Interview With Doug Wilson (Pudge, pt.2)

In Part 2 of Pudge, Carlton Fisk’s biography by Doug Wilson, we look at his research on the famed Red Sox catcher. By day, Wilson is an ophthalmologist, otherwise known as a eye doctor. By night, however, he’s a baseball writer. Wilson always had aspirations to write about baseball. He played in college, but said that “My GPA was higher than my batting average,” which led him to continue to medical school instead. After his two boysDoug Wilson went off to college, Wilson finally found the time to pursue his passion. He’s already published titles like The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych in 2013, and Brooks: The Biography of Brooks Robinson in 2014.

Wilson said that his biggest challenge in writing Pudge was presenting both sides of the many conflicts Fisk endured in his career. Wilson didn’t want to make apologies for his conflicts, but wanted to present them from Fisk’s point of view. Fisk himself chose not to be interviewed for the biography because, as Wilson pointed out, he’s a private person and doesn’t particularly like the spotlight, which he said wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. When he was writing Brooks, Wilson grew to strongly admire Brooks Robinson, making it hard for Wilson to write objectively about him. Not interview Fisk helped him write a more objective biography about Fisk.

Wilson discussed how his research led him to view Fisk as a representation of New England. Fisk was born in Vermont, raised in New Hampshire, and grew up wanting to play for the Red Sox. According to Wilson, Fisk was the first to accomplish what he calls the New England Trifecta that every native wanted to accomplish. The first included Fisk making a basket on the parquet floor in the Boston Garden. The second was hitting a home run over the Green Monster at Fenway. The third was when Fisk punched Thurmond Munson,a New York Yankee, during a brawl in 1973. “Fisk’s pride as a New Englander was what endeared him to Boston.”

Doug Wilson’s Pudge Describes Duo of Fisk and “Spaceman”

As much as he loved Boston, Wilson talked about how it wasn’t enough for Fisk to overcome his conflicts with Red Sox executives. In 1980, Fisk asked that his 1981 contract reflect his performance, which was more money than general manager Haywood Sullivan wanted to spend. Citing one of his injuries, Sullivan quipped that “Fisk’s contract bothers him more than his arm” and mailed him a contract after the 1980 resigning deadline, which made Fisk a free agent. This disrespectful gesture led Fisk to sign with the Chicago White Sox for the 1981 season, where he finished his career in 1993. “Questioning [Fisk’s] integrity was absolutely the WRONG thing to do, and he held on those things.”

The best part of the interview was when Wilson discussed the rift between Fisk and pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee. Lee hated it when Fisk walked to the mound to talk after each pitch because it slowed the game down. This gesture led Fisk’s teammates to nickname him “The Human Rain Delay.” Red Sox 2nd baseman Rico Petrocelli, who played with Fisk in the 1970s, told Wilson that he and the other teammates got a kick out of watching Fisk walk up to the mound where “Spaceman” would grunt in frustration, turn his back to Fisk, and walk off the mound while everyone on the Red Sox bench laughed.

Look for Pudge by Doug Wilson in your local bookstores!

Doug Wilson’s Pudge Details Catcher’s Life (pt.1)

Doug Wilson’s Pudge explores the life of Boston’s Carlton Fisk, born in Vermont, raised in New England, and grew up to play twenty-four seasons of baseball, first with the Boston Red Sox then with the Chicago White Sox. Fisk is best known for hitting a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series at Fenway Park. The win kept the Red Sox alive to play Game 7, but they lost to the Cincinnati Reds. Doug Wilson's PudgeFisk was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000, entering as a Red Sox.

Wilson’s well-written biography (the first one written about Fisk on a large scale) goes into great detail about the catcher’s disciplined upbringing. His tough but caring father taught his son the true meaning of integrity and hard work, which helped Fisk reach the major leagues in 1969 at the age of 22 for two games. After playing in the Red Sox farm system for a few years, Fisk’s break out year in 1972 saw him win Rookie of the Year Honors as well as his first (and only) Gold Glove at Catcher Award.

Doug Wilson’s Pudge portrays Fisk as a quiet but well-determined player who wanted nothing more than to play the game with honor and integrity. Nicknamed “The Human Rain Delay,” Fisk often took his time walking to the mound to talk with pitchers, which frustrating his teammates to no end. In Fisk’s mind though, communication between teammates as well as having a solid plan for the next batter was all a part of winning.

While Doug Wilson’s Pudge goes into great detail about Fisk’s walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, Wilson’s extraordinary story-telling abilities extend to his description of Fisk’s rivalry with the New York Yankees’ catcher Thurmond Munson. Fisk and Munson, whose devotion to the game was just as intense, got into a brawl during a game in 1973. Munson crashed into Fisk at home plate in an effort to advance the Yankee runner on base. The fight that followed was the height of long rivalry between the two that had been fueled by Munson’s jealousy of Fisk, who he thought got more attention from the press. Fisk and Munson’s fight, told well by Wilson, will always be known as one of the most intense brawls between the two teams (which says a lot of you consider the long rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees).

Doug Wilson’s Pudge Details Much More About Fisk

Most Red Sox fans probably don’t think about Fisk’s career after leaving Boston to play for the Chicago White Sox in 1981. Doug Wilson’s Pudge, however, keeps it interesting by detailing the prickly yet interesting relationship between Fisk and the ownership that led to his departure in the first place, describing it as one of the most insulting points in Fisk’s career (you’ll have to read the book to find out what happened). Fisk would play for another fourteen years with Chicago before retiring in 1993, being one of 29 players to have played in four different decades. Fisk’s Chicago years included another post-season appearance, as well as a confrontation with NFL and MLB player Deion Sanders at home plate.

Doug Wilson’s Pudge shines best when it expands on the in-depth interviews with many of Fisk’s family members, teammates, and coaches. While Fisk declined to assist Wilson in any way, as he’s a very private individual, Wilson took what he had to work with to craft one of the best biographies of the year.

Remembering Yogi Berra, A Noble Adversary

The baseball world became a darker today, when Yankees legend Yogi Berra passed away at the age of 90. A colorful character who embodied the charm and bravery inherent in baseball, Berra was beloved by fans across the country, regardless of allegiance. He was one in a million, and thoroughly deserving of the gratitude that has rained down since the awful news broke.

Yogi Berra

Berra was one of the greatest catchers who ever lived; a nineteen year veteran who established many records at the position and was a formidable postseason performer. Yogi won an unprecedented ten World Series rings, one for each finger, and still holds the all-time mark for Fall Classic hits. In over 2,000 games, he hit 358 home runs, redefining the offensive expectations of that position.

Of course, Berra went on to enjoy wider fame, mainly attributed to his famous Yogi-isms, which ranged from the sublime “Deja vu all over again,” to the wonderful “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” He is widely considered the main influence behind the Yogi Bear cartoon character, while his television endorsements made him recognizable to fans well into the twenty-first century.

Naturally, players of this caliber, and men of this dignity, transcend rivalries, even one as intense as the Red Sox and Yankees. Today, the Red Sox composed a poignant tweet, saying that the organization “sends our deepest condolences to Yogi Berra’s family and to the Yankees,” and concluding that “our game, and our rivalry, has lost an icon.”

Indeed, Berra was a noble adversary. He was a key cog in the Yankees’ dynasty in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, when Boston battled toe-to-toe with New York in a golden age of baseball. In 296 games against the Red Sox, Yogi hit .271 with 38 home runs and 185 RBI. He continued to harm Boston for many years after retirement, acting as a mentor to contemporary players such as Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. A few moments before Game 1 of the 1999 ALCS between the Red Sox and Yankees, Berra saw Bernie Williams looking nervous in the clubhouse. “Don’t worry about it,” Yogi said. “These guys have been trying to beat us for eighty years.” That sums up Berra, a happy-go-lucky guy who lived for good-natured competition.

This will undoubtedly be a tough day for the Berra family. Yet, deep down, once the initial pain subsides, they can rest assured that Yogi was perhaps the most beloved sportsman of his time; that his unwavering bravery in serving the US Navy during World War II still resonates all these years later; and that fans from across the baseball spectrum have nothing but the utmost respect for his unique abilities.

Right now, baseball is left feeling a little gloomy, but the timeless legacy of Yogi Berra will shine on forever.

Should The Red Sox Have Brought Back Andrew Miller?

Andrew Miller

There is no question last season the Red Sox were in sell mode and, with Andrew Miller set to be a free agent, the Red Sox wanted to get something of value for the pitcher who would command a lot on the open market. With the trade to the Orioles on July 31st, Andrew Miller stepped in and was a part of the Orioles team that won the American League East behind their lefty closer Zach Britton.

Fast forward to this past week at Fenway Park and Andrew Miller is now the closer of the division rival—first place Yankees.Andrew Miller Miller has been paired with Dellin Betances to form one of the more dominant 1-2 punches thus far in the major leagues when it comes to shutting down teams in the late innings.

The Red Sox acquired Eduardo Rodriguez from the Orioles in the Miller trade and he has looked great since coming over from Baltimore. Rodriguez started the year in AAA Pawtucket, but could prove to be valuable down the stretch should the Sox need a starter. With this pitching staff so far, we may be seeing Rodriguez sooner rather than later.

Obviously the Red Sox are happy they got Rodriguez for Miller, but could they have both of them? In the off-season Miller was being heavily pursued as a set-up man and closer for some teams; the Yankees, Red Sox, Astros and Orioles were all in the running. Miller turned down the Astros offer, who then signed Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson. The Orioles were cutting payroll so, Miller likely was not returning to the Orioles in the first place. The Yankees gave Miller $36 million over 4 years and the Red Sox were left in the dust. The thought of trading Lester and then re-signing him in the off-season was made into a huge deal, but re-signing Miller should have been a big deal, in my opinion, as well.

The biggest deal in this is that Miller is still only 29 so, he still has a while to pitch and pitch well. The Red Sox bullpen so far has been over used, but they have not been impressive either. Koji Uehara, who missed the first week, has seen his velocity go down substantially and Edward Mujica has been relegated to mop up duty. Junichi Tazawa, who has been the best pitcher on the staff as a whole, is still owned by the Blue Jays and, as we saw this weekend, Alex Rodriguez. The Red Sox bullpen would look a lot better with Andrew Miller in it.

Miller now is tied for the league lead in saves with 10, two of which he got this weekend at Fenway, with a whopping 23 strikeouts in 13 innings of work. The Red Sox are the team that moved Miller to the bullpen, which he became successful in doing after some struggling years as a starter. Why shouldn’t they be reaping the rewards with a decision they made? Instead he is on the team you hate to lose to and collecting up saves and strikeouts left and right.

Steven Wright Struggles in First Two Starts for PawSox

Steven Wright

After pitching 5 innings of relief and getting the win in the 19 inning game against the Yankees two weeks ago, Steven Wright got sent down to AAA Pawtucket to make room on the roster for starter Joe Kelly. Since his demotion, Wright has not looked great in two starts with the PawSox.

In the home opener for the PawSox against the Rochester Red Wings, Wright went 5 Steven Wrightinnings with a line of 8 H, 7 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, and 2 K’s. Being a knuckleballer, Wright could easily throw until his arm fell off, but that line is somewhat discouraging considering the 4 walks. Some of the runs were unearned so, his defense did not bail him out in some situations. Still, if the Red Sox are looking for a depth starter, they will need a pitcher who can get out of jams in the AL East.

In his most recent start with the PawSox Wednesday, Wright went 6 innings with a line of 9 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB and 10 K’s. As Sox fans found out last week when Clay Buchholz gave up 11 hits, but kept the game close, it is only a matter of time until all those hits pile up and the other team capitalizes like Buffalo did. The encouraging thing to take from this start was his 10 strikeouts. The Buffalo hitters, who were not making contact, were swinging and missing—and quite frequently. With the PawSox, Wright will be given more time to get out of jams thaN if he were with the big league club, which could help him down the line. Red Sox fans know through the Tim Wakefield years that a knuckle ball can sometimes knuckle and other times stay flat.

Wright is hardly a prospect anymore at the age of 30, but the Red Sox have liked what they’ve gotten out of him since acquiring him in a minor league trade with the Indians in 2012. Wright seems to be the pitcher who is next in line, should an injury occur in the big league rotation, but with Brian Johnson and Eduardo Rodriguez looking great in their first few starts with the PawSox, Wright will have to start having better outcomes. Of course sometimes teams do not care about the statistics and it is more about the makeup of a player.

As of right now the PawSox are going with a six man rotation since Wright has been sent down. Henry Owens will start on Thursday, followed by Eduardo Rodriguez, Matt Barnes, and Brian Johnson this weekend in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Keith Couch will likely follow Johnson in the next series against Syracuse.

Pineda in a Sticky Mess; Pine Tar Part Two

pineada pine tar

Last night at Fenway Park, John Lackey rebounded from a pair of rough starts, holding the New York Yankees to one run and seven hits, while striking out 11, Lackey did not walk a batter in eight strong innings, and the only runs he needed were scored in the first inning as the Red Sox beat the Yankees 4-1. Despite getting the win, there was more focus on the losing pitcher, Michael Pineda.  The 22 year old pitcher somehow thought nobody would notice the massive pine tar smear under his right ear, which he used to doctor the ball. Well, the Red Sox noticed, and when home plate umpire Gerry Davis went out to the mound in the bottom of the second, he opined that Pineda would be hitting the showers early.

Now, it’s one thing for your opponent to notice it.  It’s mind-boggling, though, that everybody on the Yankees missed it, especially in light of allegations that Pineda had pine tar smeared on the palm of his pitching hand the last time he faced the Red Sox, on April 10 at Yankee Stadium. Pineda’s blatant disregard of rule 8.02 (Using a foreign substance on the baseball is a violation of Major League Baseball) is certain to get him suspended this time for ten games (or two starts.)

NOTES: Various media outlets reported that Pineda was near tears in the clubhouse after that game. It is unclear whether he was emotional or crying due to the fact that his jersey had become affixed to his body because of the pine-tar and had to be ripped off…Pineda, who has limited English, was quoted as saying “Baseball been very, very good to me. Pine tar, not so much”…Pineda is a huge college basketball fan, and tries to watch as many UNC Tar Heel games as possible…While the young pitcher has certainly gotten himself into a sticky situation, hopefully he can learn from this and in the future represent the Pine-stripes with dignity and class.