Ranking the Red Sox shortstops
By Rick McNair
Number Five – Johnny Pesky
They call it the “Pesky Pole” for a reason since Johnny Pesky hit a grand total of 17 home runs in ten MLB seasons. There is no record of how many cut around his namesake marker in right field, but Pesky didn’t live off the long ball but the short ball, breaking in as a 23-year-old in 1942 and hitting .331 while leading the American League in hits.
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Pesky – like most players of the WW II era – was off to military service and in his case, it was three seasons before returning in 1946 and resuming where he left off hitting .335 and leading the league in hits while playing an excellent defensive short.
That 1946 season also presented an infamous part of Red Sox history when in the World Series Pesky reportedly held the ball too long on a relay allowing Enos Slaughter to motor home with a key run. Many have disputed that play and the level of Pesky responsibility so I will leave it at that.
In 1948 Pesky was moved to third to make way for new shortstop Vern Stephens and Pesky also saw his average dip to .281. Was the move the reason for the sudden drop for the diminutive left-hand hitter?
Pesky rebounded and was returned to short for the 1951 season, but the skill set was eroding and Pesky was shipped off to the Tigers in 1952 and finally finished off with the Senators and a forgettable 1954 season, but that was only the beginning for Pesky in Boston.
Coach extraordinaire, manager, father confessor, friend and number retired. Pesky became a legend.