In the history of all the Boston Red Sox players, shortstop Johnny Pesky wasn’t particularly special … as a player. But as a man, he was the embodiment of all that is great about “great men of baseball,” and so he was adored by Red Sox fans of all ages.
On Monday, August 13, he passed away at the age of 92. He leaves behind him over 60 years in the Red Sox nation as a player, manager, broadcaster and living legend. And, of course, there is, and always will be, the Pesky Pole – the right field foul pole that was named after him because of his uncanny ability to hit home runs just past it (and almost nowhere else).
I never got to see him play, but my grandparents did and they loved the man – though when you look up his statistics, they aren’t that impressive. My grandfather spoke of him in the same awe and respect as he did about the great Ted Williams and Carl Yastremski.
I took my nephew to a Red Sox game a couple years ago, and before the game, they brought out Johnny Pesky. He was 90, but he could still make his way around the infield. Sure, most non-Red Sox fans didn’t really know about him, but everybody at Fenway Park did. And he got a standing ovation. Also, there may or may not have been grown men tearing up. Also I may or may not have been one of those men.
Pesky lived long enough to see the Red Sox end their 86-year championship drought and win the World Series. Twice. And he will long be remembered as a Boston icon who showed us all that being great means more than just being athletically gifted.