One of the greatest catchers to ever play the game, Carlton Fisk was a native New Englander who was drafted by the Red Sox in 1967 and made his debut in 1969. After shuttling between AAA Pawtucket and Boston (with another short stint in the big leagues in 1971), Fisk became the Red Sox everyday catcher in 1972, a position he held for the duration of the 1970s.
Fisk was beloved by Red Sox fans in the 1970s for his hard-nosed style and his ferocity at defending the plate and standing up to runners; he also wasn’t afraid to get into a brawl with any Yankees player who crossed him. He won the AL Rookie of the Year award in 1972 as well as a Gold Glove that year and was an All-Star every year of the 1970s after that except for 1975 and 1979.
Between 1971 and 1980, Fisk hit .290 with 162 home runs and 568 RBI. He was a durable backstop, playing in 130 or more games in every season except for three seasons when injuries hampered him. In June 1974 he tore his knee up in a potentially career-ending injury but was able to recover from the surgery. He re-injured the knee in spring training of 1975 and didn’t return to the field until June of that year. In 1979, a rib injury limited him to only 91 games.
Besides all of the fights with the Yankees (especially Thurman Munson and Lou Piniella), Fisk will forever be known for the dramatic game winning home run he hit in Game Six of the 1975 World Series; the Red Sox even named the left field foul pole after him in 2005.
The blunder (whether deliberate or not) to let Fisk become a free agent and leave Boston after the 1980 season is one of the worst in Red Sox history, but there will always be Fisk’s time in the 1970s to look back fondly upon.