Red Sox elder statesman Johnny Pesky, the line-drive hitting shortstop of the great Boston teams of the late 1940s, died this afternoon at age 92. Born John Michael Paveskovich, Pesky set a rookie record with 205 hits in 1942, even while beginning his Navy aviation training in Turner’s Falls, Massachusetts. Following his rookie season, Pesky spent three years in the United States Navy as a Naval Aviator during World War II. He returned to the Red Sox to play shortstop on the 1946 Pennant winning team.
Like so many athletes of his era, including the most famous of them, Pesky served his country during wartime. Among his classmates in his Turner’s Falls training was teammate Ted Williams, (Philadelphia) A’s legend Joe Coleman, and Braves right-hander Johnny Sain.
While neither Pesky nor Williams would see combat in World War II, Teddy Ballgame would be recalled to active duty and would fly F9F Panthers for the Marine Corps in Korea, alongside John Glenn, and belly-landed once due to damage from Chinese ground fire.
Johnny Pesky hit .307 for his major league career, which lasted an abbreviated ten seasons. 1942, 1946-1954. He served as a coach, manager, broadcaster, and ambassador for the Boston Red Sox in his 73-year baseball career. However, he was as proud of his time in the United States Navy as of any other career accomplishment. In an era where athletes peddle their wares ostentatiously to the highest bidder and complain about the “humiliation” of a $12.5 million salary, Johnny Pesky will be missed. As will Feller, Williams, Spahn, Musial, Doby, and all those who are leaving us along with their less-famous comrades who served our country and our cause.