Carlton Fisk and Tony Perez, whose careers crossed paths heroically as opponents in the memorable 1975 World Series and again as teammates in 1980, were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday. It was the second year on the ballot for Fisk, the ninth try for Perez.
Fisk, who set major league records by catching 2,226 games and hitting 351 homers as a catcher, received 397 votes out of 499 ballots (79.6 percent), while Perez, a powerful first baseman on Cincinnati's famed Big Red Machine of the 1970s, received 385 votes (77.2 percent). They will be inducted during ceremonies July 23 in Cooperstown, N.Y.
To be elected, a player must be named on at least 75 percent of the ballots. Voting is done by 10-year members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Among those falling short were Jim Rice (257 votes), Gary Carter (248), Bruce Sutter (192), Goose Gossage (166), Steve Garvey (160), Tommy John (135), Jim Kaat (125), Dale Murphy (116), Jack Morris (111), Dave Parker (104), Bert Blyleven (87), Luis Tiant (86), Dave Concepcion (67), Keith Hernandez (52) and Ron Guidry (44).
Fisk said he and his family "all had tears in our eyes" when the call came yesterday. "It's been 35 years since I started playing, and I put my heart and soul and a lot of things on the back-burner to even be considered for this. It's quite a proud moment."
When Perez, the first Cuban to be elected to the Hall, received the long-awaited call at his San Juan, Puerto Rico, home, he asked the caller, "Are you sure?" before he and his family launched into a "wild" celebration.
The two were opponents in the 1975 World Series between Fisk's Red Sox and Perez's Reds, and their heroic home runs helped turn it into a classic. Fisk ended Game 6 with a 12th-inning blast down the left-field line, and his animated body language, as he attempted to "push" the ball fair, is one of baseball's enduring images.
Less remembered is Perez's sixth-inning home run in Game 7, which launched the Reds from a 3-0 deficit to a 4-3, series-clinching victory.
"Tony always had a knack of being the guy who broke the game open or sealed the game shut," Fisk said. "I'll be proud to be able to stand on the same podium as him."
Perez had fallen short on eight previous ballots, despite the fact that his career RBI total of 1,652 is the highest of any eligible player not already in the Hall. This year, a concerted public relations campaign by friends in Cincinnati and Miami--where he is an executive with the Florida Marlins--perhaps helped push him over the top.
"It's sweet now that I'm in," said Perez, who also hit 379 homers. "It doesn't matter how long I had to wait. . . . [But] if I didn't make it this year, I thought I'd never be elected. There are a lot of good players coming up the next few years. This was my best chance."
Players become eligible for the Hall five years after retirement. Next year's class includes Dave Winfield, Kirby Puckett, Don Mattingly and Lou Whitaker, and the following year Ozzie Smith and Andre Dawson will become eligible.
Although Fisk is best remembered for his years in Boston, he spent the bulk of his career--13 of his 24 seasons--with the Chicago White Sox, and Fisk yesterday deflected questions about which team's cap he will wear at his induction and on his Hall of Fame plaque. Although he left Boston acrimoniously after the 1980 season, he returned as a special assistant to the manager last season.
"I enjoyed playing in both places," said Fisk, who becomes only the 13th catcher elected to the Hall, and the first since Johnny Bench. "But I'm going to have to reserve my final decision for a little while. I have to think about it a little more. Too bad I can't wear both of them."
The Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee will hold a separate vote Feb. 29, with manager Sparky Anderson--who guided Perez and the Reds in the 1970s--and Minnesota Twins slugger Tony Oliva the most likely candidates for election.