Johnny Pesky, a beloved Boston Red Sox icon, who spent more than a half-century in the organization as a player, manager and commentator for the team, passed away yesterday at the age of 92. Pesky, whose name became synonymous with the right field foul pole at Fenway Park played ten seasons in the Majors, eight of which were spent with the Red Sox. His career was interrupted for three years from 1943 – 1945 due to military service during World War II.
The 5-foot-9 shortstop hit only 17 career home runs, but the legend of one he supposedly hit on behalf of Red Sox pitcher Mel Parnell in 1948 – just inside the right field foul pole, 302 feet from home plate – earned the landmark the moniker “Pesky’s Pole.” The nickname became official in 2006.
It’s worth noting that the love and respect for Johnny Pesky extends beyond the Red Sox organization. The team was not scheduled to play last night, and so the above image was actually taken from Yankee Stadium, home to Boston’s fiercest rival, where fans and players honoured his memory with a moment of silence. Such are the massive boundaries of admiration for Mr. Pesky.
His career numbers:
From MLB Commissioner Bud Selig:
The national pastime has lost one of its greatest ambassadors today. Johnny Pesky, who led a great American life, was an embodiment of loyalty and goodwill for the Boston Red Sox and all of Major League Baseball. A part of the Greatest Generation and forever one of “The Teammates,” Johnny was a wonderful player who excelled alongside his dear friends Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr and Dom DiMaggio. Just as importantly, Johnny touched the hearts of hundreds of Red Sox players and its legion of fans around the world.
From Red Sox president Larry Lucchino:
Johnny Pesky will forever be linked to the Boston Red Sox. He has been as much a part of Fenway Park as his retired Number 6 that rests on the right-field facade, or the foul pole below it that bears his name.
From former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez:
I feel like part of the Red Sox tradition just died because when I think of Johnny I think of him hitting fungos at spring training. We will all miss him so much. He was such a representative of everything that happened in Boston. It’s hard to think of the success, defeat, and all we went through without Johnny. You couldn’t do anything without Johnny Pesky.
From Boston mayor Thomas Menino:
All of Red Sox Nation mourns the loss of `Mr. Red Sox,’ Johnny Pesky. He loved the game and he loved the fans — and we loved him. His dedication to the sport and his passion to improve the game through the mentorship of young players will be sorely missed. Our hearts go out to the Red Sox organization and all of Johnny’s family and many friends.
I would occasionally drive up to his home in Swampscott on some pretense — “I need a quote,” I’d say — but really, I just wanted to hear his stories. Johnny used to joke that his autograph was only worth about 10 cents. Johnny was right. That’s because pretty much everyone had one.
Naturally friendly and willing to talk to anyone, he gave people reason to feel good about the Red Sox . . . and at times, during rough stretches in their sometimes rocky history, just about the only reason. People inside baseball loved Pesky as much as the fans; he was tireless and upbeat, and would work with players endlessly.
And The Rest
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Debate continues to rage over the Washington Nationals plan to shut down Stephen Strasburg. [ESPN]
It seems as though the move is a begrudgingly accepted one in the Nats’ locker room. [Washington Post]
The very best of #FakePiratesAuction. [Raise The Jolly Roger]
The decline of Boston Red Sox starter Josh Beckett. [Baseball Prospectus]
The Bryce Harper we should have expected isn’t the immediately dominating superstar we hoped for. [Baseball Nation]
The missing piece in the puzzle that is the New York Mets. [Mets Merized]
The odds are stacked against the St. Louis Cardinals. [Viva El Birdos]
Swing at everything, don’t worry about on base percentage. [Baseball Time In Arlington]
The greatest baseball pogs of all-time, ever. [Old Time Family Baseball]
The 2012 Royals and the illusion, not the trick, Michael, of team chemistry. [Rany On The Royals]