Johnny Pesky

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Johnny Pesky
Johnny Pesky

There have been better players that have donned a Red Sox uniform but perhaps no other has been more identified as the embodiment of the organization other than Johnny Pesky. As a rookie in 1942, the 22-year-old shortstop amassed an eye-popping 205 hits, tops in the majors, and batted .331, second only to teammate Ted Williams; his efforts were enough to place him third in voting for the American League MVP. After that season, Pesky joined the Navy to serve his country in World War II along with several other players in the majors, putting a halt to his brief career for the next three years.

In 1946, Pesky returned along with Williams and Dom DiMaggio to help his team finish first in the American League with a record of 104-50. His time away from the diamond had not diminished his skills; he led the league with 208 hits and batted .335 that season, the third best average in the American League, to finish fourth in the MVP vote. Pesky played for six more seasons in Boston before he was sold to the Detroit Tigers during the 1952 season. After his career ended in 1954, Pesky returned to Boston and served as manager, broadcaster, coach, and scout; until recently, he also served as a special instructor to Boston players and was a familiar sight sitting in the dugout during the game.

Dubbed “Mr. Red Sox” by biographer Bill Nowlin, the longtime Red Sox employee also has a feature of Fenway named after him: the Pesky Pole. The right-field foul pole, which stands just 302 feet from home plate, has seen many pitches wrapped around this attribute over the years; the story goes that Mel Parnell, a former Red Sox pitcher, named the pole after watching the light-hitting Pesky, who hit only 17 home runs in his career, wrap a couple around it. However, it wasn’t until Pesky’s 87th birthday in 2006 that the unofficial moniker was finally recognized by the team with a plaque in his honor.

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