Pesky played only 10 seasons in the bigs but his connection to the Red Sox endured to the very end.
Born John Michael Paveskovich in Portland, Oregon, Pesky made his big league debut with the Red Sox in 1942. If there had been an AL Rookie of the Year Award back then he would have surely won it. Pesky hit .331 and led the AL in hits with 205 finishing third in the AL MVP balloting behind teammate Ted Williams and Joe Gordon of the New York Yankees.
Pesky would miss the next three seasons serving in the Navy during WWII. When he returned to the Red Sox in 1946, he didn’t miss a beat hitting .335 and again leading the AL in hits with 208. The Red Sox would win the AL pennant that year. Pesky would be unfairly blamed for holding on to the ball during Game 7 of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals during Enos “Country” Slaughter’s mad dash home.
Although Pesky did not get another chance to play in the World Series, he had his third consecutive 200-hit season in 1947. Pesky’s offensive output gradually declined and in the middle of the 1952 season he was traded along with Walt Dropo to the Detroit Tigers for George Kell and Dizzy Trout. Two seasons later he was with the Washington Senators where he would finish his big league career.
Pesky returned to the Red Sox organization in 1961 managing the Seattle Rainiers. Owner Tom Yawkey would tap Pesky to manage the big league club in 1963. However, after two lacklustre seasons, he was out. After three years as a coach and minor league manager in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, Pesky returned to the Red Sox for good in 1969. For six seasons, Pesky worked with Ned Martin and Ken Coleman in the broadcast booth. In 1975, Pesky joined the Red Sox coaching staff where he would remain in various capacities for the next decade. He even briefly managed the club in the final days of the 1980 season following the dismissal of Don Zimmer.
For the past quarter century, Pesky served as a goodwill ambassador for the Red Sox. In recognition of his six decades with the organization, the Red Sox retired his number 6 in 2008.
Of course, when people think of Johnny Pesky they think of the Pesky Pole in rightfield at Fenway Park. It was named so by the late Red Sox pitcher Mel Parnell who told how Pesky (who only had 17 career homeruns) would hit all his homeruns around that pole which is only 302 feet away from homeplate.
The Red Sox are on the road but return to Fenway one week from tonight. The team will presumably honor Pesky before that night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels.