Monday, August 13, 2012

Remembering Johnny Pesky

After sixty-six seasons (forty-four consecutive) with the Boston Red Sox as player, coach, broadcaster, consultant, manager, ambassador, and general all-around good guy, Johnny Pesky has passed away at the age of 92.

Pesky was a beloved member of the Boston Red Sox organization for more than a half-century, and he saw hundreds of players come and go.  He was a mainstay at decades of spring trainings, and a constant presence at Fenway Park, participating in ceremonial events late into this season, including the 100th Anniversary of Fenway Park and the honoring of Jason Varitek.

Pesky had a ceremony of his own in 2008, when the Red Sox retired his number 6 and hung it from the right field wall with legends like his former teammates Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr.  Pesky did not technically have the qualifications required by the Red Sox for a retired number: players must have played at least ten years with the Sox -Pesky had eight (though dozens more once he was done playing); they must have have retired as a member of the team - Pesky retired after a season with the Senators; and they must be inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame.

Though Johnny Pesky was never voted into the HoF at Cooperstown, he was certainly a player of the highest caliber. In his ten season career, Pesky had 1455 hits, 226 doubles, 50 triples, 404 RBI, 662 walks, and a batting average of .307.  After a rookie season in 1942 where he finished third in MVP voting, Pesky went off to serve his country, missing three seasons in his prime.  He came back in 1946 and finished fourth in MVP voting after a trip to the All Star Game (the AL defeated the NL handily, 12-0).

Pesky hit just seventeen home runs in his ten year stint in the majors, and his propensity for wrapping them around the right field foul pole at Fenway (the shortest home run distance in the majors, at 302 feet from home plate) got the pole named after him.

Pesky has been a reliable presence around the Red Sox for dozens of different teams and a constant role model for hundreds of players.  Anyone who would like to learn more about Johnny Pesky as a player and a person should read The Teammates: A Portrait of Friendship, by David Halberstam. You might recognize the featured athletes (Pesky, Williams, Doerr, and Dom DiMaggio) from the teammates statue outside Fenway.

Johnny Pesky had the kind of life most people dream of having, and he'll be forever remembered by thousands of men and women across Red Sox Nation.

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