Fisk Gets Record, Then Gets the Gate : Baseball: White Sox release catcher, 45, after he becomes major league leader in games at the position.
Carlton Fisk, who hit one of baseball’s most memorable home runs and went on to catch more games than any major leaguer, was released Monday by the Chicago White Sox.
The move was long expected because of the 45-year-old’s feud with management over his diminished playing time.
“I know a bunch of fans out there and some people will be upset with me, but my job here is to win,” said Ron Schueler, White Sox general manager. “Maybe we were a little bit unfair. He didn’t get an opportunity to play on a daily basis, where probably the throwing would have been improved and the catching would have been improved. But right now, I just felt this is the move I had to make.”
Schueler told Fisk of the move Monday in Cleveland. Fisk left by Monday evening and was not available for comment.
“I wouldn’t say he was shocked,” Schueler said. “It was more disappointment and disbelief. Obviously, this hurts. Obviously it was a very tough decision. But with the direction I want to go with this ballclub, Carlton wasn’t a part of it.”
Added White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf: “It is not fair to (Manager) Gene Lamont and to our fans to carry somebody who can’t possibly help the ballclub. Removing him from the team gives the other 25 guys a better chance to win.”
Those other guys remembered Fisk during Monday night’s loss to Cleveland by wearing his No. 72 in chalk on the backs of their caps.
Fisk set his record last week, surpassing Bob Boone by catching for the 2,226th time. Including appearances at other positions, Fisk played in 2,499 games during 22 seasons with the White Sox and Boston Red Sox.
He joined the White Sox in 1981, but is most remembered for his 12th-inning home run that gave the Boston Red Sox a 7-6 victory over Cincinnati in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Fisk, waving both arms to coax the ball fair, homered over the left-field wall at Fenway Park, becoming an instant hero in his native New England.
“I can’t say I’ve been liked by everybody, but I’m always prepared to play the game and I think I’m respected as a professional,” Fisk once said. “There were a lot of good games, a lot of ups and downs, and I played with intensity and enthusiasm. But most important, I played to win.”
Fisk broke in with Boston in 1969, before some of his White Sox teammates were born. He was the AL Rookie of the Year with Boston in 1972, and he ranks 36th on the all-time home run list with 376.
He hit more home runs as a catcher (351) than anyone and was the only catcher to hit more than 100 home runs and steal 100 bases. He was also only the third catcher to hit at least 300 home runs, score 1,000 runs and drive in 1,000 runs. The others were Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench, both Hall of Famers.
“He’s been great for the White Sox, great for Chicago,” Lamont said. “This was a baseball move. We just couldn’t afford to stay with three catchers.”
In 25 games, Fisk was batting only .189, with one home run and four runs batted in. He also had become a defensive liability, throwing out only one of 23 would-be base stealers. Mike LaValliere and Rick Wrona will share the catching until Ron Karkovice returns from a shoulder injury.
Fisk’s wife, three children and parents were in the stands at Comiskey Park last week when he overtook Boone’s mark.
“To have this happen . . . is beyond words,” Fisk said at the time. “But it didn’t happen by accident. I worked very hard. It doesn’t happen like falling out of a tree, but it takes endurance and perseverance. I’ve been lucky.”
Fisk, after a public battle last winter, agreed to a $650,000, one-year contract and was due to receive bonuses for roster time starting July 15 and games played starting with No. 30.
Fisk joined the White Sox as a free agent in 1981 and helped lead the team to the AL West title in 1983. Roland Hemond, then the general manager, and Reinsdorf later laughed over the signing. Fisk, then 33, wanted a five-year contract. Reinsdorf, then a new owner, questioned the idea.
“He’ll give us at least three years,” Hemond said, “and then we can eat the rest of it.”