Where did the name Pesky come from? I know that is
not your given name.
Pesky: My Christian name is Paveskovich
and that is a little hard to pronounce. And of course
Ted Williams used to say ‘Apaskovich’. But legally
I had to go into the service and when I signed ‘Pesky’
it was kind of a nickname. And I used it. And it sounded
Of course when I got to playing pro
ball I changed it legally and my parents weren’t too
happy about it. But you had to understand it was easier
for me; it was easier for the writers. They had a
little influence on that because of box scores and
stuff like that. But I wouldn’t have changed my name;
but to decipher four syllables is tough.
Anyway, I changed it and when I got
married, I married with my Christian name and when
I came back from the war I had it changed legally
in ’47. And you had to put down on the paper if anyone
had any exceptions to the change. And I put down there
were no exceptions and now it is my legal name.
been a very busy man regarding several books. First
there was David Halberstam's The Teammates, Bill Nowlin's
Mr. Red Sox, and there is your book with Phil Pepe,
Few and Chosen.
Can you tell us a little about each book and how
they all came about?
Pesky: Halberstam did his book a
few years ago—in ’01. We’ve made some appearances
for Halberstam. We were over in Cambridge at Harvard
and had a big crowd over there. But Bobby was still
at home because [of his wife’s illness]. In the meantime
she passed away. Dom and I have kept in contact and
we have talked with Bobby a few times. Bobby has been
back here too since his wife passed away.
Teammates was a very outstanding
book according to everyone we’ve talked to. From what
I understand it was a #1 in the New York Times for
a whole month—so it must have been good. Halberstam’s
a very fine writer. You know he is a Pulitzer Prize
writer. He did a play about Viet Nam and he has done
a number of other plays. He is a graduate of Harvard,
I might add. I am sure that means a lot because that
is a higher standard of education. Of course, when
they say “I’m from Harvard,” I say I am from MIT.
I was lucky to get out of Lincoln High School.
have never had a biography. Reading through Mr. Red
Sox is a fascinating read…
Pesky: I have been here so many years.
I guess that is why they refer to me as that. It’s
very flattering. But they were looking for a title.
This book was started a few years ago by Bill Nowlin.
How it came about was that he was friendly with Lib
(Elizabeth “Lib” Dooley) and she was
at every game. She was a retired school teacher. And
Bill used to sit behind her at every ball game. Between
innings Ted would go by and he would wave to her.
And she would holler “Get a base hit, please!”
So one time she turned to Bill and
she said, “Why don’t you do a book on Johnny?” And
they got to talking about it and Bill came to me and
said: “Look, this Lib, this school teacher, she talked
to me about doing a book about you.” I said “Oh, no!
I don’t want that.” I wasn’t a big enough star to
have a book written. Bill wanted to undertake it and
he asked me about it. I said, “Bill, you do what you
want.” He said, “Johnny, I think it’s got a chance.”
Of course, [he/I] had already done a lot of work for
the ball club. He started off and he went everywhere.
He went to my home—Southern Oregon—to places I played.
He went to the old Lincoln High School. And I think
when he showed up out there my brother showed him
around. And, of course, he went ahead and the book
was just printed this past year. We’ve had pretty
good luck with it from what I understand. We had some
books down in spring training and we’ve had some books
Of course, The Few and The Chosen
is a national publication. Locally it has done pretty
tough was it to choose the greatest Red Sox players
of all time for Few and Chosen?
Pesky: Well, I had to do a lot of
research. Funny thing, when I first thought about
it…. Phil Pepe is a writer in New York. He was writing
when I was managing and playing and we got friendly
when I was playing and managing. He called me in December
of 2003 and he told me what he had done with Tim McCarver.
Of course, Tim had done his book on the Cardinals
five best players in each position. He said he would
like me to do it for the Red Sox. I said it was worth
the try. So they forwarded some funds to me and I
started on it; but it wasn’t supposed to be published
until June 2004 and let the other book [Teammates]
come out a little earlier. Of course Teammates was
two years earlier so we were quite busy with books.
Bill [Nowlin] proceeded with the
last one, but it was not supposed to come out until
this month—the end of May or June. Well, they all
came out together; so I’ve been running around. For
the whole month I’ve been home maybe two days. My
job is with the ball club and I worry more about the
ball club than I do about the books. It’s just that
we had to be available when these books were published
in certain areas and we try to take care of it all—
TV, radio and appearances at some of the local book
I’m tickled to death that he called.
It took a lot of work and I did a lot of research.
I went back to some books and before I ever got here.
I never saw Christy Mathewson or any of those guys.
I didn’t see Speaker, Hooper, Duffy Lewis and guys
of that era—1910 and all those early years of the
game. But I did some research and I picked a couple
of them because of what their averages were and what
kind of guys they were. And that’s what I went by
and of course I put my five guys together and submitted
them. But before we went to print I talked to Pepe
about them and we agreed on something.
The biggest thing was I hadn’t realized
what I had done. I got these names out and I had presented
to Phil and he said, “My God, you left out the biggest
name of all!” And I said, “Who’s that?” And he said,
“Babe Ruth!” I am not going to put Babe Ruth in left
field over Ted Williams! I put Babe as my left handed
pitcher for one and I have Left Grove as number two.
And then for my right handed pitcher I have—and I
didn’t even have to look this up—I put Roger Clemens.
It has been fun and I got a big kick
out of The Few and The Chosen especially. Teammates
was, I think, the start of all this. When Bill wanted
to do this book on Mr. Red Sox, why … I wasn’t too
keen on it because I never thought I was that big
of a star. I was just an average, decent player. Not
a great player, but a good player, I thought. But
Bill wanted to do it and he said “Let me try it, Johnny.”
And he started on it and he submitted it to his publisher
and it kind of caught on and it’s done pretty well.
you tell us a bit about growing up in NW Portland,
going to Lincoln High School and how baseball fit
in with your life back then?
Pesky: We were very fortunate. I
went to parochial school. I went to St. Patrick’s
on Savior Street. We had a bunch of choir boys that
played together. And, when I graduated, I went to
Lincoln in southwest Portland. That was great and
we took the bus there. And we went to school like
every other kid. And we had every type of kid. We
had the Americans, we had the Irish, we had the Jewish,
we had the Chinese kids and we had the Japanese kids
and we got along very, very well.
But the thing that was very important
at that high school is that we had good teaching.
The history teacher was Wade Williams and he coached
football and baseball, of course. And Dave Wright
was the basketball coach. You couldn’t find two better
men. They were all for the kids and if they needed
work they were after them to do this or do that. As
a matter of fact, a kid from neighborhood, named John
Bubalo was his name. He and I were very close and
he became a doctor. He tried to play pro ball but
when the war came on he went down to the University
of Oregon and got his degree to become a doctor. There
was a piece a few months ago about him, because he
is retiring I’m sure, and he had delivered 5,000 babies.
That’s over a period in the 90’s from the late 40’s.
He was a great kid when he was young.
We had some great players. There was a kid named George
Walker who I thought was going to be a great big league
ballplayer. Vernon Reynolds was another one. Joe Erautt
another one. Those names quickly come to mind. The
Erautt brothers went to Lincoln High and Joe signed
with the Tigers and his brother, Eddie, signed with
Cincinnati. So we had some big leaguers in the area.
We were well coached and we were well disciplined.
I think Wade Williams was responsible for that.
Carl Mays, who is linked
by tragedy in baseball, was none the less, a great pitcher.
He also had baseball clinics at the old Jantzen Beach
here in Portland. Can you tell me about Carl and those
Pesky: They were great. He used to
get all the kids from age 14 to 16. Donnie Kusch,
who I played with at Silverton, he was at Jefferson;
he went to that school and the kid that played the
best used to get to travel with the Portland Beavers
on their next trip. And Donnie Kusch was
one of the best players. There were three or four
of us, but Donnie was in the running and he was a
good ball player. When he played with us on the Silverton
[American Legion] team, I thought he was the best
player on the team. He went on to the University of
Oregon and I went away to play ball right after that
year—’38 and ’39. And Don went on to the University
of Oregon with Bubalo and Bill Connie and that group.
We had a lot of pretty good players,
certainly for a high school. And some of them went
pro and did very well. I thought Joe Hiron got hurt
when he played. Joe Hiron played catcher. And Reynolds
was a good infielder. George Walker was built like
Mantle but he got out of high school and he went to
Oklahoma City. Where, at a try-out, he made the club
in spring training. They kept him and they started
the season with him, but after three weeks he got
home sick and got back to Bend and never did play
pro ball. I thought he was one of the best players.
He could run, throw and hit the ball hard and far.
you tell us about the players you met and your time
working in the clubhouse at Vaughn St. park with the
Beavers? Can you tell us about Rocky Benevetto, and
how you wound up working at Vaughn St.?
Pesky: Mr. Benevetto was just great.
He was the grounds keeper there and I was still in
grammar school. We used to hang out there and we would
play catch and stuff. And what Rocky Benevetto would
do, especially when we got out of grammar school and
when we got into high school, he would give us jobs
in the ballpark. There were four or five of us and
he gave us specific jobs to do. My job was to keep
the bullpens clean. After every game we filled in
the dirt and did what was needing attending to. And
we would clean off the plate on the hill. That was
my job and that went on for a while. Eventually we
moved into the clubhouse. When we worked there and
the team was on the road, we got to use the field.
But we had to do our chores. But working in the clubhouse
I did not have to do the chores on the field any more.
I had to worry about getting players shoes shined
and the clubhouse was clean and that sort of thing.
That was our jobs primarily. My brother was helping
out and we had a kid on the other side.
I was there in the mid-30’s until
I knew I was going away to play ball. I did go out
to Bend to play one summer; in ’38, and in ’39 I was
in Silverton. Then I decided to go pro. We all wanted
to try it and we had some guys that were good players
and they all tried to go and play pro ball. We were
all Depression babies and we thought this would be
a good way of life. And, of course, in those years
the salaries weren’t anything like they are today.
But someone would give us a start and we would do
it with great intensity.
But I enjoyed it and I had a great
time in the clubhouse. I met a lot of great players.
I first met Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr that way.
And Dom DiMaggio came along and five years later we’re
on the team together. I had no regrets. If I had it
to do all over again I would do the same thing.
Rocky Benevetto had a big part in
my life. And Wade Williams had a big part in my life.
And the Principal and the teachers.
you got to the Red Sox, was there a lot of pressure
taking over for Joe Cronin at Shortstop after the
long tenure he had at the position?
Pesky: When you’re 21 years old,
you would run through a brick wall.
The year before I thought would be
my test year because my first year I did pretty well
out of high school. But my manager was Heinie Manush
who took a great interest and he stayed with me and
he made adjustments to me. Heinie Manush led the American
League in hitting in 1928 or something like that.
He was an older guy. And he took a shine to me for
some reason. He saw me at a pepper game and he saw
I was choked up on the bat. But before that I would
hold the bat on the end. He didn’t say anything for
about a week. We had 14 days for spring training.
Finally, he called me off to the side and he said
“Johnny, you can’t hold the bat on the end like that.
These guys will knock the bat out.” I weighed 160
pounds right out of high school. He knew if I could
be a middle infielder that I had a chance. He suggested
this to me and I took his advice. I choked up on the
bat and moved closer to the plate.
I ended up making hits and the next
year I thought I would go to Scranton, which is AA
ball. Instead I moved all the way to AAA—to Louisville.
I went to Louisville the next year and I had a good
year there. But my first year at Rocky ball, he took
such a liking to me I did so well, I had a great year,
he wanted me to go to Boston and have Joe Cronin have
a look at me and I had just gotten out of school,
I’m 19 years old. He said, “I would like Joe to get
a look at ya.” And I told Heinie I just wanted to
go home. We played 140 games. I led the league in
hits and we were up in the race the whole year.
The next year I went home after the
1940 season and the next year I went to Louisville
and I had a good year there. I was very fortunate.
It was a good league and I was MVP of the league.
I won the MVP by one vote. The guy that should have
won the thing was a guy name Ray Starr. He was a pitcher
with Indianapolis and they finished in the middle
of the race. However, I did get this award and that
made me feel pretty good. From that I got a letter
from Eddie Collins, the general manager in ’42, and
he sent me a contract and I thought it should have
been better. So I thought maybe I was aiming too highly.
Anyway, one of my oldest brothers was a fidgety guy
and he said that if I sent it back they would get
mad at me and send you back down to AAA. I said, “Listen,
I won’t take it.”
When you sent a contract back in
those years -- this is something I learned in the
clubhouse -- always send a note with why you are sending
it back. Of course, I gave my reasons and I sent it
back. About a week later I got another contract for
the same amount. My brother said, "Ah, yeah!
They’re gonna send you back down!” Wait a minute now!
We haven’t even gotten to spring training. I said
I was going to hassle this thing out. So in the letter—
they always sent you a letter with the contract—it
was from Eddie Collins and he said “Please sign the
below contract because we don’t know if you can play
in the major leagues.”
So I signed the contract and went
to spring training and I was very fortunate. Eddie
Pellagrini, who was in San Diego in ‘41, and I was
in Louisville in ’41, and Collins treated us very
well. He would play Eddie one game and I would play
the next. And in the middle of spring training, about
10 or 11 days into spring training, Eddie came up
lame and we had to play the Cardinals and Yankees
on successive days. And they both trained in St. Petersburg.
And in those years we had to take the ferry over.
So I went over the first day against the Cardinals
and did pretty well. But on the next day, in the game
against the Yankees, I made a play where I threw DiMaggio
out from the hole. It was quite noticeable and Cronin
was quite impressed with it. He didn’t think my arm
was strong enough. I could throw alright but I thought
I had quickness that you needed. I didn’t have a Chaperra
arm, or an A-Rod arm or a Jeter arm. We got back to
Norville; we got back to playing Eddie one day and
play me the next. And when it went down to when he
had to cut to 25 players…. Well, he didn’t say anything
to me but he sent Eddie to Louisville. He had to get
down and I stayed with the ball club. I thought I
would stay with the team until we got to Boston and
they would option me out. Well, he started me opening
day in Boston and he was concerned I wouldn’t fit
the bill. I stayed in and had a pretty good year and
led the league in base hits.
You chose Bobby Doerr as the
greatest Red Sox 2B of all time. Bobby lives here in
Oregon and you were born and raised here in Portland.
We had the great
interview with him in 2002 and, given you're long
relationship with him, Ted Williams and Dominic DiMaggio,
can you talk to us about Bobby and how you see him
as a person, as well as a baseball player?
Pesky: We got Ted in ’36. Ted and
Bobby were the first to come. Then we got Dom and
I came a couple of years later. Dom came in ’38 and
Ted was optioned to Minneapolis in ’38, but Bobby
Doerr stayed with the ball club as an extra. And the
next year he became regular. Ted went to Minneapolis
in ’38 and had a great year. In ’39 he hit a lot of
home runs and became the regular left fielder from
that time. That was ’39, 40 and then, in ’41, he hit
the.406. That was the year I was in Louisville. I
didn’t see that, but I met him the next year and in
’42 he hit .350. With all those home runs and runs
batted, he is a great hitter and he could do a lot
of things. But Doerr and Dominic, they were so good
as people. They were good players and they knew what
their roles were. Dominic and I had a great time together.
He hit first and I hit second and I should have hit
well. They didn’t want to walk me and pitch to Ted.
I had a good time and took advantage of it.
been involved in a number of key plays in baseball
history. The Enos Slaughter play in the '46 World
Series is one, but one that maybe is less known to
some baseball fans is Virgil Trucks' no-hitter in
August of '52 when you were with the Tigers.
Can you tell us about the play with
the sharply hit ball by Phil Rizutto in the 3rd inning
and what you thought about the call from the press
box by the official scorer to the dugout about the
play that changed from an error to a hit and then
back to an error?
Pesky: It was a chopper over Trucks’
head in about the 5th or 6th inning. I was playing
short that day and the ball was just hit where I could
field that ball. I got my fingers stuck in my glove
and by the time I could make the play Rizutto was
past first base. He thought he had a base hit. Well,
they didn’t put a hit up on the scoreboard. Well,
the next inning goes by … then the seventh inning
goes by … the eighth inning and it said ‘No-no-no’
across the board. I think John Drebinger was the official
scorer. He called down to the clubhouse about the
eighth inning. Fred Hutchinson was the manager and
he said that John wanted to talk to me on the phone.
John said, “Johnny, what about that play?” And I said,
“That’s an error all the way. I got my finger caught
in the webbing of the new glove I got. I should have
thrown him out by five or six feet.” So they put up
an error and that’s the way it was. But that last
guy out in the ninth …. We got the first two guys
out easily. Hank Bower was the hitter; I’ll never
forget this if I live to be one hundred. Hank Bower
hit a shot toward second base and luckily the ball
was hit right at Al Federoff. Al throws him out; game
So, now we’re in the clubhouse and
I was sitting down in the corner. And the reporters
were in talking to Virgil. Of course, they came over
to ask and I said, “Yeah, it was an error. I told
Drebinger about it when he called down.” Virgil came
over afterwards to thank me and I told him, ‘You’re
my friend. But if you were my worst enemy I wouldn’t
mind taking an error for a no-hitter.” That’s the
way I put it to him and he thanked me. Virg was a
fine man and he normally won 20 games a year, but
he only won 13 that year. But he pitched two no-hitters
that year, in ’52, ’53, somewhere around there.
A lot of people say I shouldn’t have
gotten an error. From my understanding—a couple of
guys that pitch in the big leagues now—that if a ball
is hit to the right side and Jeter doesn’t handle
it properly, they give the guy a hit. Well the guy
is what I call a bookkeeper and he tells you this
is the way it should be or shouldn’t be. Those guys
that used to put everything in the book. I could see
how a pitcher would say how he would pitch to a guy.
That wasn’t uncommon in the years we played. They
studied the hitters and pitchers more so. But even
now you have so many more teams and you have so many
things going on.
And there’s so much more in it. I
mean you’ve got more practice, you get more tutelage
and more, what you call psychiatry. I mean even the
down side: in the years we played, you wouldn’t bring
a psychiatrist in to talk to the ballplayers. That’s
ridiculous. If you’ve got something wrong with you
mentally, then you’d use them for crying out loud.
It was baseball. It was a game of hits, runs and errors.
And that’s they way we looked at it. It’s not a sin
to commit an error. Hell, I’ve done it. You’re in
a tough ball game about the 5th or 6th inning in a
1-1 ballgame and you boot a ball and now you got a
man on first with another man at the plate. The ball
is hit to you and you throw to second base and you
have a double play and the inning is over.
That’s the way you looked at it.
If they scored a run then you didn’t come to play.
A lot of times you looked at a close ball game and
I would sit on top of the plate and then I would get
hit with a pitch. It’s a game of inches. It’s a wonderful
game and it’s a wonderful livelihood. I’ve been in
it all my life and I got training, and I didn’t say
a word. And all but six or seven years have been with
the Red Sox.
“Slaughter’s mad dash”, history shows that it would
have been impossible for you to make the play at the
plate on Slaughter as he was nearly half way to the
plate after Harry Walker’s soft shot over Doerr’s
head. But you were the only player to come out and
take the heat for the play saying, “Well, if they
had to blame somebody and wanted to blame me, well,
that was fine with me. I could handle it.”
Pesky: It doesn’t bother me to talk about this. I
did what I had to do. If they want to blame me then
I accept it. I learned that from when I was a boy
in the clubhouse. There was a pitcher, Bill Posedel,
that I just loved and he was a father figure and he
liked me. He would throw a few bucks my way when I
was working in the clubhouse. I love this man. He
knew the right way to play ball. He used to come to
the ballpark early, and this all goes back to my clubhouse
days when I was about 14 or 15 or 16 years of age.
“Johnny,” he says, “one thing in this game, it’s the
perfect, imperfect game.” That was the first time
I had heard that. “If you do something wrong, don’t
make any excuses.” I even did this in my minor league
days on this play where I was accused of holding the
ball. Well, I accepted it. It’s just one of those
things that happens to a guy that could have happened
to anybody. It happened to Mickey Owen, he was considered
a goat. It happened to Lombardi … and all this. They
wanted to blame me and I accepted it. Really, Bobby
and Dominic defended me and so did Ted.
have seen tape of the play, there was no way you could
have made the play
Pesky: Oh no. I’ll tell ya what happened
is that Dominic came up lame the inning before and
Culberson went out to center field. Well, if Culberson
would have been playing normally where Dom was, I
don’t think Slaughter would have tried. Even Slaughter
said that if Dominic was in center field he wouldn’t
have even tried it. He had two outs—hold up; we have
one of our better hitters leading the inning off.
Because that’s the way you looked at it, you always
Enos even said—and I have been to
signings with him and everything—that on the train
ride back from St. Louis, “I hope they don’t break
that kid’s heart.” Well, you start to think about
your reputation and you have enough self pride, you
just fight back. And I think in ’47 I had a pretty
good year. I had 200 hits.
just one of those things that happened and it has
happened to better players than me. I can still hear
Bill Posedel in the back of my head say, “Accept the
responsibility, whether you like it or not.” And all
in all I have no qualms about it. If they want to
blame me, I’ll accept it.
For a while I was sensitive about
it, but after talking to my wife and thinking about
it I thought I was nuts to let this thing bother me.
And you kind of put it out of your mind, but it’s
still in the back of your head. I just had to battle
back and play harder, work harder. I don’t care how
good the player is or who the player is, there are
going to be plays the player regrets. Whenever you
are in a play where a play has to be made, naturally
you are going to take more time and think about it.
“If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, every day would
be Christmas.” Ha!
you think that if Dominic had been playing in center
if the throw would have been to home, instead of to
you at Short?
Pesky: In the first place, Culberson
was in right-center, Dom used to play Walker in left-center.
There is about a 30-40 foot difference. I think Slaughter
might have tried to go third base, but I don’t think
he would have tried to score. Slaughter himself said
The last games of the ’49 season
against the Yankees … still a bit tough I imagine.
That final game of the season has so much to it …;
the early 4-0 lead …; Joe Page not being especially
sharp at first but then getting sorted out from the
5th on, just so much in that game...
you touch on the game, and do you think that Joe McCarthy
made the right moves in the game, especially putting
in Tex Hughson, who hadn’t thrown in weeks at the
end of the game? Was the wind out of Red Sox sails
after losing that final game of the season and having
to play that playoff game?
Pesky: When the manager, in those
years, said something it was Gospel. I remember in
the 20’s and 30’s Connie Mack used a guy name Howard
Ehmke in the middle of the [World] Series. And they
were one game down or two games down and he went on
to win a ball game. And the A’s went on to win the
ballgame. That was in the late 20’s or early 30’s
when Connie Mack had those great teams with the Athletics.
(editors note: It was Game One of the 1929 World
Series against the Cubs. Ehmke had only pitched 55
innings in the regular season and proceeded to strike
out a World Series record 13 batters for a 3-1 win.
But, when the manager makes that
decision, we all thought as players, because we had
tied the day before … we thought that Parnell was
going to be the pitcher. Then Parnell went to McCarthy
and he wanted to pitch. And he (McCarthy) said “No.
This guy is ready to pitch.” And he pitched a hell
of a game the time before. One time Tex was pitching
and he was a good pitcher. We felt that if we had
problems with him, they would just score a lot of
runs early in the game. Indeed Gene Bearden [of the
Cleveland Indians] won all those games that year (1948,
ed.). And I remember Ted Williams saying: “This guy
won’t win 10 games again.” And two years later he
was in the minor leagues.
Well, [the Yankees had] clobbered
us pretty good [beating the Red Sox 10-5 at Fenway
on the last day of the season in 1948, producing a
tie for the Red Sox with Cleveland.] Rizzutto had
three doubles in that game.
I think the final score of that [playoff
game against Cleveland] game was 8-2 or something
like that. (Editors note: the actual score was
8-3.) Dominic had a few hits. But he (Gene Bearden)
had that knuckle curve. When we saw what he was winding
up with, we thought this was going to be duck soup.
Well, gee whiz, Boudreau had a great day. Joe Gordon
had a great day. Doby had a great day. They just clobbered
us … just beat us. They didn’t just clunk a few hits
here and there, they hit the ball hard. I think McCarthy
used two or three pitchers. I really don’t like to
think about those times.
did you feel about moving to 3B after the Red Sox
acquired Vern Stephens and Joe McCarthy placed him
at SS? Word has it that McCarthy did it to spite the
Pesky: Well, when you’re the manager, you’re the
guy running the club. Of course Stephens was a shortstop
too. Vern and I talked in the clubhouse for four or
five days before and he came over and said “Johnny,
Mr. McCarthy wants you.” So I went in and he said
“Johnny, I want you to go to third base and take some
ground balls over there.” So I thought I would be
there for two days. But I think I played there every
game that spring because I was moved to third base.
And I used to take ground balls day after day after
day. Every day Paul Shriver, our batting practice
pitcher, he would hit balls to me every day … maybe
100 to 150 ground balls. And then I would get ready
for the game. See, when you’re 24, 25, 26 years of
age you can do that.
pitcher gave you the most trouble in your career?
Pesky: Sure, there were a few guys
… I hit them, but I never hit them as well as I would
have liked to. I had trouble with a guy named [Spud]
Chandler. I knew him from my clubhouse days. He was
a mean guy. But most of those guys knew how to pitch
to areas. They would knock you off the plate and come
inside. They wouldn’t throw up by your head though—at
your waist on down. A lot of times in tough ball games,
even in the middle or late innings, I would turn in
to make sure I got on base. I would get hit in the
leg or in the fanny. But we learned. We had the greatest
hitter that ever lived named Ted Williams. And even
with two outs we didn’t want Ted leading off. I remember
a lot of times—not a lot but many times—I would bunt
with two outs.
If I was playing now with a guy hitting
.400 hitting behind you, you try and hit a double
and put yourself in scoring position. But with a guy
like Williams, this is what Joe McCarthy and Cronin
used to advocate. Regardless of how many outs, we
don’t want Ted leading an inning off. If he hit a
ball in the corner, you could score from first base.
And a lot of times he hit the ball out of the ball
park and you would pick up two runs.
But this is the way it worked. Dominic
and I had a hit-and-run play and a bunt-and-run play.
And we were very successful with it.
me throw out some names and give us some thoughts
on the players:
kid … wonderful young man. Mo was a talent to praise
because he led the league for two or three year in
home runs and RBI’s. He was a great young player.
He did so much for our community. And then there was
some bad feeling there and he got his free agency
and then he went to Anaheim and he got that big contract.
Then he gets hurt badly and they think he is alright
and he goes to the Mets and gets hurt even worse and
eventually had to get out of the game. If he would
have played four or five more years, there’s no telling
how many more home runs he would have hit. I mean
he hit balls a ton! He would strike out some, but
not as much as you would think. He worked at the plate
and he worked at first base. He would take ground
balls and he would field pretty well. And a great
kid. I just loved him. He was a great kid in the clubhouse,
outgoing, highly educated. He went to Seton Hall with
Biggio and those guys.
player. As far as I’m concerned Yastrzemski has to
be one of the best players
to ever play here. That’s my opinion. We had Williams,
we had Doerr, DiMaggio and all those great guys. I
don’t know about the turn of the century—Speaker,
Hooper and those guys. Babe Ruth too. For me just
watching a guy every day you watch what he can do.
Well Yastrzemki could hit, he could run and he could
throw. He could do everything. And he could hit the
ball out of the ballpark. To me, he and Williams were
the two greatest players I ever saw.
a pretty damn good player. He’s a great kid and he’s
very thorough. He’s a thoroughbred in my book. You
never see him loaf. He’s not a guy that yaps a lot.
He’s never made any excuses that I know of. He’s just
a wonderful kid. God almighty, I would love to have
a boatload of those guys.
good player. You could see it coming, how great he
was. He’s the only shortstop in Red Sox history to
hit 40 home runs. He was a fine, fine player. He too
moved from shortstop to third base and made the All-Star
team as a third baseman. Petrocelli was an exceptional
wonderful. But Clemens is my guy.
good baseball guy. He knew the game as well as anybody.
He was a players’ manager. He would never get all
over a player. He was always very thorough with his
coaches. When you have 25 guys under your command,
you have to use common sense. He has great common
sense. Zimmer knows the game as well as anybody. He’s
a wonderful man. Don Zimmer, in my opinion, is as
fine a man as and knew the game as much as anybody
around. That includes Cronin, McCarthy, Stengel. That’s
how much I think about Don Zimmer.
have been here all these years and I have seen great
pitchers. I wasn’t here for Grove and that gang. But
this kid came in here out of Texas University and
you could see. The one thing that he did was pitch.
He just pitched and pitched and pitched. He had the
greatest arm of anyone I have ever known. If I had
to compare him to anyone it would be Tom Seaver. But
even Clemens is better than Seaver. And he’s proven
it. He’s won over 300 games. He’s just a wonderful
man. He works hard.
did you get word that you were going to be retained
with the Red Sox when the club was sold in 2002?
Pesky: Well at the time, I knew that
the ball club was sold and when a ball club is sold
you’re thinking about what can happen. And there are
a lot of those that worked for the ball club and they
weren’t so sure if they were going to be retained.
And I think Mr. Henry, Mr. Lucchino,
and Mr. Epstein kept a lot of people on. And I happened
to be one of those people. I happened to be at a speaking
date when Mr. Henry called the house, and when my
wife was still here, she answered the phone. So, Mr.
Henry asked for me, and she told him I was at this
speaking engagement. So she asked, “Can I help you?”
He said, “Yes. I want you to let Johnny know we want
him to stay with the ball club.”
talk about the 2004 World Series for a second… What
was going through your mind during the ALCS when they
were down 0-3 against the Yankees? Did you think that
had a chance to pull it off?
Pesky: Oh yeah. The thing about a
short series like that is, if you win one or two ballgames
quickly… you never give up in baseball. I didn’t.
So many things can happen. You turn around and we
won four games in a row
I’ve seen so many things happen in
games. You can be up 10,12 runs and the next thing
you know you look up in the 9th and it’s a tied game.
And you go 14 or 15 innings and you’re down and you
can’t believe you lose.
was the feeling you got during Game 4 of the World
What happened in ’04… It was like you were in the
land of ecstasy, you know. Everything that happened
for a week or so afterwards was like going to Heaven.
That’s the only way that I can describe it. You know
it felt pretty darn good because it took a long time
was the feeling in the clubhouse after the game? How
did the players embrace you?
Pesky: Oh, yeah. Everybody was huggin’
and kissin’ and everyone was cryin’. And I know in
my case it was the first time that I had ever won
The thing I remember was Schilling
picked me up and put me down and gave me a smack on
the chops. And I go around the corner, and here comes
Ron Jackson, the hitting coach… I never saw anybody
cry so hard like that. And he said, “I couldn’t believe
anything like this could happen,” but it did happen
and we won. That’s the way it turned out.
did you get word that you were going to raising the
World Series banner with Yaz and how did you feel
Pesky: Well, I felt pretty good.
I didn’t know about it until Yaz and I were on the
field. And they said Yaz and I were going to raise
the flag. And well, I felt pretty good about it! He
(Yaz) was one of the best players we ever had around
here. You have to put him in a class with the likes
of Ted Williams and guys like that. But, this is something
that rarely happens. But I was quite tickled that
they asked me to do it. I don’t know who the one was
that started all that stuff on who should do what,
but I was just glad to be there. I would have been
glad to just stand on the side and just watch (chuckles).
But raising the flag with Carl, wow…
He’s one of the great players in all the world. He
and Ted Williams were the best players in the history
of the club.
do you think of everything that has happened with
the Red Sox this off-season with Epstein leaving the
club, and now coming back?
Pesky: Theo coming back... it was
the greatest thing that could have happened to this
ballclub. He's a bright young man, and I don't know
what happened in the first place. Here's a guy that
came to this club that's really a thoroughbred. He
came through the ranks, and he's smart... intelligent...
he's recognizable, and he's got a God-given talent.
have to ask... It was reported that you said that
you’d run naked on the field at Fenway if the Red
Sox ever won the World Series.
Pesky: Oh, I said that stupidly. (chuckles)
Well, there are those that wonder if maybe you were
able to go out on the field privately…
Pesky: Well if I would have I would
have gone out on the field in my underwear… I would
have never done that naked. I might have done it in
shorts. I’m simple, but I’m not that simple.
We were taught that you were to respect
the public and if you didn’t you were out the door…
Portland is working toward
a Major League club. What are your feelings about
Portland, and do you see it being capable of hosting
Major League Baseball?
Pesky: How big is Portland now?
2.3 million in the metro area
Pesky: There is no reason Portland
could not have Major League Baseball. They will need
a new ballpark. But what Portland always had was great
fans. I haven't been back in 5 years, and
the growth has been phenomenal. I looked at what's
gone in in what is now the Pearl Disctrict, and it's
simply amazing the transformation. Portland is bigger
than more than a few other cities that host Major
League Baseball, why shouldn't Portland have a club?
I think they should have a
shot. I think Portland
will have a team in 3 or 4 years.
conducted by Maury Brown
Transcribed by Maury Brown and Joe Touchstone
by John Ruoff and Maury Brown
Graphics and layout by Maury Brown