There was a lot to like about John Michael Paveskovich whose name would be changed due to the fact that Pesky was a lot easier for reporters and fans to handle than “Paveskovich.” He hit .307 lifetime and played in 1,270 games amassing 1,455 hits. He had a 73-year career in the majors with 61 of those years spent with the Boston Red Sox. He was a player, manager, broadcaster, executive and coach. Pesky, 92, passed away today.
Throughout his career, including the later part of his life, Pesky was a fan favorite and in the 80s through to the present he became a revered link to the past. In 1997 there was outcry when then GM Dan Duquette deemed that Pesky could no longer sit on the bench in the dugout at Red Sox home games. Eventually, Duquette was fired and pesky was reinstated but in 2007, after two protests from Baltimore, it was decided that Pesky was not a coach but a hitting instructor and MLB no longer allowed him in the dugout, as the number of uniformed coaches was and is limited to six.
Pesky, who was wiry, quick and agile, was also a favorite with his teammates. He was part of a select group comprised of his close friends Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr and Dom DiMaggio that were very tight. I highly recommend David Halberstam’s book The Teammates, which chronicles their friendship. It’s a great read for any baseball fan!
Did He Hold the Ball?
Some say Pesky did not make it into the Hall of Fame due to the fact that he played in an era of great shortstops while others say it’s because he lost three prime years when he served in the Navy in World War II. Still, others claim it was the fact that he held the ball instead of instantly throwing to home in a relay during the 7th and deciding game of the 1946 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. At that time the teams were tied 3-3.
There were two out in the 8th inning. Enos Slaughter, who had a good jump on Harry The Hat Walker’s line drive into center due to the fact that he was attempting to steal, turned on the jets when the ball was hit. Slaughter scored and many said it was because Pesky held the ball on the relay. Films show that he was pulling back to make a strong throw to home and that he did not hold the ball and Card’s catcher Joe Garagiola claimed that no one could have thrown out Slaughter due to his big jump.
Whatever the case may be, Pesky went back to his home in Portland, Oregon, after the Red Sox lost the series and stayed inside his home for five weeks. In 1979 in an interview with the Boston Globe, Pesky said of the play, “If you’re a palooka, you’ve got to live with it.”
In 2007 after the Red Sox won the World Series, they honored him by presenting him with a series ring.
More Honors for Pesky
Pesky has been honored numerous times. He was part of the first class to be inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame, Fenway’s short right field foul pole is named the Pesky Pole due to the fact that he hit at least one homer around the 302-foot marker and the Red Sox named one of their fields after him at their training facility in Fort Meyers. The number he wore as a player with the Red Sox, 6, was retired by Boston in 2008.
I’m going to miss Pesky. He was a baseball lifer. The guy was one of those people who not only embraced baseball but also was baseball. Rest in Peace #6, Johnny Pesky. You’ll always be a Hall of Famer to me.