Thursday, March 10, 2016

Pudge by Doug Wilson

From the publisher: Carlton Fisk retired having played in more games and hit more home runs than any other catcher before him. A baseball superstar in the 1970s and 80s, Fisk was known not just for his dedication to the sport and tremendous plays but for the respect with which he treated the game. Doug Wilson, finalist for both the Casey Award and Seymour Medal for his previous baseball biographies, uses his own extensive research and interviews with childhood friends and major league teammates to examine the life and career of a leader who followed a strict code and played with fierce determination.

Baseball is my favorite sport, and Carlton Fisk is my favorite baseball player. I named my first car Carlton Fisk, and for the seven years I owned it I had a little cardboard pop-up Carlton Fisk affixed to the dashboard. (It was a good thing I decided to buy a bunch of them, as I had to replace the figure each year due to fading from the sun.)

I just finished the extremely enjoyable book Pudge: The Biography of Carlton Fisk by Doug Wilson. Although Fisk was not interviewed for the book – participating in the writing of his own biography would be too much like bragging for Fisk – it is not a tell all. Or maybe there is no all to tell regarding Fisk. If you are looking for dirt on Carlton Fisk - if there is dirt on Carlton Fisk - don't look here. Pudge is not that book. It is a glowing love letter to New England’s greatest professional baseball player. The author is an unabashed admirer of Fisk, and since I am also, I loved the book. My coworker rolled his eyes when I read this passage outloud:

He was a man who undeniably exemplified all the attributes they wanted to believe about themselves as New Englanders: he was tough, independent, and principled. Stoic and in control, he spoke what he believed, said what needed to be said and little else. He was Calvin Coolidge in John Wayne’s body. And his posture: tall, ramrod straight; just hand him a musket and he could pose for a statue of a minuteman, keeping faithful watch to protect the citizens from tyranny, marauders, and even Yankees. (p. 81)

Pudge is also not for you if you are looking for a quick look at Fisk’s life and career. The book goes into great detail about Fisk’s years with the Red Sox and the White Sox and especially that famous home run in the 1975 World Series. However, if, like me, you loved watching Fisk play, you admire his work ethic, you think the White Sox mistreated him, and you wish professional sports had more players like Fisk, you will probably enjoy reading  Pudge. 

The Galesburg Public Library owns Pudge. It can be found at NFIC 796.357 FIS.

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