RIP Red Sox Legend Johnny Pesky
I’ll never forget the first time one of my childhood dreams became reality. It was the first time I managed to convince the PR staff at Fenway Park that a 2o something year old rookie morning show host from New Bedford “needed” press passes to cover the Red Sox. On the inside, I felt like the 12 year old version of Michael Rock…a braces wearing, baseball card collecting, wiffle ball playing kid.
“Act like you’ve been here before,” I said to myself as I meekly approached the old man guarding the entrance to the clubhouse. I showed him my credentials and walked in. I looked around at the players. I was instantly star struck. Nomar. Pedro. Tek. Trot. I had interviewed all kinds of music stars…but never pro athletes. I felt like I was on hallowed ground. I stood there with what must have been a stupid look on my face…seemingly mesmerized by the rich, red carpeting. That’s when Johnny Pesky, recognizing my hesitation, told me to “loosen up, kid…it’s just baseball.” It was like a line from a baseball movie. He asked me what newspaper I wrote for…and was surprised when I told him I was a radio guy. He’d never heard of Fun 107 (not a fan of Britney, I guess), but engaged me in a conversation that covered his time in World War II and Ted Williams. Then, he introduced me to Nomar Garciaparra.
Johnny Pesky reminded me so much of my grandfather. He was so kind and caring. He didn’t have to help me that day, but he did…just because. And, more importantly, he would play that grandfatherly type roll to young ball players. When they were going through a tough time…there was Pesky…telling them, “keep your chin up, kid”.
In the years that followed, I always made it a point to talk to Pesky when I’d see him down at Spring Training. He was always good for a funny baseball story. He had so many Red Sox memories. And, Johnny Pesky was a part of so many Red Sox fan’s memories. The last of which happened this Spring, when he and Bobby Doerr attended Fenway’s 100th birthday. Today, a bright yellow Pesky Pole was unveiled in heaven’s short right field.