“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.”
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 he was in a wheelchair positioned at second base, surrounded by dozens of admiring former players and a cheering crowd.
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.
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.
“Johnny Pesky will forever be linked to the Boston Red Sox,” Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said. “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.”
“I’ve had an interesting life,” Pesky told The Associated Press in 2005. “I have no complaints.”
Longtime Red Sox fans recall the days when Pesky was a talented shortstop and manager for the team. Younger ones saw him as an avuncular presence at the Red Sox spring training camp in Fort Myers, Fla.View Entire Story
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