MR. RED SOX THE JOHNNY PESKY STORY
Posted by athomeatfenway on November 4, 2007
THE JOHNNY PESKY STORY, MR. RED SOX, By Bill Nowlin. Rounder, Cambridge, Mass. Published in 2004, written by Bill Nowlin, with a posthumous Foreward by Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky’s 277 page story scores a solid B.
You never forget Johnny Pesky once you’ve met him. I have a friend who met Johnny in 1975 when he was a kid in the Babe Ruth league in Pittsfield. Johnny told the youngster he would put a scout on him since the Sox were looking for young talent just like him. That comment could raise a kid’s confidence along with his BA.
That kid, now an adult, will always love Pesky, which is a common occurence. You see, Johnny touches people on an emotional level. No one gets more love when appearing at Fenway. And no one belonged more on a parade Duck with the 2007 Champs than Pesky.
But, this book shares the details of Johnny’s life without charming the reader the same way Pesky charms everyone in real life. This book is a straight accounting. Author Bill Nowlin is very good, but he is no story teller. (See Tom Adelman.)
John Paveskovich started from nothing, the son of Croatian immigrants. His positivism & grit helped him win the job of clubhouse boy with Portland in the PCL when minor leaguers like Bobby Doerr and Ted Williams came through. In 1936 Johnny was doing Ted’s laundry in Portland. Six years later, he was playing with him at Fenway Park.
Red Sox historians will be pleased with the details of Johnny’s career. The story of his minor league years fascinates. He shows up to compete with 65 others signed to Rocky Mount of the Piedmont League, each rookie bearing their own gloves, their own shirts and shoes. They were from the the uncoddled masses, playing in a simpler time in small town America. Then Johnny builds a bridge to his manager, Hall of Famer Heinie Manush and his pro career is launched with a .325 season. A solid performer, a shining teammate, a vital cog who thus ascends while excelling at every level.
Johnny’s life endures like a stone house. 65 years after his Fenway debut, he is still with the Sox, having played the roles of shortstop, third baseman, manager, coach, broadcaster, consultant, icon, and link from the past to present.
He played with Ted Williams and hit balls to Yaz, Rice, Garciaparra and Ramirez. His marriage to Ruth Hickey lasted 60 years until her passing in 2005. He still makes appearances at Fenway and throughout New England. I met him a year ago and asked him how good he thought Jonathon Papelbon could be. “As good as Roger Clemens”, he said with a wink. He told me exactly what I wanted to hear. And I will always remember him for that.