1. Jason Varitek; 2. Carlton Fisk.

Fisk_1 Sox1027

In the final hours of the 1997 trading deadline, Red Sox GM Dan Duquette dumped ineffective closer Hathcliffe Slocumb on the Seattle Mariners, eager to be rid of a bullpen headache that was 0-5 with a 5.79 ERA, worst on the staff.

In return, Duquette received a pair of youngsters, minor-league catcher Jason Varitek and rookie pitcher Derek Lowe. Of course, we all know the rest — Lowe became one of just three pitchers to both win 20 games and save 40, pitched the first Fenway Park no-hitter in 40 years, and won the clinching games of all three postseason series in 2004. By that measure alone, the deal was a steal — especially considering Slocumb was out of baseball by 2001.

But there was Varitek, who tonight passed Carlton Fisk as the franchise leader in games caught, with 991. (For good measure, he celebrated by scoring Boston’s lone run in the 1-0 win).

It’s not strictly a performance-based statistic, like Mariano Rivera’s 400 saves. But it’s significant — a measure of the steady, solid performance Varitek has given the Red Sox for the better part of eight seasons. Last year, Varitek was effectively named the best catcher in the AL, winning both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger and affirming what Sox fans have known for years. He also was named team captain, just the third Sox player to be so recognized since 1923.

With Varitek’s milestone, it’s simply another link between him and the Hall of Fame catcher whose number resides on the right-field facade.

Not only are Fisk and Varitek linked by their status as the best catchers in the long history of the Boston Red Sox, they are linked by the two greatest postseason memories in that history — Fisk with his wave-it-fair Game 6 home run in 1975, and Varitek finally cracking a smile as he leapt into the arms of Keith Foulke in 2004.

I wasn’t there, but I suspect Red Sox fans were all a little bit of Carlton Fisk in 1975: Jumping, waving, gesturing — then leaping, screaming, fist-pumping as the ball hit the pole. I know we were all a little bit of Jason Varitek in 2004: Waiting, hoping, disbelieving — then running, jumping, grinning like fools.

We’re still grinning, Jason. Thank you, and congratulations.

13 comments… add one
  • Well said, SF. For just this night, I’ve forgotten the last few months. I know I’m still grinning.
    He’s widely recognized by players on several teams as being a great game caller and defensice stopper that will always escort the batter to first to stand up for his pitcher. Imagine all the times Pedro would have been in real trouble if not for Tek.

    Brad July 18, 2006, 11:23 pm
  • meant to say defensive in that post.

    Brad July 18, 2006, 11:24 pm
  • If not for that picture above, Tek would be best remembered (and he still made a couple of book covers for it) for the glove in A-Rod’s face — a defining moment for all involved…

    Paul SF July 18, 2006, 11:33 pm
  • I liked it better when he was paired with a piece of toast. More accurate.
    900 saves for Mo? Are you anticipating a 50 year career for the great one. I admire your optimism. Thanks for the good thoughts.;)

    Nick-YF July 18, 2006, 11:38 pm
  • yeah, but why honor something great with something, albeit a great moment, negative? The night belongs to Tek and his accomplishments, none of which should be a fight with ARod. He’s done so much more in his time here, and for most of the time conducted himself with dignity. I have no questions in my mind that if he could have changed that fight, even though it endeared him to all of us forever, he would.

    Brad July 18, 2006, 11:39 pm
  • yeah, but why honor something great with something, albeit a great moment, negative? The night belongs to Tek and his accomplishments, none of which should be a fight with ARod. He’s done so much more in his time here, and for most of the time conducted himself with dignity. I have no questions in my mind that if he could have changed that fight, even though it endeared him to all of us forever, he would.

    Brad July 18, 2006, 11:40 pm
  • sorry for the double there…

    Brad July 18, 2006, 11:41 pm
  • Nick, over the past few years we’ve all said the same about Pudge, Posada and others. When these guys go cold, it’s unreal how cold they are. I know, and I hope you do too, that all are too good to stay cold for too long (even though Tek’s streak is getting crazy). He’ll come around just like the other, that I’m sure of.

    Brad July 18, 2006, 11:49 pm
  • Whoops, lol, Sorry Nick. 400 saves. It’s corrected now. More accurate? Not sure about that, Nick :-P I’m sure you were joking — after all, how can an opinion be more accurate than a fact?
    Hehe
    Brad, I agree. Tek’s accomplishments span much more than a measly fight, ehich is why I didn’t post the pic up there. But I dont see what’s wrong with the fight, and I don’t know why Tek would regret it. Fighting is part of baseball as much as home runs and strikeouts. Tek was protecting his pitcher and probably engaging in some well-timed fire-lighting. Nothing wrong with that…

    Paul SF July 18, 2006, 11:59 pm
  • oh i don’t think there is anything wrong with it, juts not apropos for this spot is all. I loved the fight!

    Brad July 19, 2006, 12:32 am
  • I’d still like to know what buffoon “forgot” to mail Pudge’s contract all those years ago.
    Varitek is one of my favorite Red Sox players ever, though. (Which has made watching his struggles this year all the more agonizing.) The 991 is a true testimate to his legacy in Boston and to his amazing durability–he’s only been on the DL once in his whole career. Considering he’s under contract for two more seasons, his record, whatever it turns out to be, will likely stand up even longer than Fisk’s did.
    Congrats to the Captain–he’s earned it.

    mouse July 19, 2006, 1:59 am
  • Catcher, Captain. The most difficult, complex and honored positions in baseball. Jason Varitek is a Catcher and a Captain, and I have the utmost respect for what he has done. Propers, Captain.

    attackgerbil July 19, 2006, 2:14 am
  • Pudge was my hero- I was a catcher in little league (career spanning 1975-1981 – I may have been the first slap hitting behemoth in baseball history) and Fisk, at the time, was a God to me. Tek is currently one of my faves as well, but I don’t think anyone can replace Pudge as my all-time #1. There is just too much history, sentimentality, and drama involved with Fisk from what were the formative years of my life as a Sox fan for that to happen. But he’s a worthy inheritor of Fisk’s legacy, for sure, and congrats to him on this accomplishment.

    SF July 19, 2006, 10:26 am

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.