John Michael Pesky was born on September 27, 1919. He was nicknamed "The Needle" and "Mr. Red Sox," and is a former Major League Baseball shortstop, third baseman, and manager. During a 10-year playing career, he played in 1942 and from 1946-1954 for three different teams. He missed all of the 1943, 1944, and 1945 seasons while serving in World War II.
Johnny Pesky's biography is Mr. Red Sox by Bill Nowlin, published by Rounder Books. Pesky has been associated with the Boston Red Sox for 59 of his 71 years in baseball – from 1940 through June 3, 1952; 1961 through 1964; and continuously since 1969. Pesky also managed the Red Sox from 1963–1964, and in September 1980.
A left-handed hitter who threw right-handed, Pesky was a tough man for pitchers to strike out. He was the first AL player to score 6 runs in a 9 inning game. As a hitter, he specialized in getting on base, leading the American League in base hits three times - his first three seasons in the majors, in which he collected over 200 hits each year - and was among the top ten in on-base percentage six times while batting .307 in 1,270 games over ten seasons. He was also an excellent bunter who led the league in sacrifice bunts in 1942.
In honor of Pesky, the right field foul pole at Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, is known as Pesky's Pole, or the Pesky Pole. Former teammate and Sox broadcaster Mel Parnell named the pole after Pesky. The story goes that Pesky won a game for Parnell in 1948 with a home run down the short (302 feet/92m) right field line, just around the pole. Being that Pesky was a contact hitter who hit only 17 home runs—six of them at Fenway Park—in 4,745 at bats in the major leagues, it's quite possible that the home runs he hit there landed in close proximity to the pole. Research, however, shows that Pesky hit just one home run in a game pitched by Parnell, a two-run shot in the first inning of a game against Detroit played on June 11, 1950. The game was eventually won by the visiting Tigers in the 14th inning on a three-run shot by Tigers right fielder Vic Wertz and Parnell earned a no-decision that day.
Intermittently, Pesky has since been allowed to sit on the Red Sox bench during games, but three times has been prevented from the task — once by his own general manager, Dan Duquette, a second time when the Baltimore Orioles complained to MLB, and a third time in March 2007, when Major League Baseball announced it would enforce limitations that only six coaches could be in uniform during a game. Pesky, as an instructor, was ineligible.
Pesky attended the 2004 World Series and, after the Game 4 triumph, was embraced by Boston players such as Tim Wakefield and Curt Schilling as a living representative of star Red Sox players of the past whose teams fell short of winning the Fall Classic. He played a poignant and prominent role in the ceremony in which the World Series Championship Rings were handed out (April 11, 2005). With the help of Carl Yastrzemski, he raised the 2004 World Series Championship banner up the Fenway Park center field flagpole. Pesky also had the honor of raising the Red Sox' 2007 World Series Championship banner on April 8, 2008.On his 87th birthday, September 27, 2006, the Red Sox honored Pesky by officially naming the right-field foul pole "Pesky's Pole." On September 23, 2008, the Red Sox announced that they would retire the No. 6 Pesky wore as a player to mark his 89th birthday and his long years of service to the club. Pesky's number is the sixth number retired by the Red Sox; his number retired was the 1st to break the Red Sox's code to have a number retired: being in the Baseball Hall of Fame and having spent at least 10 years with the Red Sox. On September 28, 2008, his number was officially retired in a ceremony at Fenway Park.