Red Sox icon Johnny Pesky, who spent the majority of his baseball career in Boston and for whom the right-field foul pole at Fenway Park is named, died Monday. He was 92.
An infielder nicknamed “The Needle,” Pesky broke into the big leagues with the Red Sox in 1942 and batted .331 with 205 hits, finishing third in American League MVP voting. He missed three seasons in military service during World War II and came back to record 208 and 207 hits in 1946 and 1947 and was named to his only All-Star Game in 1946.
He finished his 10-year Major League playing career as a .307 hitter with 404 RBIs, 867 runs and 1,455 hits.
Pesky managed the Red Sox from 1963-64 and in 1980, and had been associated with the franchise in numerous other capacities. His uniform No. 6 is retired.
He also played three seasons with the Tigers and one with the Senators.
Pesky was born John Michael Paveskovich in Portland, Ore., and was signed by the Red Sox in 1940. He hit better than .300 in six seasons — all of which were with Boston — and he finished in the top five for AL MVP voting twice.
But his legacy extended well beyond his playing days in Boston after he retired as a player in 1954. Pesky’s Pole, a mere 302 feet from home plate on the right-field line, was given its name by Boston broadcaster and former pitcher Mel Parnell because of a rare home run that Parnell said Pesky wrapped around the pole to help lead the Red Sox to a victory. Pesky hit just 17 career home runs.
After retiring with the Senators in 1954, Pesky began coaching in the Minor Leagues and eventually rejoined the Red Sox franchise in 1961 as the manager of their Triple-A team in Seattle.
He got the call to manage the big league club in 1963 and the Red Sox went a combined 146-175 in his two seasons at the helm. He managed five games for the club in 1980 after Don Zimmer was dismissed, going 1-4. Pesky also spent time in the broadcast booth for the Red Sox from 1968-74.
Pesky spent time in and around the game until 1984, his last full-time season as a coach, when he worked as Boston’s batting and bench coach. Since that time, he had served in an advisory role as a special instructor and assistant to the general manager.
The club had a ceremony in September 2006 to formally name the right-field pole at Fenway, and his number was retired in 2008. It is one of eight retired numbers in Red Sox history.
Pesky also participated in Boston’s 100th birthday celebration for Fenway Park this April, and attended the ceremony in a wheelchair, along with former double-play partner Bobby Doerr.