Today in Boston by Ethan Underhill: 4/11/2005 — The Needle ⚾️

Few had cause to feel the hurt of the Curse as deeply as he did. But like any great Bostonian, he played through the pain and kept on going for the love of the game. Ultimately, he spent over 6 of his 9 decades dedicated to his extended Fenway family.

So, it made a hell of a lot of sense when today in Boston, 2005, fresh off crushing 86 years of heartbreak with 4 consecutive wins over the St. Louis Cardinals, the newly crowned @RedSox presented 86-year-old Johnny Pesky with a World Series ring of his own.

Now, it had been a hot minute — 51 years, to be exact — since Pesky had played an inning, but the guy led so many batting practices in his 20-odd years as a Special Instructor and Assistant to the General Manager that he might as well have been on Terry Francona’s roster.

In fact, at one point in 2002, the then-83-year-old nabbed a practice ball bolting toward his old Shortstop-Third Base domain!

This is to say that The Needle — an affectionate nickname BFF Ted Williams gave him for his slender nose — never quite put out the fire that got his career going from his native Portland, Oregon. The son of Croatian immigrants 🇭🇷, John Michael Paveskovich spent much of his youth playing in local leagues before getting picked up by Red Sox owner and unapologetic racist Tom Yawkey.

Scorekeepers quickly found it easier to write “Pesky” where “Paveskovich” should have been. The nickname stuck, and Johnny Pesky legally changed his name in 1947.

After dominating his rookie year in 1942 by coming in second to Williams American League hits, Pesky joined Teddy Ballgame in service as a Naval officer during World War II, which meant his missing the ‘43-‘45 seasons. But then it was back to baseball.

Over the next 66 years, Pesky would serve as a Red Sox player, manager, commentator, and coach. They retired his number in 2008, and he passed on in 2012 at 93.

Thank you, Johnny. We loved you madly.

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