26 is for…
I missed the Carlton Fisk era in Boston. By the time I was paying attention to baseball he was well into his career with the White Sox. So, he’s never had the hold on me that other Red Sox greats have had. He wasn’t a great from long ago that is treated with reverence. He wasn’t a current star that I enjoyed watching. He was that old guy who played in Chicago but used to play here. Oh, and he hit that home run once.
After he retired, though, he became a much bigger part of the organization. The most obvious example is his number retirement. I was lucky enough to be at the game, and saw a little bit more of what Fisk did in his time here. But, at the time, his number retirement rubbed me the wrong way. Now, however, I almost see it as a badge of honor. Why?
Because they broke the rules.
He wasn’t supposed to be able to have his number retired. The team rules required that a player needed to finish his career with the Red Sox. Fisk only got that half right. But they bent those rules a bit for Fisk. (Before breaking them right off when they retired Pesky’s number 6) They hired him for a job in the organization and called that finishing he career with the Sox. Why would they do that? Because they needed something to celebrate. It was 2000, and while Pedro had led them to the playoffs the previous two seasons, they were still without a championship. They hadn’t even won the division in five years, and would finish out of the playoffs that year. So, they could use a reason to have a party. Why not hold a ceremony for a new Baseball Hall-of-Famer?
Which is why I see the ceremony differently these days. The Sox don’t need to do that stuff anymore. (Ok, maybe a little bit last year) They don’t need to hold ceremonies for people who don’t deserve it. They don’t need to book special events in order to get people to games. They just play well and draw crowds. The way it’s supposed to be. So, I consider the Carlton Fisk retirement almost as a low point we, as fans, were able to come up from. A reminder that there were days that the Sox had to make up reasons to celebrate. Even if you think celebrating the 8th anniversary of the 2004 championships was odd timing (I don’t), at least it was celebrating a championship. They weren’t inventing a reason to claim the success of a player who spent most of his career playing somewhere else.
We don’t need that stuff anymore.
27 is for #27 Carlton Fisk