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Red Sox finally retire Fisk's jersey No. 27

BOSTON — On his way off the field after his number was retired by the Boston Red Sox, Carlton Fisk stopped to say goodbye to an old friend.

The Hall of Fame catcher paused in front of Fenway Park's Green Monster on Monday and held his framed uniform No. 27 next to the left-field foul pole that helped make him a hero in the 1975 World Series.

"This is an event that, even as a player, you're a fan," said Red Sox first baseman Rico Brogna, who grew up in Turners Falls imitating Fisk's famous Game 6 homer in backyard whiffle ball games.

"Everyone was out there in the dugout on the top step and applauding with the fans. I think you realize, as a Red Sox player, whether you grew up in New England or not, everything that he accomplished."

The Red Sox retired Fisk's No. 27 in a pregame ceremony Monday, hanging it on the right-field facade with the retired numbers of Bobby Doerr (1), Joe Cronin (4), Carl Yastrzemski (8) and Ted Williams (9), as well as Jackie Robinson (42).

"Carlton Fisk may tell you that growing up in New Hampshire he dreamed of playing for the Red Sox. I'm here to tell you that growing up in Massachusetts, I dreamed of being Carlton Fisk," general manager Dan Duquette said. "He's a big, old, handsome, stubborn, methodical, fiery, Yankee New Englander who accomplished all those dreams."

Drums beat and a fanfare sounded as a garage door in center field lifted and Fisk walked onto the field where he spent the first nine of his 22 full seasons in the major leagues. Instead of walking straight to a podium at second base, he traveled the perimeter of the field to slap hands with fans and ballpark employees.

A scoreboard tribute began with the radio call of his arm-waving, body-bending, game-ending homer in the '75 Series. After running through some more highlights of Fisk's time in Boston — including a fight with Yankees outfielder Lou Piniella, who is now the Mariners manager — the video ended by showing the 12th-inning homer off Pat Darcy that sent the Series to a seventh game.

Fisk may be known best for his heroics in one game, but he played his way into the Hall of Fame with a multitude of them. He caught 2,226 games — more than any catcher in history, and hit a major league record 351 of his 376 homers as a catcher.

"He played the game the right way," said Yastrzemski, who was a teammate for all of Fisk's time in Boston. "Pudge earned his way into the Hall of Fame with years of performance excellence."

But a quote from Fisk posted on the scoreboard summed it up as well as anything: "If the human body recognized agony and frustration, people would never run marathons, have babies or play baseball."

All of Fisk's longevity milestones were reached after he left Boston for the White Sox in an acrimonious contract dispute following the 1980 season. Chicago has already retired the No. 72 he wore for 13 years, though there was no mention of the second half of his career during the ceremony or on the posters given to fans.

For Fisk, who grew up dreaming of playing basketball for the Boston Celtics and was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame this summer, having his number retired next to Williams' made the honor even more special.

"It was like I was somebody important," Fisk said. "I think when you play, you never really realize the impact you had."

Before leaving the field, Fisk took part in a role-reversing first pitch, throwing to his longtime batterymate Luis Tiant. On his way out, Fisk shook hands with several players near the Mariners dugout, including Alex Rodriguez, Mark McLemore and coach Larry Bowa.

Piniella wasn't around, but he grabbed Fisk after the ceremony and gave him a big hug.

"Fisk was a tremendous competitor, very worthy of the Hall of Fame," his former rival said after the game. "The team thing aside, you respect his pride and his passion. He's getting all the accolades he deserves."