The Boston Red Sox have announced that they will retire Johnny Pesky's No. 6 before their game on Friday night versus rival New York Yankees. The Red Sox's tradition has been that there is a certain criteria players must pass in order to have this honor: The player must be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, they must have played for the Boston Red Sox for 10 years, and they must have finished their career in Boston.
Pesky played for the Red Sox eight years, is not in the Hall of Fame, and he went on to play for the Detroit Tigers and Washington Senators.
To date, the Boston Red Sox have retired six numbers, and they all have adhered to these ground rules: Bobby Doerr (No. 1), Joe Cronin (4), Carl Yastrzemski (8), Ted Williams (9), and Carlton Fisk (27). MLB retired Jackie Robinson (42) for all teams.
So, the question at hand becomes: Should the Red Sox be moving forward with this plan to retire No. 6 or not? Let's look more closely at Johnny Pesky and his overall contributions to the Red Sox and more.
Pesky played in an era that is distant in memory to many and before many of us were born. Pesky's career began when he was a 22-year-old rookie shortstop in 1942. He led the American League with 205 hits as a rookie, was second in batting (.331), and third in MVP balloting.
Pesky missed the next three seasons while serving in the Navy during World War II. He rejoined the Sox in 1946 and batted .335, led the league with 208 hits, was an All-Star, and helped guide the club to the AL pennant.
As the first Sox player to collect 200 hits in his first three seasons, Pesky was a fine player in his own right, but he always felt like a kid brother to contemporaries—and friends—Williams, Doerr, and Dom DiMaggio. Pesky surely had the numbers to support this honor.
Pesky, along with many players and Americans, went off to fight in World War II. If this had not occurred, and all other things held constant, he would have been with the Red Sox for 11 years. Arguably, he left for war as his career was really taking off as well. Pesky was an American first and a Red Sox second, and we must not forget this.
Pesky did leave the Red Sox and went onto play for the Tigers and Senators, though he settled in the Boston area and has been with the club formally or informally for 57 years now.
Pesky's role's have been many: player, coach, minor-league manager, major-league manager, announcer, special instructor, scout, and ambassador. Pesky will turn 89 this Saturday, and his work continues for the Red Sox.
In this modern world of athletes focusing on themselves and not the fans, Pesky has been a wonderful ambassador for the Red Sox and MLB.
Pesky will be forever in the folklore of Red Sox and Fenway Park, with the right-field foul pole bearing the name "Pesky's Pole." Red Sox pitcher Mel Parnell immortalized his teammate Johnny Pesky by dubbing the right-field foul pole in Fenway Park the Pesky Pole after Pesky won a game for Parnell with a home run near the pole.
The pole is just 302 feet from home plate. Pesky was a slap hitter, and his bloop would have been a routine fly out in most other parks. Parnell made the name stick after he became the Red Sox broadcaster. Pesky Pole is probably the best known "Fenway Fact."
Red Sox management is saying that they inherited the number retirement rules when they bought the team. They respect the rules but look at them as guidelines only. They own the team and call the shots.
No Red Sox fan should question the stewardship of John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Luchino, they have built upon the Red Sox traditions, preserved and expanded Fenway Park, won two World Series, and extended the Red Sox contributions to the New England community.
I vote a resounding "yes" to retire Johnny Pesky's No. 6. Pesky's service to the Red Sox, his country, and fans for over 57 years is worthy of this great honor. Pesky is a wonderful example of the role an athlete can play in a positive way in a community as well.
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