Johnny Pesky: Forever a Red Sox
Field of Dreams, one of the most popular baseball movies of all time, once proclaimed “The one constant through all the years has been baseball.” Here in Boston, the one constant through all the years has been Johnny Pesky.
On Monday, the spirits of baseball fans around the world and especially in Boston were dampened by the news of Johnny Pesky’s death. The beloved ballplayer was 92 years old.
Pesky was born in 1919 and first put on a Red Sox jersey and joined the Red Sox as a 22-year-old in 1942. He did not spend his entire career with the Red Sox – Pesky had stints with the Tigers and Washington Senators toward the end of his career, but he was a Red Sox at heart. Some of his best years at Fenway were spent alongside Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr and Dom DiMaggio, who were his teammates and closest friends. Of the four, only Doerr is still alive.
Pesky was a good player – he had a .313 career average with the Red Sox and may have had better numbers if not for the three seasons he took off from the team in order to serve his country in World War II.
When his playing days were over, Pesky did not need a formal title (although he had many) to stick around the team. He was an ever-present figure at Fenway Park in all manners of roles. For 61 of his 73 years in baseball, Pesky was a Red Sox, and he was always a confidant to any player donning a Boston jersey. He was constantly in the dugout with the team. Three times, others tried to keep Pesky from sitting in the dugout, and three times, Pesky returned. Every player loved Pesky – that much was proven when, at Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary celebration, every former Red Sox player in attendance surrounded Pesky and Doerr at second base to wish him well and say hello.
In 2004, when the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years (and the first time in Pesky’s life), Red Sox stars such as Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield and Johnny Damon made a point to include Pesky in the celebrations as well. He was in the champagne-filled locker room and days later, he had his place in the celebratory parade.
Pesky helped raise both the 2004 and 2007 World Series Champion banners to the top of the Fenway flagpole. His No. 6 was officially retired by the Red Sox in 2008, and all Red Sox fans know of the Pesky pole, the foul pole in right field named after the man who just barely wrapped a home run around it to help Mel Parnell win a game. Pesky had just 17 home runs in his major league career.
Johnny Pesky loved the Red Sox, and the franchise and its fans loved him right back. If there is any man who could carry the title Mr. Red Sox, it is Pesky, and although he is no longer here in body, he will always be a part of the Red Sox in spirit. He lived life well and he lived it to the fullest, and now Pesky will once again join his beloved teammates – Ted Williams and Dom DiMaggio.