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In light of the fact that every week I post about the inconsistency of the 2012 Boston Red Sox team, I’m taking a week off to write this in memory of Johnny Pesky, who died at 92 years old yesterday, August 13th, 2012.
Back in 2002, I was fortunate enough to attend the Boston Red Sox spring training in Fort Myers at 11 years old. I was baseball freak back then – I could have recited to you how many home runs Ted Williams had in his career, Roger Clemens’ year-by-year strikeout numbers, the five pitchers who struck out the most batters throughout their careers; basically, anything and everything about baseball.
Anyway, back to the relevance of the year 2002: I was a fat little shit walking around spring training seeking autographs from any and every player I could find – even the AA and AAA guys whom I asked their name, which probably embarrassed them, but still, I wanted their autographs.
I was so hyped that Johnny Damon was going to be on the team. He was my favorite player that wasn’t on the Red Sox until we signed him (then I hated him when he betrayed us and left us for the Yankees, then liked him again after realizing his amazingly consistent career, but that’s another tale for another day).
I got Johnny’s autograph four times the days I was there – I made a point of it. I also got Manny Ramirez’s, Nomar Garciaparra’s, Shea Hillenbrand’s (remember him?), but I did not get Pedro Martinez’s; in the end my mom got it for me (thanks, mom!). But I’m not talking about Johnny Damon here…
Yeah, I got Johnny Damon’s autograph twice, but after the first time I sat down with then 83 year-old Johnny Pesky, still acting as a Red Sox coach at the time, and hearing his enthralling tales about Teddy Ballgame, Dom DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr, old Joe Cronin and all of the rest of the Red Sox legends from those he played with to those he coached, I made it a point to spend as much time with him and the group of interested people taking in his stories as I could.
When he wasn’t hitting fungoes to players during that spring training, Johnny Pesky was talking it up with fans like me. Sharing his knowledge, telling his tales, fascinating all those die hard baseball fans around him; just being a spunky, likeable, sweetheart of an old man. He would have signed ten bats and ten baseballs right on the sweet spot for anyone who asked him to because he just wanted to make everyone happy.
If there is one person who represents loyalty in all of professional sports, Johnny Pesky is that man. He’s played, managed, coached, commentated on TV/radio and most recently served as an ambassador for the Boston Red Sox. He was at his happiest when he was doing something baseball related, and he was a pretty damn good baseball player himself although he lacked any sort of power – hence the name of the right field pole at Fenway Park, Pesky Pole.
A career .307 hitter, Pesky was highly underrated and may have made it to Cooperstown had he not served in World War II, but he'll never be forgotten by loyal Red Sox fans. A lot of you fair-weather good for nothing band wagon fans might never know who Johnny Pesky was because you’re too good to look into the history of a team with a .500 record, but that’s not me. I'll always remember how nice of a man he was.
Rest in peace, Johnny Pesky. Red Sox Nation is going to surely miss you.
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