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Carlton Fisk and Thurman Munson beefed over their teams, all-star votes, commercials, and handsomeness

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The Red Sox’ and Yankees’ star catchers of the 1970s had a list of reasons to fight, and most of them were commonalities.

At first glance, Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk seemed like polar opposites. Scowling, mustachioed Munson considered himself the overlooked hero, who always felt like his talents weren’t appreciated, especially his willingness to play through pain and injury. Tall, clean-shaven Fisk was embraced by media and advertisers, though he played with a tenacity that the commercials and magazine covers didn’t reflect. Combine those difference with the standard issue Boston-New York bristliness and boom, rivalry!

Except ... that’s not really why these two clashed. It wasn’t the differences that made Munson vs. Fisk a thing. It was the similarities. These were two catchers transcending traditional limitations of the position and, in the process, helping their teams play for championships. Fisk had the public acclaim that Munson felt he’d earned, and Fisk probably looked at Munson’s two World Series titles with some envy of his own. At various points, they both admitted they’d have enjoyed playing together (though, obviously, someone was gonna have to change positions and I’m sure that would have been a fun discussion). You don’t say that unless you respect the other guy’s work.

That’s the thing that really made this rivalry. When Munson and Fisk looked at each other, they didn’t see an unworthy competitor. They saw talent and determination. It was in the uniform of a rival, and so that made it a threat. A challenge. And Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk freaking LOVED a challenge.