SEATTLE -- In the latest cold, cowardly, corporate move of the Dan Duquette regime, 77-year-old Red Sox lifer Johnny Pesky has been told he’s not welcome in the Boston dugout anymore.
``It hurts me quite a bit to be honest with you,’’ Pesky said last night from his home in Greater Boston. ``I don’t have much time left and I was hoping they’d let me stay in the dugout. I think some of the players like having me around there.’’
Pesky has been associated with the Red Sox for most of the last 52 years. He’s been a player, manager, coach, broadcaster, salesman, and general goodwill ambassador. In the last two seasons, he’s been in the dugout, sitting by the side of the Red Sox manager. Now those days are over.
Red Sox first baseman Mo Vaughn was angry when he heard the news of Pesky’s demotion and said, ``How can you let No. 6 not be around the kids? He does nothing but help them. He likes it. He likes to be there for them.
``That’s lovely, man. Johnny Pesky gave his heart and soul to the Boston Red Sox. He’s a great man and he should be appreciated for all this time. He should be here with us, on the road with us, talking with us. Johnny Pesky, if anybody should be here, it’s him.’’
There is considerable confusion about who made this call, but all roads lead to Duquette, the rotisserie nerd/ general manager who runs the Red Sox as if they are US Steel.
``It was Duquette that told me,’’ said Pesky. ``He told me in a conference call before spring training. He said it’s OK for me to hit my fungoes, but then he wants me to get dressed and go upstairs in the press room. Those were his exact words.’’
Pesky said he is scheduled to meet today with Duquette, and Sox executives John Buckley and Dick Bresciani.
``I don’t know. Maybe they want me to go away,’’ said the former Sox shortstop. ``I guess they’ll tell me what they have planned for me.’’
Duquette is not with the Red Sox on the West Coast. All questions for him go through Kevin Shea, club director of corporate communications. When Shea was asked about the Pesky situation, he said, ``It’s nothing against Johnny. He’s valuable to us in the community and with our fans. It’s not Johnny’s decision, Jimy’s [Sox manager Jimy Williams] decision, or Dan’s. Jimy’s got a full complement of staff. They’ve got things under control.’’
Williams was asked about the move after yesterday’s extra-inning loss and said, ``I have a full complement of coaches. I think the organization will utilize Johnny Pesky in both the Boston area and the rest of the minor league organization. He’ll carry a lot of weight being utilized in that fashion, speaking to groups.
``It’s our decision as an organization.’’
Pesky said, ``I can’t believe Jimy Williams wouldn’t want me around. I’ve known him a long time. I won’t believe he made this decision until he tells me to my face.’’
Pesky broke in with the Red Sox in 1942 and was part of the 1946 team that made it to the seventh game of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. He’s been involved with the Sox at every level of their farm system and is listed in the 1997 press guide as ``Special Assistant for Player Development.’’
Sox players have grown accustomed to Pesky hitting hundreds of fungoes before each game. He’s been a personal tutor to the likes of John Valentin and Vaughn, and spends every spring training working with the Sox’ young players in Florida.
``I thought they might want to keep me around,’’ said Pesky. ``We’ve had nothing but National League people coming in here for the last two years. Sometimes I’m able to tell a player or a manager something that might help.’’
``Forty years in the organization here,’’ Vaughn said, shaking his head. ``Most people want to go to their home at his age. And he wants to come out here. He should be an untouchable person in this organization. But, I thought that Roger Clemens was untouchable, too.
``Pesky ain’t nothing but a good man. A good man, a good baseball man. He’s good to have around. He was my biggest fan when I was having trouble in terms of my play. When I first came up he was right there for me.’’
Williams said Vaughn had told him how he feels about Pesky.
``I’m not one to raise any roofs or make a big deal out of things,’’ said Pesky. ``I’ve always done what I’m told. And I have respect for the position of manager and general manager. I really don’t know what they have planned for me.’’
He should not have to wonder. Johnny Pesky is a wonder of baseball. He’s a 77-year-old man with the heart of a teenager. He loves the game and has devoted his professional life to the Boston Red Sox. And now they have broken his big heart.
Pesky really must have been causing problems in the dugout. Probably he was bothering the Duke’s minions, talking too much baseball. All that enthusiasm can get in the way of corporate goals.
It’s a disgrace. Shame on the Red Sox.