Remembering Johnny Pesky
Johnny Pesky passed away on Monday. He was a husband, a father, and a friend to more than just a small handful of people. He served his country admirably in the Navy during World War II. He was fiercely loyal to the people and the organizations in his life that he cared about. His smile was simple, genuine, and timeless.
And so was my Great Uncle Frank’s. All of it. Everything. It’s almost like he and Mr. Pesky had to have been brothers.
I lost my Uncle Frank in the spring of 2011. He was 90-years old. No, Uncle Frank didn’t play baseball at its highest level. He was not a career .300 hitter, and his number is not retired, never to be worn by another member of the Red Sox again. One of his closest friends was not the immortal Ted Williams. And no, my Uncle Frank’s name will not forever be associated with one of baseball’s greatest franchises.
Uncle Frank and Mr. Pesky did have a lot in common, however. They were each married to their respective wives for more than 60-years. Both men were proud fathers. When their country called, my Uncle Frank and Mr. Pesky answered. They each served multiple years during World War II–both were Navy men. Both individuals lived long, rich lives into their 90’s. Most importantly, spending time with my Uncle Frank, just having a conversation with him, made you feel enriched, a better person because of it. And after all of the stories that I have heard about Mr. Pesky, it is clear that he had the same effect on the individuals in his presence.
I don’t have any personal Johnny Pesky stories to re-tell. You won’t find a ball in my collection that has been signed by Old Number 6. I have only seen him from my seats in the bleachers on Opening Day or through my television at home. But really, that’s all I needed. You could see the reaction from people when Mr. Pesky was around. They were overjoyed at the opportunity to meet him, to talk about baseball, to talk about family, to talk about life. And Mr. Pesky was just as thrilled to talk to people as they were to listen. He got as much, if not more, out of these interactions as they did.
My Uncle Frank was the same way. He was a bridge that took me (and so many others) back to the 1930’s and 1940’s, to what life was like for the Greatest Generation. Similarly, Mr. Pesky connected us, as fans, back to the days of Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr, to a time that truly made the game of baseball America’s first pastime.
I’m sure that I am just one of many, many people who, when they learned of Mr. Pesky’s passing, thought of a relative or a friend that reminded them of him or her. It’s a testimony to the life that Mr. Pesky lived.
As the line of folks Upstairs who are waiting for a chance to exchange words with the old infielder begins to thin out a bit, I’m sure my Great Uncle Frank will make his way over to Mr. Pesky–just to say hello and talk about the good old days.