Author explores Fish on, off diamond

Forty years ago, Cincinnati Reds fan Doug Wilson watched his team play the Boston Red Sox in Game 6 the World Series.

“I was 14 years old then, and I was pretty excited because we could’ve won the World Series that night,” the local ophthalmologist remembered. “Then, Carlton Fisk hit a long fly ball to lead off the 12th inning, and it was a home run off the foul pole. I was pretty upset. I can’t tell you what I said because my mother might read this.”

Wilson hopes that people will read his fourth book, “Pudge: The Biography of Carlton Fisk.” Wilson will discuss his book at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Bartholomew County Public Library’s Red Room. Books will be available for purchase at the event.

Fisk’s home run against the Reds — who went on to win Game 7 to capture the 1975 World Series — that Wilson watched on television has become legendary, and the moment is the centerpiece of his new book.

“After the home run, NBC showed a reaction shot of Fisk pointing, yelling and waving at the baseball, urging it to stay fair,” Wilson said. “They showed it a few minutes after the home run, just before they went off the air. It was an afterthought. The cameraman was distracted by a big rat on his leg, and he couldn’t follow the baseball, like the cameras always did. Instead, the producers decided to have him film Fisk’s reaction, and that camera shot captured the emotion of the moment.

“It forever changed the way we watched sports on television, and that moment gets replayed over and over every October,” he said. “Nobody realized it was so revolutionary at the time because we’d never seen anything like that on television. Now, it’s routine to see players react after a home run or a slam dunk. The players would always react to big moments like that, but the cameras never showed that until Fisk’s home run.”

To help celebrate the 40th anniversary of that moment, Wilson wrote the first biography of the former Red Sox and Chicago White Sox catcher. Wilson said he wrote the book in six months.

“A few people had tried to contact Fisk about writing an autobiography, but he wasn’t interested,” Wilson said. “I didn’t want to write an autobiography. I just wanted to tell his story from the perspective of other people. I wrote to Fisk and asked to interview him, but he did not respond. He’s a very private person, so I didn’t expect him to respond.

“I went to New Hampshire and talked to his family and people he grew up with,” he said. “His father, Cecil Fisk, instilled a toughness and competitiveness in Carlton that you saw throughout his 24-year career, which is the most seasons ever caught by an American League catcher.”

Over the telephone, teammates told Wilson about Fisk’s groundbreaking approach within the clubhouse.

“Fisk was really one of the first people to do weightlifting and squats,” Wilson said. “Back then, players weren’t lifting weights because they thought they would limit their flexibility. But Fisk would catch a nine-inning game and be in the clubhouse lifting weights until 1 o’clock in the morning. That really was the key to his durability.

“I hope people come to the library and listen to me talk about him (Thursday) because he’s like John Wayne — a very interesting character on and off the field,” he said.

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Name: Doug Wilson

Age: 54

Residence: Columbus

Occupation: Ophthalmologist

Family: Wife, Kathy; children, Ben, Matt and Stephanie

Did you know: Wilson is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research and wrote biographies about former Cincinnati Reds manager Fred Hutchinson, former Detroit Tigers pitcher Mark “The Bird” Fidrych and Baltimore Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson.