EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 13, 2012

Red Sox icon Johnny Pesky dies


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — BOSTON - Boston Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky died today at age 92.

Pesky was a player, manager, coach, scout and broadcaster for the Red Sox during his six decades with the team.

He was a teammate of Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr and a mentor to generations of Red Sox who followed, including stars Jim Rice and Nomar Garciaparra.

He may well have become a Hall of Famer himself, but missed three years of playing time while serving in the military during World War II. He later played for the Sox from 1946-52.

As an infielder he had a had a career .307 lifetime batting average.

His number 6 has been retired by the Red Sox.

On April 20 of this year, Boston Red Sox fans celebrated the 100th birthday of Fenway Park, and Pesky was a participant. He was wheeled out to second base in a wheelchair, aside Doerr, to join over 200 past Red Sox players and coaches through the decades.

Pesky gained a measure of infamy in the 1946 World Series when it was said he “held the ball” as Enos Slaughter dashed around the bases, scoring from first with the deciding run in Game 7 against the St. Louis Cardinals. Many baseball historians agree that it was a bad rap against Pesky and more a case of Slaughter’s aggressiveness and bad outfield play on the part of the Sox that made the difference.

Born John Michael Paveskovich on Sept. 27, 1919 he was nicknamed "The Needle."

He was a shortstop and third baseman during a ten-year Major League playing career, appearing in 1,270 games played in 1942 and from 1946-1954 for three different teams. He missed the 1943–1945 seasons while serving in World War II.

Pesky has been associated with the Boston Red Sox for 61 of his 73 years in baseball.

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. He was also an excellent bunter who led the league in sacrifice hits in 1942.

As a teammate of Williams, Doerr and Dom DiMaggio, their friendship was chronicled in David Halberstam's book The Teammates.

The right field foul pole at Fenway Park, just 302 feet from home plate, is named the Pesky Pole in his honor even though Pesky hit just 17 homers in his career, six at Fenway Park.

Former teammate and Sox broadcaster Mel Parnell named the pole after Pesky. The story goes that Pesky won a game for Parnell in 1948 with a home run down the short right field line, just around the pole. Being that Pesky was a contact hitter who hit only 17 home runs—six of them at Fenway Park—in 4,745 at bats in the major leagues, it's quite possible that the home runs he hit there landed in close proximity to the pole. Research, however, shows that Pesky hit just one home run in a game pitched by Parnell, a two-run shot in the first inning of a game against Detroit played on June 11, 1950. The game was eventually won by the visiting Tigers in the 14th inning on a three-run shot by Tigers right fielder Vic Wertz and Parnell earned a no-decision that day.