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Johnny Pesky: 1919-2012

Aug 13, 2012, 3:57 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox Getty Images

One of the most beloved figures in Boston Red Sox history, Johnny Pesky, has died at the age of 92.

Pesky played ten seasons in the majors, eight in Boston, with brief stops in Detroit and Washington toward the end of his career. He missed three full seasons due to military service during World War II.

Over the course of his career he hit .307 with a fantastic .394 on base percentage. While he wasn’t much of a slugger — he had 17 career homers — his name will forever adorn the short right field foul pole at Fenway Park, Pesky’s Pole, which it is often claimed he used to his advantage. Of course, given that he only hit six homers in Fenway Park in his career, it’s not necessarily accurate, but legends are often made of more things than mere facts.

Pesky was much better known in recent years as a fixture with the Boston Red Sox, serving in any number of capacities. He managed the team in 1963 and 1964. After a detour to coach in Pittsburgh he returned to Boston where he was a radio and television commentator from the late 60s through the mid 70s. He then held a number of coaching jobs with the Sox, including first base coach, bench coach and hitting coach. He served as an interim manager after Don Zimmer was axed with five games to go in the 1980 season.

Since the early 90s Pesky was an instructor and front office assistant. Unlike most instructors he’d often be in uniform and would even sit on the bench during games. His presence during those years in many ways turned him into the embodiment of the old, allegedly cursed Boston Red Sox, and he was often center stage as the team ramped up for and eventually won the World Series in 2004 and 2007. In 2008 his number 6 was retired by the Red Sox.

Farewell, Johnny Pesky.

  1. 18thstreet - Aug 13, 2012 at 4:02 PM

    Rest in peace, Johnny.

  2. ryanc - Aug 13, 2012 at 4:05 PM

    Bummer, such a nice guy. He’ll be missed.

  3. Old Gator - Aug 13, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    Great guy, great folklore, and a great name for a punch-and-judy hitter if there ever was one.

  4. mybrunoblog - Aug 13, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    RIP. Pesky was a true gentleman and a great ambassador for the game.

  5. muir6 - Aug 13, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    Bummer not many legends of his era left

  6. Stiller43 - Aug 13, 2012 at 4:16 PM

    RIP to a WW2 vet. Much respect.

  7. stlouis1baseball - Aug 13, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    As someone else stated…not many left from his era.
    R.I.P. Johnny Pesky.

  8. snowbirdgothic - Aug 13, 2012 at 4:27 PM

    Very sorry to hear that he’s gone.

  9. hammyofdoom - Aug 13, 2012 at 4:37 PM

    Oof, my heart sank at that headline. One of the coolest memories I have watching baseball was seeing Pesky cry as his number was retired by the Red Sox. Plus every year saying “Play ball” before the first home game, he will be missed.

  10. pisano - Aug 13, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    Rest in peace Johnny, a great man and a Boston legend.

  11. roverboy1949 - Aug 13, 2012 at 4:51 PM

    Good-bye Johnny. I saw you mant times from the bleachers when I was a kid. Glad you saw the Sox win it all, twice! Say hi to Ted, Frank, Jackie, Tony C.,and the rest from me. My Dad may try to get your autograph when he sees you.

  12. Detroit Michael - Aug 13, 2012 at 4:53 PM

    Doesn’t matter that he played for other teams: he’s a Red Sox lifer. I guess I have to say “was” now. Rest in peace.

  13. crisisjunky - Aug 13, 2012 at 4:53 PM

    One of the greatest rookie seasons EVER for a shortstop, .331/100 runs!!
    probably lost HOF credentials to WWll.
    Farewell Mr. Paveskovitch.

  14. gregbeau - Aug 13, 2012 at 4:57 PM

    You could see this was coming when he appeared at the 100th anniversary celebrations, but it is still a sad day. But he had an amazing life and leaves a tremendous legacy. Farewell, Johnny.

  15. hokiegajanisgod - Aug 13, 2012 at 4:59 PM

    Can you imagine how much better the stats of some of the best player’s of that era would have been had the war never happened?

    • professorperry - Aug 13, 2012 at 5:35 PM

      Well, yeah. Yet another reason for Canseco to use that time machine to go kill Hitler.

      • hokiegajanisgod - Aug 13, 2012 at 6:50 PM

        Canseco??? F that goon; he probably wouldn’t even know who Hitler was.

        I’ll gladly hitch a ride in that time machine, head over to Deutschland, and shank that mofo in the back :)

  16. delusionalcardsfan - Aug 13, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    Johnny was an incredible ball player and an even better American. Godspeed sir.

  17. baseballisboring - Aug 13, 2012 at 5:31 PM

    RIP! I have a couple autographed Johnny Pesky balls, I was lucky enough to meet him a couple times. Great guy.

  18. stairwayto7 - Aug 13, 2012 at 5:39 PM

    If he did not play for Boston, the media would not care!

    • hammyofdoom - Aug 13, 2012 at 6:54 PM

      Possibly the stupidest, crudest comment I’ve seen on here in a long time. The media cares about this guy because he was in baseball for 61 years, was a WWII veteran and a genuinely nice guy. The fact you have two thumbs up disgusts me

      • raysfan1 - Aug 13, 2012 at 8:42 PM

        Stairwayto7 is a well known dumbass troll over on College Football Talk whose particular thing is to whine that Penn State is being picked on, that everyone else is worse, etc, using non sequiturs as his justification.

        I see he is now branching out and proving himself a multi-faceted classless jack off.

    • cosanostra71 - Aug 13, 2012 at 10:16 PM

      Even as a noted Boston hater, you sir, are an asshole and a terrible human being.

  19. dan46778 - Aug 13, 2012 at 6:06 PM

    The greatest baseball moment in the 2000’s was then wakelfield Otiz bought the 2004 world series trophy to him after the game new england and true members of redsox national will remember u R.I.P

  20. willclarkgameface - Aug 13, 2012 at 6:42 PM

    He couldn’t stand seeing the team go back in the toilet so he checked out before it could get any worse, knowing that it WILL get worse.

    RIP Johnny. You didn’t deserve to see the SHIT baseball in Boston the last 2.5 years.

    • hammyofdoom - Aug 13, 2012 at 6:54 PM

      Hahaha trust me, Johnny saw a TON worse baseball than the past two years. These past two and a half years have had winning teams, this guy suffered through the really lean years

  21. hammyofdoom - Aug 13, 2012 at 6:52 PM

    By the way, classy act by the Yankees: they’ll be having a moment of silence for him before a game, I think tonights

  22. thefalcon123 - Aug 13, 2012 at 8:39 PM

    That sucks. An excellent ballplayer and by all accounts I read, a wonderful human being. WWII cost him his shot at 2000 hits.

    In 1952, Pesky had his first of the two bad seasons he’d have in his career. He posted a bizarre stat line of .225/.372/.262 Question for the field: Does anyone know if any other ballplayers with significant playing time have ever posted an OBP more than 100 points higher than their slugging percentage?

    • jamessmyth621 - Aug 14, 2012 at 2:46 AM

      The only other player since 1901 with a sub-.265 SLG and a plus-.365 OBP was Jimmy Scheckard in 1913. He was an OF on the Tinker-Evers-Chance Cubs teams but pulled this trick between the Cards and Reds. His 147 walks in 1911 were the single-season record before Babe Ruth drew 150 in 1920.

    • offseasonblues - Aug 14, 2012 at 12:09 PM

      Nick Johnson came to mind so I looked it up. He’s done it 10 times and he’s working on number 11. Of course it depends on how you define significant playing time, but I’d be surprised if anyone else is close to that kind of consistency. And he’s done it without being much of a power threat – as did Pesky.

      • thefalcon123 - Aug 15, 2012 at 9:30 AM

        *Slugging* percentage, not batting average.

  23. dutchman45 - Aug 13, 2012 at 10:19 PM

    To a fine gentleman. Rest in peace.

  24. davidschap - Aug 13, 2012 at 11:17 PM

    Sad day for a Boston sports icon…

  25. offseasonblues - Aug 14, 2012 at 12:15 PM

    If you look up life-well-lived in the dictionary, you’ll find Johnny Pesky’s picture. Well done, sir.

    I’d say rest in peace, but I suspect he’s already hitting fungos to all stars and little leaguers up there in baseball heaven.

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