Tribute: Johnny Pesky

Johnny Pesky salutes the fans in his old style jersey

Johnny Pesky salutes the fans in his classic Red Sox jersey.

Johnny Pesky (Red Sox shortstop/third baseman: 1942, 1946–1952)
[Lived September 27, 1919 – August 13, 2012]

Johnny Pesky, a former Boston Red Sox player, manager and broadcaster and one of the most beloved men in the team’s storied history, died on Monday, August 13, 2012.  He was 92 years old.

He was a shortstop and third baseman during a ten-year Major League playing career, playing in 1,270 games in 1942 and from 1946-1954 for three different teams.  He missed the 1943–1945 seasons while serving in World War II (along with another Red Sox legend, Ted Williams).  He was born John Michael Paveskovich in Portland, Oregon, the son of Croat immigrants.  Major League Baseball has Johnny’s date of birth as September 27, 1919, an adjustment made by Pesky in 1939 to meet baseball scouting age limits for tryouts.  He changed his name to Pesky, which fit better in a box score.  Pesky played for Lincoln High School, and later for the Portland Babes, Bend Elks and Silverton Red Sox.  A skilled ice hockey player, he once worked out with the Boston Bruins.  Pesky was associated with the Boston Red Sox for a whopping 61 of his 73 years in baseball — from 1940 through June 3, 1952; 1961 through 1964; and from 1969 until his death.  Pesky also managed the Red Sox from 1963–1964, and in September 1980.  His biography Mr. Red Sox, by Bill Nowlin, is available from by Rounder Books.

A left-handed hitter who threw right-handed, Pesky was a tough man for pitchers to strike out. He was the first AL player to score 6 runs in a 9 inning game.  As a hitter, he specialized in getting on base, leading the American League in base hits three times — his first three seasons in the majors, in which he collected over 200 hits each year — and was among the top ten in on base percentage six times while batting .307 in 4,745 at bats as a Major Leaguer.  During his career, he also had 1,455 hits and 404 runs batted in.  He was also an excellent bunter who led the league in sacrifice hits in 1942.  He was a teammate and close friend of Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr and Dom DiMaggio.  Their friendship was chronicled in David Halberstam’s book The Teammates.

In 2006, the Red Sox officially named the right-field foul pole at Fenway Park “Pesky’s Pole,” and in April, 2008, Pesky was given the honor of raising the Red Sox’ 2007 World Series championship banner.  On September 23, 2008, the Red Sox announced that they would retire the No. 6 Pesky wore as a player to mark his 89th birthday and his long years of service to the club.  Pesky’s was the sixth number retired by the Red Sox.  However, it was the first to break the club’s code to have a number retired: being in the Baseball Hall of Fame and having spent at least ten years with the Red Sox.

Pesky was with the Red Sox, in one capacity or another, for more than six decades!  He was so highly involved with everything Red Sox that pretty much every person in New England knew him, had met him, and/or had a story about him.  He was automatically everyone’s friend and the smile that he always wore brought joy to our hearts.  He will be greatly missed.  May he rest in peace.

Further Reading:
* Johnny Pesky on Wikipedia
* Johnny Pesky, beloved by Red Sox fans, dies at 92

A video Remembering Johnny Pesky:
Sports Final: Remembering Johnny Pesky

Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr at Fenway's 100th Anniversary Game (April 20, 2012)

Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr at Fenway’s 100th Anniversary Game (April 20, 2012).

Johnny Pesky still knew how to slug 'em

Johnny Pesky still knew how to slug ’em.

Johnny Pesky and David Ortiz

Johnny Pesky with David Ortiz.

Pesky's Pole (a.k.a. The Pesky Pole)

Johnny Pesky only had 17 career homers, but the Sox named the right-field foul pole after him because it gives power-deprived left-handed hitters a short porch.

Johnny Pesky raising the 2007 World Series banner on Fenway's Opening Day in 2008

Johnny Pesky raising the 2007 World Series banner on Fenway’s Opening Day in 2008.

Johnny Pesky player photo

One of Johnny Pesky’s player photos.

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