Pesky mending tough injury

Red Sox icon Pesky mending tough injury

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Typical Johnny Pesky. The baseball lifer could have taken a day off on Saturday if he had wanted it with the Red Sox taking a lengthy bus ride to Dunedin. Instead, Pesky made it a busman's holiday of sorts, taking in a college game between Suffolk University (Boston) and Denison University (Ohio), which was played at City of Palms Park, the venue at which the Red Sox play their Spring Training home games.

Pesky wanted to offer some advice to the Suffolk shortstop. But before he got that chance, Pesky, who was watching the game in a folding chair along the left-field line, got belted just outside the left ankle by a line drive off the bat of Denison senior Todd Pitt. Peksy suffered a non-displaced fracture of the left fibula and will fly back to Boston on Monday for several weeks of rest and recovery.

In case you hadn't guessed, Pesky's resolve -- even at the age of 86 -- remains as strong as ever. A day after suffering the fracture, Pesky vowed to do everything in his power to be in uniform for the home opener, slated for April 11 at Fenway Park against the Blue Jays.

Every year, Pesky gets a warm ovation during the opener as he hops out to the baseline during pregame introductions. He hopes not to miss out on the fun this year.

"I want to be back for Opening Day. At least I think I will, because we've got some time between now and the opener," said Pesky. "I don't want to run out there like a pigeon, but I'm hoping this thing will clear up a lot sooner than I think. It's just one of those things that happened. I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. That's all."

Pesky's official title for the Red Sox is "instructor," but it might as well be "ambassador," both for his team and the sport of baseball.

A one-time star shortstop of the Red Sox -- Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio and Bobby Doerr were among his teammates -- Pesky has spent his whole post-playing life involved in baseball, the game he loves so much.

All he wanted to do on Saturday was try to better the career of one of the Suffolk players.

"I wanted to say something to the young shortstop and I didn't get a chance to," said Pesky. "When I came down [to the field], they all came by and wanted to see my World Series ring. I talked to them a little bit and I saw them play. I saw something in the kid shortstop and I wanted to talk to his coach first.

"I just had a suggestion I wanted to make to him. I'm not going to tell him how to play or anything like that. I thought maybe I could help him in some area about how he's set up."

Instead, Pesky got a lesson of his own about making sure he keeps his eye on the ball.

"I was kind of staggering yesterday, I was a fish out of water," Pesky said. "That's the first time anything like that ever happened to me."

All those years Pesky has spent on a baseball field, you'd think he must have experienced something like this before. As it turns out, this was indeed a first.

"I've been in the game for 60 years, that's the first time I've ever been hit by a line drive," said Pesky. "I used to dodge and duck pretty good. I got hit in the coconut twice in the Minor Leagues. And I got hit in Boston, too. Sid Hudson [from the Washington Senators] hit me in Boston. It was a slider. I was hanging over the plate. We were in a situation, [and] I didn't want to strike out. I got the big Williams coming up [next]. He threw me a slider. It hit me [in the back of my head] and the ball went right into the stands. So, I must have a hard head."

Pesky was jokingly asked if his age is finally catching up to him.

"That could be. I'm a senior citizen now. I've been one for the last 10 years," said Pesky. "But I thought I was pretty active. It was stupid on my part, because I always watch the hitter. But I didn't watch the hitter, because I never dreamed he would pull the ball that much. It was a line drive that hit me on the fly. I thought it was just a bruise. But then I looked down there and there was blood all over the place."

The Red Sox had a doctor stay with Pesky overnight on Saturday.

"These guys have been great," Pesky said. "I thought I could be able to run today, but it didn't happen."

But Pesky's only true goal is to run right on to that Fenway Park field on April 11.

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.