career. In the 2005 series, he hit a ninth-inning blast off Brad Lidge that’s a signature highlight in a career full of them.

I know, the Cardinals are a long shot. The Mets have a much better chance of reaching the World Series. So:

Wouldn’t it be something if…Buck Showalter finally makes the World Series in his 21st year as a Major League manager…and loses the Series when the Yankees bring in a reliever named (check notes…) Zack Britton to slam the door on Buck’s Mets?

Well before Timmy Trumpet, Showalter once had an elite reliever in his stint with the Orioles, Zack Britton. In 2016, Britton saved 47 games in 47 save opportunities. The Orioles won 89 games in 2016, and played in the one-game Wild Card in Toronto. The elimination game was tied 2-2 after five innings. And six innings. And seven innings. And eight innings. And nine innings. And ten innings. Buck kept waiting for his Birds to score a run, to bring in the great Britton to close out the Jays. Trouble is, he never did get Zack into the game, and eventually Ubaldo Jimenez lost the game for Buck in the 11th.

Just a thought. If there’s an opportunity to get Edwin Diaz late in a tie game on the road, do it. If you go down, go down with your best.

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Wouldn’t it be something if Buck Showalter finally makes it to the World Series against the Astros and Dusty Baker? One of them has to win, right? Please tell me someone has to win.

Is it even remotely possible that Dusty’s team blows another series lead? Baker shouldn’t have lost the 2002 World Series to the Angels, or the 2021 World Series to the Braves. He shouldn’t have blown a 2-0 series lead to the Giants in a 2012 best-of-five series. He shouldn’t have blown a three-run lead with five outs to go in Game 7 of a 2003 series to the Marlins. And only Dusty — poor Dusty — can have a lead after four innings of a winner-take-all game, bring in Max Scherzer — and still lose the game and series, as Dusty’s Nats did against the Cubs in 2017.

Wouldn’t it be something if the 2022 World Series were a rematch of the 2017 World Series? Only this time, Clayton Kershaw pitches on a level playing field, if you know what I mean. Man, it would be great to see Clayton start a game in Houston.

Remember what happened when Kershaw started Game 5 of the ’17 series in Houston? Clayton was unhittable in Game 1 of that series at Dodger Stadium; but in Game 5, Kershaw blew a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning, and a 7-4 lead in the bottom of the fifth.

I know Kershaw found redemption in the 2020 World Series in Arlington, Texas against Tampa Bay. But I want more. I want Clayton to shut down Altuve, Bregman, and Gurriel in Houston. In a World Series. Wouldn’t that be something?

And if the Astros defeated the Dodgers, I would feel so glad for Dusty Baker, who would have a World Series championship as a player for the Dodgers (in 1981) and as a manager against the Dodgers (41 years later, in 2022).

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Wouldn’t it be something if someone other than the Astros or Yankees made the World Series?  Wouldn’t it be something if the Mariners defeated the Yankees?

Time for a little history lesson. In 2001, the Mariners had a historic regular season, winning 116 games. But they lost the ALCS to the Yankees in five games. In Game 5 at Yankee Stadium, with the Yankees blowing out Seattle 9-0 and eventually eliminating them 12-3, the Bronx crowd chanted “Over-rated” at the Mariners.

Classy, I know. But wouldn’t it be something if the tides were reversed a generation later, and the heavily-favored Yankees fell in Seattle, with the Pacific Northwest crowd serenading the Yankees with the “over-rated” chant?

Wouldn’t it be something if…Rays manager Kevin Cash refuses to take out a starting pitcher that is on his game?

Wouldn’t it be something if…Bryce Harper finally was part of a winning playoff series? Harper appeared been in four Division Series as a member of the Nationals, and lost all four. 

Wouldn’t it be something if…Francisco Lindor makes the World Series against his former Cleveland team and manager Terry Francona?

As the rock group Green Day sang, “Wake Me Up When September Ends.”

MLB schedule 2022: Every Sunday morning baseball game on Peacock, matchups, what to know

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Sunday baseball is officially coming to Peacock this May! 18 MLB games will be featured on the streaming service starting with the Chicago White Sox vs. Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park on Sunday, May 8 at 11:30 p.m. ET. See below for the full Sunday baseball on Peacock schedule.

Sunday Baseball on Peacock schedule

Date Time Matchup
May 8 11:30 a.m. ET Chicago White Sox at Boston Red Sox
May 15 11:30 a.m. ET San Diego Padres at Atlanta Braves
May 22 11:30 a.m. ET St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates
May 29 11:30 a.m. ET San Francisco Giants at Cincinnati Reds
June 5 11:30 a.m. ET Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees
June 12 11:30 a.m. ET Oakland Athletics at Cleveland Guardians
June 19 Noon ET Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals
June 26 Noon ET New York Mets at Miami Marlins
July 3 Noon ET Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers
July 10 Noon ET Los Angeles Angels at Baltimore Orioles
July 17 Noon ET Kansas City Royals at Toronto Blue Jays
July 24 Noon ET Chicago Cubs at Philadelphia Phillies
July 31 Noon ET Detroit Tigers at Toronto Blue Jays
August 7 Noon ET Houston Astros at Cleveland Guardians
August 14 Noon ET San Diego Padres at Washington Nationals
August 21 Noon ET Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Guardians
August 28 Noon ET Los Angeles Dodgers at Miami Marlins
September 4 Noon ET Toronto Blue Jays at Pittsburgh Pirates

How to watch the MLB on Peacock                              

Baseball is back and for the first time ever MLB games are coming to Peacock this May, featuring a total of 18 Sunday match ups. Click here to sign up for Peacock and watch MLB games live on Sunday mornings!

The first MLB game on Peacock will take place on Sunday, May 8 at 11:30 a.m. ET as the Chicago White Sox battle it out with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. The game will also be available on the NBC broadcast network.

In addition to MLB games, Peacock will also feature a new MLB hub which will include access to highlight packages and award-winning documentaries from the MLB Film & Video Archive.

Opening Day for the 2022 MLB season takes place on Thursday, April 7 and the league will stick to its original slate of 162 games despite a 99-day-lockout. For more on the 2022 MLB season click here.

See below for additional information on how to watch MLB on Peacock.

How can I watch baseball on Peacock and what devices are compatible?

Peacock is currently available on the Roku platform; Amazon FireTV and Fire tablets; Apple devices including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD; Google platforms and devices including Android™, Android TV™ devices, Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices;  Microsoft’s Xbox One family of devices, including Xbox One S and Xbox One X; Sony PlayStation4 and PlayStation 4 Pro; Samsung Smart TVs; VIZIO SmartCast™ TVs; LG Smart TVs; Comcast’s entertainment platforms including Xfinity X1, Xfinity Flex, and XClass TV; and Cox’s Contour and Contour Stream Player devices. To learn more about Peacock and how to sign up, visit PeacockTV.com.