The Boston Red Sox lost both a great man and one of its greatest links to the team's past with Monday's sad news that Johnny Pesky had passed away at age 92.
The Boston Globe estimates that Pesky — whose No. 6 was retired by the Red Sox in 2006 — was associated with the team in some way for 61 of his 73 years in baseball, starting with his free-agent signing in 1940 and going through several decades as a beloved ambassador, coach, broadcaster and spring training instructor. He drew some of the biggest cheers when his presence was announced at Fenway every opening day and his willingness to always accommodate both fans and media won him a wide array of admirers, even if many generations of fans hadn't even been alive to watch him play.
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Pesky was certainly a heck of a player if you did get the chance to see him, though. A career infielder who lost three seasons due to military service, Pesky posted a career line of .307/.394/.386 over his 10-year career with the Red Sox, Tigers and Senators. He was one of the four Red Sox players chronicled in David Halberstam's "The Teammates" and his death leaves Bobby Doerr as the lone surviving member of that quartet. (Ted Williams and Dom DiMaggio were the other two.)
Pesky's Red Sox legend will live on, both in the number of fans he made and in the right-field foul pole at Fenway. Standing only 302 feet from home plate, it was officially christened as "Pesky's Pole" by the team in 2006 but got its name from Red Sox pitcher Mel Parnell many years before that. As the story goes, Pesky — who stood 5-foot-9 and only hit 17 homers in his career — saved Parnell from a loss with a late-inning homer that clanged off the pole. Attempts to corroborate that story later proved Parnell's memory a little short of sharp — such a home run never happened — but it speaks to Pesky's place in Red Sox history that they'll be calling it Pesky's Pole as long as there is a team known as the Boston Red Sox.
May he rest in peace.
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