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The Boston Globe

Sports

From the archives | 2007

At 88, Johnny Pesky still enjoying role with Red Sox

Johnny Pesky turns 88 today. Yes, he plans to be at the ballpark tonight. Did you expect anything different?

“I don’t know how much longer I can go on,” said the Red Sox’ greatest living ambassador, who is completing his 55th season with the club, the last 37 in a row.

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“But I had my physical six weeks ago, and everything’s fine.”

Pesky was sidelined for a short time this summer because of dental implants, but otherwise has been a regular at Fenway Park.

Pesky is not the oldest living Sox player. Bill Werber, who is 99, played with the Red Sox from 1933-36. But Pesky, who broke in with the Sox as a player in 1942 and set a club record with three straight 200-hit seasons, is the most visible, still occupying a locker just inside the door of the clubhouse.

“I enjoy the atmosphere,” Pesky said, “but I miss the dugout. I miss that the most.”

An edict from Major League Baseball this season limiting the people who could be in the dugout during a game led to Pesky’s banishment.

“I’ve been there my whole life,” Pesky said. “When it happens to you, it hurts. But I realize I’ve got to go by the rules.

“The ball club has been very good to me. [Larry] Lucchino has been great, [Charles] Steinberg wonderful, Mr. [John] Henry. Really, I’ve got no complaints.”

Pesky said when he looks at rookie Jacoby Ellsbury, he’s reminded of a young Fred Lynn. “It doesn’t hurt that he’s from Oregon, either,” said Pesky, a native of that state. “My brother saw him play in college; he told me he would play in the big leagues.

“I told him, `Oh, don’t give me that,’ but he was right.

“I like how down-to-earth he is, not cocky at all. He’s got that Bobby Doerr outlook on life, sweet as an apple.”

Ask him if he’s lost a step and Pesky shoots back, “Maybe 20. I’ve slowed down a little bit. When I rush, I’ve got to step back a little. I feel old, but I’ve been blessed.”

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