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Past, present Sox mourn death of Pesky

Past, present Sox mourn death of Pesky

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Past, present Sox mourn death of Pesky
BALTIMORE -- A day after the death of Johnny Pesky, the Red Sox revealed additions to their uniform for the remainder of the season as a tribute to the late franchise icon.

Meanwhile, Red Sox players past and present continued to express their fond remembrances of a man who was known most for his loyalty and enthusiasm.

"I've been in this organization for the last 10 years and Johnny is what the Red Sox would call the franchise," said David Ortiz. "It comes down to this. When you talk about the Red sox, you talk about Johnny Pesky and not being able to have him around physically anymore, this is something hard to deal with. It's very devastating to find out that he passed away."

Starting with Tuesday night's game against the Orioles at Camden Yards, the Red Sox will wear a black arm band (right side) on their regular road uniforms. For their home uniform and two alternate jerseys, the club will have a two-inch all-black circle on left arm with Pesky's No. 6 in white.

The Orioles held a moment of silence for Pesky prior to Tuesday night's game.

Bobby Doerr, who along with Pesky, Ted Williams and Dominic DiMaggio, was chronicled in a riveting book called "Teammates" by David Halberstam, expressed his remembrances of his former double-play partner.

The last time Pesky and Doerr were together was on April 20, when the Red Sox had their grand 100-year anniversary celebration of Fenway Park.

"Johnny and I were always very close friends," said Doerr. "I first met him in 1934 in Portland, Ore., when Johnny was working for the Portland Beavers and I was playing for Hollywood in the Pacific Coast League. We roomed together and I always thought a lot of Johnny. I really enjoyed talking with him during the 100-year celebration."

Another second baseman also had nothing but warm remembrances of Pesky.

"He was the best," said Dustin Pedroia. "Every day you'd come in, he'd always put a smile on your face. He'd always joke around with you and make sure you were focused. It was fun. I remember my rookie year, he'd always give me a hard time and give me stories about Ted Williams and you'd always give him a hard time back. When you think of the Red Sox, you think of Johnny. He always treated everyone great. We're going to miss him."

Pesky had a 61-year association with the Red Sox, the last 44 of which were continuous.

"Johnny Pesky will never be forgotten," said Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, who played for the Red Sox from 1978-84, and again in '98. "His passion for baseball and the Red Sox was unmatched."

Theo Epstein was a life-long Red Sox fan before he had the chance to be the general manager of the team from 2003-11. That gave him the thrill of plenty of up-close access to Pesky.

"He was always happy to be at the ballpark, so that really rubbed off on everyone around him," said Epstein, currently the president of baseball operations for the Cubs. "He always believed in players, always had players' backs and saw the best in everybody, including players. Baseball and the Red Sox organization meant so much to him.

"He was always happy to be at Fenway, so that helped on the tough days, just seeing how much he genuinely enjoyed it and how long he'd been there. It helped lift your own mood sometimes. He had that effect on a lot of people. He'll be sorely missed. He was a great baseball guy who had a tremendous amount of knowledge and was always telling great Ted Williams stories and a living link to the past. He'll be sorely missed."

When Carlton Fisk hit his legendary home run off the left-field foul pole to end Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, the first hand he got to shake was Pesky's, who was Boston's first-base coach at that time.

"I am crushed to hear of Johnny's passing. I have known him for 50 years," Fisk said. "For me, Johnny was the face of the organization -- he was always there. He was there with the players for 60 years and we all loved being with him. He loved the game more than anyone I know. I will miss him dearly."

It is a distinguished list of Red Sox players who have had their numbers retired at Fenway -- Joe Cronin, Doerr, Fisk, Jim Rice, Williams, Pesky and perhaps the greatest living player in team history, Carl Yastrzemski.

"Johnny Pesky was a friend and mentor of mine for many years," Yastrzemski said. "His devotion to the Red Sox organization was a real inspiration to all of us who played for the team. I was happy for Johnny when the Red Sox retired his No. 6 and placed it among all the other retired numbers in right field."

When the Red Sox finally won the World Series in 2004, all of the players were thrilled for Pesky. But nobody was more demonstrative about it than Curt Schilling, who gave a bear-hug to a tearful Pesky and lifted him into the air.

"When I think about my 20-year career, one of the three to four snapshots that I immediately see is hugging and kissing Mr. Pesky in the [visiting clubhouse in St. Louis] after the final out in '04," Schilling said. "A gentler, kinder and more honorable man I did not know. God be with you and may you now sit with Teddy Ball Game and rehash two amazing lives. I will miss you and will never forget you."

Few Red Sox players were able to spend more time around Pesky than Dwight Evans, who played in Boston from 1972-90 and has remained in the area in the decades since his career ended.

"I first met Johnny when I was 18 and I came to the Red Sox, and he was always a gentleman and always so fun to be around. I first met Johnny in his early 50s and knew him most of his adult life," said Evans. "I know one thing, he loved his wife Ruthie, and now they're together. This life is so short, and he lived it to the fullest. I celebrate Johnny Pesky's life in many ways.

"He was a coach, an announcer, a mentor and always a friend. He always had a smile and he would always talk about your career and the players we played with. He loved that fungo of his, too, and he would tell story after story. He also served in World War II, and I have so much respect for those guys who served our country through wartime. His charisma just rubbed off on you. If you were feeling bad, you wanted to be around Johnny Pesky, because he made you feel good. The game would be better off with a lot more Johnny Peskys. He will be missed by many."

The Red Sox will pay tribute to Pesky at Fenway Park at a date to be announced. The team is on the road until Aug. 21.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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