Johnny Pesky covered his face with his hands, not quite hiding his moist eyes. He stood behind home plate at Fenway Park, looking out to right field through the raindrops, just beyond and to the left of the foul pole named after him.
Pesky watched Carlton Fisk rip away a green curtain hanging over the facade of the upper deck, revealing Pesky’s No. 6 between Joe Cronin’s No. 4 and Carl Yastrzemski’s No. 8. Pesky wore the home white No. 6 uniform as he watched, the last time anyone will wear it.
The Red Sox retired Pesky’s number in a ceremony before yesterday’s first game, a 6-2 victory by the Yankees. The Sox altered their policy on retiring numbers for Pesky, bolting his number to the facade despite him not being in the Hall of Fame. He became the sixth Sox player to be so honored, joining Bobby Doerr (No. 1), Cronin, Yastrzemski, Ted Williams (No. 9), and Fisk (No. 27).
“I can’t get over how it got up there,” Pesky said afterward. “Because I wasn’t Hall of Fame material. But I played with some great guys, and I was great coat hanger. I was hanging on to Ted and Bobby and Dom [DiMaggio]. We had so much fun and played so well together.”
Pesky, known as Mr. Red Sox, has spent 57 years with the Sox as a player, coach, manager, broadcaster, and just about everything else. He still keeps a locker in the clubhouse.
Pesky, even on a day meant solely for him, couldn’t stop talking about the team he loves. When he stepped to the microphone to address the crowd, he told them the Red Sox had a great club this year.
“I can’t remember their names,” said Pesky, who turned 89 Saturday. “I’m lucky to remember my own name at my age.”
The crowd laughed along with Pesky. They showered him with a rousing ovation, and afterward clapped in rhythm and chanted “John-ny Pes-ky.”
“I didn’t think I’d get that kind of welcome,” Pesky said. “This is very flattering.”
The Red Sox played a tribute on the video board depicting Pesky’s life and career with the Red Sox.
Pitcher Curt Schilling offered a taped message, as did Nomar Garciaparra, always one of Pesky’s favorite players, while wearing a Dodgers hat.