Fisk changed Sox in 1981

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Craig Muder

Carlton Fisk changed his Sox when he signed with Chicago’s American League team on March 18, 1981.

So it was appropriate that he changed his number, too.

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Fisk, who had played his first 11 years with the Red Sox, agreed to a seven-year, $2.9 million deal that included two years of a personal services clause.

Fisk, however, would last well beyond that contract – playing for the White Sox for 13 seasons before retiring after the 1993 season with the most games played at catcher in history.

Fisk, age 33 when he signed with the White Sox, was declared a free agent following the 1980 season due to a clerical issue.

He wore uniform No. 27 for almost his entire career in Boston, but White Sox pitcher Ken Kravec had that number in Chicago.

At the time, No. 72 was the highest number in White Sox history and one of the highest in the big leagues.

“The number 72 has some meaning for me,” Fisk told the New York Daily News as a press conference announcing his new contract with the White Sox. “It represents the year I broke in (Fisk won the American League Rookie of the Year Award with the Red Sox in 1972) and also was the year of the birth of my son, Casey. It’s just a reverse of 27, and I’ll be wearing it from now on.”

Fisk would wear No. 72 with Chicago through the 1993 season, displaying it through a number of White Sox uniform styles. But it was Fisk’s consistency that set him on the path to the Hall of Fame.

Over 13 years in Chicago, Fisk was named to four All-Star Games, won three Silver Slugger Awards and received votes in the American League Most Valuable Player Award balloting three times, including a career-high third place finish in 1983 when he helped the White Sox win the American League West title.

In addition to his record 2,226 games caught (since surpassed), Fisk finished with 2,356 hits, 376 home runs and 1,330 RBI. He was named to a total of 11 All-Star Games and won a Gold Glove Award for his work behind the plate in 1972.

“The reason this is so exciting from a manager’s point of view is he adds completeness to our ballclub,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa – like Fisk, a future Hall of Famer – told the Associated Press when Fisk signed his new contract.

“I’ll bat him in the middle of the lineup, and he’ll make the guys around him better hitters because they’ll see better pitches.”

For the next 13 seasons, Fisk remained one of the game’s most productive and durable catchers.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000.


Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series