Prior to their 2005 World Series victory, the Chicago White Sox hadn’t won the Series since their 1917 4 games to 2 victory over the New York Giants. During this time, the White Sox were experiencing the Curse of the Black Sox. Also known as the Curse of Shoeless Joe. Their 1917 World Series victory came two years before eight players from the White Sox threw the 1919 World Series, thus beginning the 85-year-long curse (1920 to 2005). This logically brings us to Carlton Fisk, who wasn’t on the 1917, 1919, or the 2005 White Sox.
“Wait a second. Then why does this logically bring us to Carlton Fisk?”
“Patience, grasshopper, we’ll get there, but here’s a little secret: it has to do with a baseball card.”
A Beautiful Card
Carlton Fisk became a White Sox in 1981 after spending 11 glorious years with the Boston Red Sox. He caught for Chicago for 13 years. He represented them in four All-Star games, won three Silver Slugger awards with them, and finished in the top fifteen in MVP voting three times all while wearing the black and white. It is safe to say that Fisk, even taking away his 11 years in Boston, had a great career in Chicago.
Connecting Through Cardboard
One thing that baseball cards do is connect the past with the present and vice versa. Picking up a baseball card opens a small portal to what once was. Like a mini historical picture book that fits snugly in the palm of one’s hand. In just a matter of seconds, the recipient may deduce the popular baseball fashions of the day, what the equipment looked like, a player’s successes or failures, or, in the case of action shots, even how they moved.
The point is that without baseball cards so much of the sport would be lost to rotting old newspapers or stuck in museums that only the most fortunate are able to experience. Sure, sure, there’s the internet, and digital baseball cards, but the knowledge is not only in the images. It is also in the way that the cards feel in one’s hand. And even, please pardon my audacity, how your father’s 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card sounded clicking away in the spokes of his beloved bike. It is through this interaction with the actual cards, not the digital versions, that tactilely connects fans with the sport.
1992 Leaf Heritage Series
Let’s throw one last year into the mix: 1992. 1992 is the year that connects Fisk with 1917, 1919, the Curse of the Black Sox/Shoeless Joe, and 2005. And this connection comes in the form of a baseball card (told you we’d get there). In 1992 Leaf released a set of baseball cards called Studio. The player’s pictures for the Studio cards are taken in a studio, hence the name. As part of the 1992 Studio cards, there are inserts. An insert is a card that is randomly inserted into packs of cards, but is not part of the regular set and tends to have a different look than the normal cards. The inserts in ’92 Studio packs are called “Heritage Series”.
The “Heritage Series” cards have images of players in throwback uniforms of their current teams. The cards have a teal border with a sepia photo being “held in place” by gold “photo corners”. The overall effect is like looking through your great-grandmother’s photo album. On the back of the cards is a description of the uniform including the colors of the uni, the significance of the year, and any other interesting information that they could come up with. They are handsome cards with plenty of historical appeal.
So where does Carlton Fisk fit into all of this? Fish ice card BC-2 of the 14-card “Heritage Series” set. He is dressed in the 1917 White Sox World Series uniform and hat. The uniform is red, white, and blue, as well as the hat. There is also an American flag patch on each shoulder. The patches are to honor the American soldiers who were fighting in World War I at the time. Fisk is also holding a replica of the catcher’s mask and mitt that Ray Schalk, the catcher for the 1917 Sox, would have used. Schalk played his entire 18-year major league career with Chicago minus his final season, 1929, when he played in five games for the Giants. Schalk was on the 1919 Black Sox. He was considered to be such an honest man that the gamblers didn’t even consider approaching him about throwing the 1919 Series.
It’s funny how a single baseball card can evoke such a spiderweb of information. So much history printed on 2 1/2″ by 3 1/2″ of cardboard. Fisk played 24 years in the major leagues and never won a World Series. He played his entire career with two cursed teams, the Red Sox (the Curse of the Bambino) and the White Sox. Fisk was fortunate enough to wear a World Series-winning uniform on his “Heritage Series” card, but he never wore one on the field during his playing days.
Fisk only appeared in the World Series once with Boston in 1975, but they lost to the Cincinnati Reds in seven. The great thing, and what connects him to 2005 (as well as 2004) is that when the White Sox broke the curse in 2005, Fisk received an honorary World Series ring. This was his second honorary ring in two years, having received one from the Red Sox the previous season when they broke their curse. And that is how we logically get to Carlton Fisk, grasshopper.
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Carlton Fish, Mickey Mantle, Ray Schalk