Monday, December 9, 2013
From staff reports
Adored by generations of Red Sox fans, Johnny Pesky was so much a part of Boston baseball that the right-field foul pole at Fenway Park was named for him.
In this Sept. 28, 2008, file photo, Boston Red Sox great Johnny Pesky, center, is flanked by team president Larry Lucchino, left, and owner John Henry as they look past Pesky's Pole where Pesky's No. 6 adorns the upper deck during a ceremony to retire his number prior to a baseball game against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park in Boston. Pesky, who spent most of his 60-plus years in pro baseball with the Red Sox and was beloved by the team's fans, has died on Monday, Aug. 13, 2012, in Danvers, Mass. He was 92. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
In this Aug. 31, 2006, file photo, Boston Red Sox great Johnny Pesky lifts his cap during a television interview before a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Boston. Pesky, who spent most of his 60-plus years in pro baseball with the Red Sox and was beloved by the team's fans, has died on Monday, Aug. 13, 2012, in Danvers, Mass. He was 92. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
Pesky, who played, managed and served as a broadcaster for the Red Sox in a baseball career that lasted more than 60 years, died Monday. He was 92.
"The national pastime has lost one of its greatest ambassadors," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said. "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."
Pesky died just more than a week after his final visit to Fenway, on Aug. 5 when Boston beat the Minnesota Twins 6-4.
Yet for many in the legion of Red Sox fans, their last image of Pesky will be from the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park on April 20, when the man known for his warmth, kindness and outstanding baseball career was moved to tears at a pregame ceremony. By then the former shortstop was in a wheelchair positioned at second base, surrounded by dozens of admiring former players and a cheering crowd.
"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," ex-pitcher Pedro Martinez said in comments provided by the Red Sox. "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."
It was at another ceremony less than six years earlier that Pesky's name was officially inscribed in the rich history of the Red Sox and their home, a fitting tribute to a career .307 hitter and longtime teammate and friend of Ted Williams.
On his 87th birthday, Sept. 27, 2006, a plaque was unveiled at the base of the foul pole just 302 feet from home plate, designating it "Pesky's Pole."
The term was coined by former Red Sox pitcher Mel Parnell, who during a broadcast in the 1950s recalled Pesky winning a game for him with a home run around the pole. From there, a legend seemed to grow that Pesky frequently curled shots that way — actually, only six of his 17 career home runs came at Fenway.
In fact, team records show that Pesky never hit a home run at Fenway in which Parnell was the winning pitcher. Still, Pesky's spot in the hearts of Red Sox players and fans alike is indisputable.
"This is a very sad day for me and for anyone who has ever spent any time with Mr. Pesky. He was the most positive influence I ever came across who wore the Red Sox uniform," said Jason Varitek, the team's former captain.
"He was always there through the good and bad times with the same smile and passion for his team. 'Hello my honeysuckle, hello my honey bee, my ever lovin' Jason just got three,' Johnny used to say, wishing me three hits that night."
Even though Pesky was a fan favorite, he still had his own place of notoriety in Boston's drought of 86 years without a championship. He was long blamed for holding the ball on a key relay in Game 7 of the 1946 World Series, though it's a place that many now think is undeserved.
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This Feb. 26, 1952, file photo shows Boston Red Sox infielder Johnny Pesky during baseball spring training in Sarasota, Fla. Pesky, who spent most of his 60-plus years in pro baseball with the Red Sox and was beloved by the team's fans, has died on Monday, Aug. 13, 2012, in Danvers, Mass. He was 92. (AP Photo, File)
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In this April 20, 2012, file photo, Boston Red Sox great Johnny Pesky, center, is greeted by former player Nomar Garciaparra, left, and others during a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first regular-season baseball game at Fenway Park prior to the Red Sox taking on the New York Yankees in Boston. Pesky, who spent most of his 60-plus years in pro baseball with the Red Sox and was beloved by the team's fans, has died on Monday, Aug. 13, in Danvers, Mass. He was 92. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
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