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Johnny Pesky tribute at Fenway Park

A franchise rich in history and tradition, the Boston Red Sox feature a multitude of legendary players who have worn the uniform over the last century. One of the most beloved figures in Red Sox history was honored on Sunday at Fenway Park.

Boston paid tribute to Johnny Pesky in a ceremony after the team’s 2-1 victory over Baltimore. Pesky – who spent much of his life affiliated with the Red Sox as a player, coach, manager, broadcaster and ambassador – died on August 13 at the age of 93.

Current and former Red Sox players like Carlton Fisk, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Bill Lee, Jim Rice and Dustin Pedroia shared stories about the man who could have generated Hall of Fame worthy numbers if he had played the three seasons he spent serving in the military during World War II.

During his rookie season in 1942, Pesky finished third in American League Most Valuable Player Award voting with a .331 average and an American League-leading 205 hits. From 1943 to 1945, he did not play because of his military service.  When he returned, Pesky again topped the AL in hits with 208 in 1946 and 207 in 1947.

Over 10 Major League seasons, eight of which were spent with the Red Sox, Pesky hit just 17 home runs (including 13 for the Sox). The right field foul pole at Fenway Park bears his name because it was jokingly said that wrapping the ball around the pole (which is a short distance from home plate) was the only way he could get a home run.

“Any time you see Boston, you remember a legend,” Martinez said. “One of the few legends that I got to spend time with and actually share a lot of moments – I can say a lot of moments – was Johnny. Everywhere in the city of Boston, you seem to have Johnny Pesky.

“I know that every story about every season that ever started had started with Johnny Pesky in spring training,” Martinez said. “That was the first face you saw in spring training. Once you get there, you see that old man with the fungo. Everyone will tell you, ‘That’s Johnny Pesky. That’s who the Pesky Pole is named after,’”

Pesky – who was a defensively sound shortstop, second baseman and third baseman; and had a .307 career average – fortunately lived to experience Boston’s World Series titles in 2004 and 2007 after experiencing heartbreak losing in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1946 World Series.

In an otherwise forgettable season for the Red Sox, there was reason to smile when hearing the stories and listening to what Pesky meant to the organization he cherished.

“John was always there to talk to me,” Pedroia said. “He would say, ‘Smile. Have fun. This game is fun.’”

On Sunday, following a rare Red Sox victory, the stories that were told and memories that were shared about a Boston baseball legend was captivating. For one afternoon, the fun returned to Fenway Park.

By Jeff Louderback
Monday, 24 Sep 2012

 

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