“Pudge: The Biography of Carlton Fisk” by Doug Wilson
Baseball, history, biography, Red Sox, White Sox
October 20, 2015
5 of 5 stars (Outstanding)
It has been 40 years since Carlton Fisk ended one of the best games in the history of the World Series with a dramatic 12th inning home run. The scene has been played many times in those 40 years as the Boston Red Sox catcher frantically waved his arms to the right, pleading for the ball to stay fair. Then came the leaps of joy along the first base line when those pleas were answered. That is the lasting image of the man.
However, there is much more to Carlton Fisk’s baseball career than that one moment. His journey from a small town in New Hampshire to the ultimate baseball honor of being inducted into the Hall of Fame in a small town in upstate New York is captured in this excellent biography by Doug Wilson.
Fisk’s family life while growing up in New Hampshire helped shape him into the ball player he became through his father – something that Wilson repeatedly illustrates throughout the book. Fisk’s legendary work ethic and punishing workouts are just two examples of how this is illustrated. His high school, college and minor league playing days are also included in great detail to illustrate his desire to succeed.
However, what really makes the book shine is Wilson’s meticulous research and interviews when writing about Carlton’s major league career with the Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox. The stories from teammates on both teams and the recaps of successful seasons he had with both franchises are captured in a style that is easy and enjoyable to read. This is because Wilson’s writing is liberally sprinkled with humor, anecdotes and even baseball clichés that don’t sound forced like they do when players use them in interviews. In this book, they just flow naturally with the rest of the text.
It isn’t all peaches and cream for Fisk in his career and in the book. The injuries he suffered and the workouts he endured to make sure he was still in top form when he returned are told in less-than-glorious accounts. Wilson also writes about Carlton’s acrimonious negotiations with both the Red Sox and White Sox regarding contracts. He ended up leaving both clubs under less than friendly circumstances and the accounts of these departures, while certainly told in a manner that seems more sympathetic to Fisk, are told in such great detail that the reader will feel that he or she is sitting at the negotiating table hearing every insult each side is telling the other one.
Because of all these reasons and more, this is a book that belongs on the bookcase of every baseball fan, whether or not that person saw Fisk play or just knows him through seeing the World Series home run on a highlight show of great World Series moments. It is a book that it packed with a lot of information on the man and when the reader is finished, the memories will seem like that World Series home run – they will last for a long time.
I wish to thank Thomas Dunne Books for providing an advance review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.