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.
“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.”