The baseball world lost an icon on Monday when former Red Sox shortstop Johnny Pesky passed away at the age of 92. Today, his name is most known in connection with Fenway Park’s rightfield foul pole — Pesky’s Pole — but Pesky (born John Michael Paveskovich to Croatian immigrants on September 27, 1919) deserves to be remembered for far more than that.
He was an All-Star who collected over 200 hits in each of his first three seasons (topping the AL each time and twice leading the majors), a key player on Boston’s 1946 AL pennant winners and a staple of the Red Sox organization. From his signing as an amateur in 1940 to his trade to the Tigers in mid-1952, and then via stints as manager, coach, color commentator and special instructor, he spent over 60 years affiliated with the Sox. Were it not for his World War II service, which cost him his age-23, 24 and 25 season from 1943-45, he might have made the Hall of Fame.
Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, Pesky nearly signed with the Cardinals, who offered a $2,500 bonus. However, Pesky’s parents were so impressed with Red Sox scout Earl Johnson that they settled for a $500 signing bonus, with an additional $1,000 to follow if he remained in the organization for two years. During his two years in the minors, he led each of his leagues in hits, and won American Association MVP honors in 1941. He joined the Red Sox the following season as a 22-year-old and hit .331/.375/.416 with a major league-high 205 hits, pairing with future Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr as a standout double-play combination. He was the runner-up to teammate Ted Williams in the batting title race, and finished third in the MVP voting behind the Yankees’ Joe Gordon and Williams.
This page was last updated August 14, 2012 at 11:11 am MST.