John Michael Pesky
Burial Location Visited
Swampscott, Massachusetts November 14, 2015

Johnny Pesky represented Boston baseball
for sixty-one years, and upon his death
Major League Baseball's commissioner
mourned the passing of one of the game's
"greatest ambassadors." He is buried in
Swampscott, Massachusetts, just north of
the city where he was known as "the
Needle" and "Mr. Red Sox." Pesky was a
member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame's
inaugural class in 1995.

Pesky's last major public appearance was
at Fenway Park's 100th anniversary
celebration on April 20, 2012. His final visit
to the ballpark came on August 5th, when
the Red Sox defeated the Minnesota Twins.
Pesky passed away eight days later after
a brief illness.

One of Fenway Park's most distinguishing
features is the "Pesky Pole," the ballpark's
right field foul pole. It colloquially held the
moniker for decades until September 2006,
when a ceremony was held to make the
nickname official in honor of Pesky.

I have been a Boston Red Sox fan since I
was nine years old, and have paid my
respects at the gravesites of several of the
franchise's figures. This includes former
players such as Joe Cronin, Jimmie Foxx,
and Tony Conigliaro, as well as one-time
owner Harry Frazee.

Fast Facts *

- Spouse: Ruth Catherine Hickey Pesky (m. 1945-2005)

- Born: February 27, 1919

Died: August 13, 2012

- Age:

 Cemetery: Swampscott Cemetery, Swampscott, Massachusetts

* * * Background on Johnny Pesky * * *

* Born in Oregon in February 1919, John Paveskovich was the son of Austro-Hungarian immigrants. Around when he graduated high school in 1939, Johnny changed his birth date to appear seven months younger, which placed him within the age parameters for Major League Baseball scouting tryouts. He soon signed with the Boston Red Sox, with whom he debuted in April 1942. Appearing in 147 games for Boston as a rookie, Paveskovich -- by then called Pesky -- parlayed 205 hits into a .331 batting average, which propelled him to third place in the American League's Most Valuable Player voting. Pesky missed the following three seasons while he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, but returned to baseball in 1946 as a key member of Boston's pennant-winning roster. The Red Sox lost the 1946 World Series in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals, with the deciding play coming with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Sox and Cardinals were tied 3-3 when St. Louis hitter Harry Walker lined a double to left-center field. Boston center fielder Leon Culberson corralled the ball and relayed it to Pesky at shortstop, who was stunned to see Enos Slaughter of St. Louis had dashed madly around the diamond from first base and was headed toward home. Pesky hesitated and held the ball for a fraction of a second before he thew to the plate, albeit too late. Slaughter's run put the Cardinals ahead 4-3, and they sealed their championship in the next half inning. It has been debated whether or not Pesky's delay had any impact on the play, or if Slaughter would have scored regardless.

* Pesky contributed solidly to the Red Sox for seven seasons, but his offensive numbers sharply declined during the 1952 season, and Boston traded their slumping shortstop to the Detroit Tigers. He played in Detroit until 1954, when he was traded once again -- that time to the Washington Senators, with whom he ended his major league playing career. Pesky finished with a lifetime .307 batting average, 867 runs scored, and 1,455 hits. He later rejoined the Red Sox organization as the manager of one of its minor league affiliates, and then he managed Boston in 1963 and 1964. Pesky covered his old team as a broadcaster from 1969 to 1974, after which he became a coach and instructor -- a capacity he held with the Red Sox for many years. Cherished by generations of players and fans alike, the kindhearted Pesky -- along with fellow Sox icon Carl Yastrzemski -- was given the honor of hoisting the 2004 World Series championship flag at Fenway Park after Boston ended its eighty-six-year championship drought. In September 2008, the Red Sox retired Pesky's uniform number. His no. 6 was immortalized on the ballpark's right field facade along with the numbers worn by fellow Boston players Ted Williams, Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr, Yastrzemski, and Carlton Fisk, as well as Brooklyn Dodgers second baseman Jackie Robinson, whose no. 42 is retired throughout the entire league. Previous requirements stipulated that a former player must have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and spent a minimum of ten seasons playing for the Red Sox in order to have their number retired. Boston waived these standards in honor of Pesky's six decades with the organization in various capacities.

* Pesky's batting profile was that of a contact hitter -- someone who strove to get on base rather than hit for power. As such, while his teammate and friend Ted Williams crushed 521 career round trippers, Pesky swatted just 17. Of those, just six were hit at Fenway Park. Reputedly, several of these homers landed near Fenway's right field foul pole 302 feet from home plate -- the shortest possible home run distance in the MLB. This was according to Mel Parnell, who was Pesky's teammate from 1947 to 1952. During his subsequent broadcasting career in the 1960s, Parnell referred to the beam as the "Pesky Pole" or "Pesky's Pole." The term caught on with Red Sox fans, who for decades have rarely referred to the foul pole without referencing the beloved Pesky.

Sources Consulted                                                                                                                                                     

Feeney, Mark. "Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky dies.", August 13, 2012.

Goldstein, Richard. "Johnny Pesky, Red Sox Fixture, Dies at 92." New York Times, August 13, 2012.

"John M. Pesky.", August 15, 2012. n=john-m-pesky&pid=159180711.

"Johnny Pesky Stats." Baseball Almanac. Last updated August 6, 2018.

"Minnesota Twins at Boston Red Sox Box Score, August 5, 2012." Baseball Reference. Accessed July 25, 2019.

"Red Sox's Johnny Pesky dies at 92." Associated Press, August 14, 2012. dies-92.

Shaughnessy, Dan. "Explaining Pesky's Pole.", August 13, 2012.

Website Builder