Red Sox legend dies at age 92


Red Sox legend dies at age 92

From Comcast SportsNet
BOSTON (AP) -- Adored by generations of Red Sox fans, Johnny Pesky was so much a part of Boston baseball that the right-field foul pole at Fenway Park was named for him. Pesky, who played, managed and served as a broadcaster for the Red Sox in a baseball career that lasted more than 60 years, died Monday. He was 92. "The national pastime has lost one of its greatest ambassadors," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said. "Johnny Pesky, who led a great American life, was an embodiment of loyalty and goodwill for the Boston Red Sox and all of Major League Baseball." Pesky died just more than a week after his final visit to Fenway, on Aug. 5 when Boston beat the Minnesota Twins 6-4. Yet for many in the legion of Red Sox fans, their last image of Pesky will be from the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park on April 20, when the man known for his warmth, kindness and outstanding baseball career was moved to tears at a pregame ceremony. By then the former shortstop was in a wheelchair positioned at second base, surrounded by dozens of admiring former players and a cheering crowd. "I feel like part of the Red Sox tradition just died because when I think of Johnny I think of him hitting fungos at spring training. We will all miss him so much," ex-pitcher Pedro Martinez said in comments provided by the Red Sox. "He was such a representative of everything that happened in Boston. It's hard to think of the success, defeat, and all we went through without Johnny. You couldn't do anything without Johnny Pesky." It was at another ceremony less than six years earlier that Pesky's name was officially inscribed in the rich history of the Red Sox and their home, a fitting tribute to a career .307 hitter and longtime teammate and friend of Ted Williams. On his 87th birthday, Sept. 27, 2006, a plaque was unveiled at the base of the foul pole just 302 feet from home plate, designating it "Pesky's Pole." The term was coined by former Red Sox pitcher Mel Parnell, who during a broadcast in the 1950s recalled Pesky winning a game for him with a home run around the pole. From there, a legend seemed to grow that Pesky frequently curled shots that way -- actually, only six of his 17 career home runs came at Fenway. In fact, team records show that Pesky never hit a home run at Fenway in which Parnell was the winning pitcher. Still, Pesky's spot in the hearts of Red Sox players and fans alike is indisputable. "This is a very sad day for me and for anyone who has ever spent any time with Mr. Pesky. He was the most positive influence I ever came across who wore the Red Sox uniform," said Jason Varitek, the team's former captain. "He was always there through the good and bad times with the same smile and passion for his team. Hello my honeysuckle, hello my honey bee, my ever lovin' Jason just got three,' Johnny used to say, wishing me three hits that night." Even though Pesky was a fan favorite, he still had his own place of notoriety in Boston's drought of 86 years without a championship. He was long blamed for holding the ball on a key relay in Game 7 of the 1946 World Series, though it's a place that many now think is undeserved. "Johnny Pesky will forever be linked to the Boston Red Sox," team president Larry Lucchino said. "He has been as much a part of Fenway Park as his retired Number 6 that rests on the right-field facade, or the foul pole below it that bears his name." Pesky died at the Kaplan Family Hospice House in Danvers, according to Solimine, Landergan and Richardson funeral home in Lynn. The funeral home did not announce a cause of death. "I've had an interesting life," Pesky told The Associated Press in 2005. "I have no complaints." In New York, a moment of silence was held at Yankee Stadium before Monday night's game against the Texas Rangers. The crowd gave a nice round of applause. "There wasn't a greater gentleman of the game," said Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, a star third baseman with both the Red Sox and Yankees. "Johnny was loved by everyone. He would light up your day when he walked in the room." Longtime Red Sox fans recall the days when Pesky was a talented shortstop and manager for the team. Younger ones saw him as an avuncular presence at the Red Sox spring training camp in Fort Myers, Fla. It was there that Pesky would encourage young players and hit grounders to infielders with his ever-present fungo bat. He stopped doing that as he aged but still spent time sitting in a folding chair, his bat by his side, signing autographs and chatting with fans of all ages. "I've had a good life with the ballclub," Pesky told the AP in 2004. "I just try to help out. I understand the game, I've been around the ballpark my whole life." Pesky was a special assignment instructor in 2004 when the Red Sox won their first championship in 86 years. Tears of joy glistened in his eyes when the World Series was over. "One of my career memories was hugging and kissing Johnny pesky after we won it all in 04, God Rest and God Bless his gentle soul, I miss you," Curt Schilling, who starred on that team, tweeted. Current Red Sox players also took to Twitter. David Ortiz: "A very dark day today for red sox nation." Jon Lester: "Just heard we lost one of the good ones today. A great player and an even better man, rest in peace Johnny, thank you for the memories." Pesky played 10 years in the majors, the first seven-plus with Boston. His No. 6 was retired by the Red Sox at a ceremony in 2008. Pesky stood under an umbrella at home plate that day, wearing the team's white home uniform. "All of Red Sox Nation mourns the loss of Mr. Red Sox,' Johnny Pesky," Boston mayor Thomas Menino said. "He loved the game and he loved the fans -- and we loved him. His dedication to the sport and his passion to improve the game through the mentorship of young players will be sorely missed. Our hearts go out to the Red Sox organization and all of Johnny's family and many friends." Former Red Sox first baseman and outfielder Kevin Millar was one of them. "Johnny is the greatest man I have ever met in this wonderful game," he said. Born John Michael Paveskovich in Portland, Ore., Pesky first signed with the Red Sox organization in 1939 at the urging of his mother. A Red Sox scout had wooed her with flowers and his father with fine bourbon. His parents, immigrants from what is now Croatia, didn't understand baseball, but they did understand that the Red Sox were the best fit for their son even though other teams offered more money. He played two years in the Red Sox minor league system before making his major league debut in 1942. That season he set the team record for hits by a rookie with 205, a mark that stood until 1997 when fellow Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, with whom he became very close, had 209. He also hit .331 his rookie year, second in the American League only to Williams, who hit .356. Pesky spent the next three years in the Navy during World War II, although he did not see combat. He was back with the Red Sox through 1952, playing with the likes of Williams, who died in 2002, Bobby Doerr and Dom DiMaggio, before being traded to the Detroit Tigers. (In 2003, author David Halberstam told the story of Pesky, Williams, Doerr and DiMaggio in his book "The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship.") Doerr, a Hall of Fame second baseman and Pesky's longtime double-play partner, said the two were friends since 1934, when Doerr broke into the Pacific Coast League with the Hollywood Stars and Pesky was the clubhouse boy in Portland. "He would hang your jockstrap up. He would hang your wet sweat shirt up. That's kind of how close we were," the 94-year-old Doerr told the AP from his home in Junction City, Ore. "We got to be good friends. When he got to the Red Sox, we roomed together. "He was good to play alongside of. He hit a lot of line drives. He could run. He beat out a lot of balls to first base," Doerr recalled. "When he got a good pitch to hit, he hit it." Pesky was often said to have held the ball for a split second as Enos Slaughter made his famous "Mad Dash" from first base to score the winning run for the St. Louis Cardinals against the Red Sox in the deciding game of the 1946 World Series. With the score tied at 3, Slaughter opened the bottom of the eighth inning with a single. With two outs, Harry Walker hit the ball to center field. Pesky, playing shortstop, took the cutoff throw from outfielder Leon Culberson, and according to some newspaper accounts, hesitated before throwing home. Slaughter, who ran through the stop sign at third base, was safe at the plate, and the best-of-seven series went to the Cardinals. "I thought he got rid of it pretty good. There was no fault of Johnny's on that," Doerr said. Pesky always denied any indecision, and analysis of the film appeared to back him up, but the myth persisted. "In my heart, I know I didn't hold the ball," Pesky once said. Pesky spent two years with the Tigers and Senators before starting a coaching career that included a two-year stint as Red Sox manager in 1963 and 1964. He came back to the Red Sox in 1969 and stayed there, even filling in as interim manager in 1980 after the club fired Don Zimmer. "Johnny bleeds Red Sox red. He couldn't do enough to help you out," former Boston outfielder Fred Lynn said. "John was our hitting coach and he was almost like a dad to me. When I'd line out he'd say, Hey, you see that guy standing there? Don't hit it there. You're a college guy.' Being with Johnny was like being with my dad all day. I always joked that Johnny hit 200 singles in a year, and I hit 200 in my career." Pesky is survived by a son, David. His wife, Ruth, whom he married in 1944, died in 2005.

Durant falling in love with Bay Area doesn't mean he hates OKC

Durant falling in love with Bay Area doesn't mean he hates OKC

OAKLAND – Kevin Durant will not come out and say it with any real conviction. He won’t. He can’t. Not without being judged without jury.

He’s falling in love with the Bay Area.

Durant, having signed with the Warriors in July, is enthralled with the place one former local football head coach once described as “God’s Country.” He has spent recent weeks settling in and getting out and finds himself swept up in the charms of Oakland and San Francisco and other cities and towns – and the people within – that constitute one of the world’s unique locations.

What was speculated upon Durant’s July 4 decision to sign with the Warriors is being confirmed with each passing day. Though he is here to play basketball in a style he likes, with teammates he has bonded with, he also wants to dive into the Bay Area’s endless cultural smorgasbord.

This does not in any way indicate Durant suddenly hates Oklahoma City or the Thunder or the residents of the state due north of Texas. He called the place home for the better part of a decade. He opened businesses there. He donated his time and money. He gave to the area and the area loved him for it.

But the man clearly craved new experiences and sought new challenges, as well as a dramatically different vantage point. The window through which he views life is bigger in the Bay Area than it ever could have been in Oklahoma City.

Durant won’t say it. But the evidence continues to reveal itself.

He’s riding public transportation. He’s going to record stores – yes, record stores. He’s walking the streets and taking in the sights. He’s going to concerts and, for crying out loud, rubbing shoulders with the folks who shop the clearance rack as well as those who can afford tickets to see the Warriors.

“It was fun,” Durant said of his semi-organized tour last week. “Nike did a great job of coordinating everything. I just tried to get out and touch the people a little bit and let ‘em know I’m here.”

From BART with the people to Sunday night and the risky undertaking of joining the mosh pit beneath the floating stage on which Kanye West performed at Oracle Arena.

A four-time scoring champ and former MVP . . . in a mosh pit with about 3,000 people crammed on the arena floor.

“I used to take the train to school every day, to high school, so I’ve had that experience before,” Durant said of his BART excursion. “But the Kanye thing, that was different. It was fun, man. That whole experience was something I’ve never felt before. I was happy I was able to get the chance to go.

“It was nuts. It was nuts. Just seeing all the videos throughout the summer and never having a chance to get to a show . . . so I’m glad it came through here. I was telling all my friends the whole summer I wanted to get into a mosh pit. It was amazing.”

Could you imagine Kobe Bryant in a mosh pit? Tim Duncan? Michael Jordan? Durant didn’t care. This was something he wanted to do, and could do. He felt it. So he did it.

Judge him at your own risk.

This is Durant spreading his wings in a way he never could in Oklahoma City simply because he has entered an appreciably broader cultural zone. If he didn’t outgrow OKC – he doesn’t dare say that – he surely welcomes the vast societal and intellectual diversity of his new home.

Durant already was somewhat familiar with the area. His first NBA agent, Aaron Goodwin, is an Oakland resident. When Durant came to town with his previous teams, he would, if time permitted, visit ballparks and restaurants and other various attractions.

This is now his home. He said as much on Monday. And he obviously enjoys the new digs and all its trappings.

Durant loved what he had, and now he loves what he has. When someone moves out of one home and into another, larger home, does that have to mean he didn’t like the old place?

49ers players get week break, while coaches search for answers

49ers players get week break, while coaches search for answers

SANTA CLARA -- In the early afternoon Monday after the 49ers’ day-after-game meetings concluded, the players were excused for the next seven days.

Coach Chip Kelly opted to give the 49ers a week break, rather than going through a couple days of practices before providing the players with a mandatory four consecutive days off during the bye week.

The 49ers on Sunday dropped to 1-6 on the season with a 34-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But there will be no extra practices to attempt to sharpen their performance.

“They’ve been at it since July 31st,” Kelly said. “They haven’t had more than one day off in a row. So I think at this point in time that’s what our whole MO has always been.

“They’ll meet with our strength and conditioning coaches. They have their lifting programs in terms of what they can do and what they have to do. And I think at this point in time we need to heal up. I think it’s a good break for them to do what they need to do and that’s the way I’ve always done it and our teams have been fresh coming out of the bye week.”

While the players will be off for a week, Kelly said the coaching staff will continue to work through Friday in an attempt to identify areas in which they can improve and snap out of their six-game losing streak on Nov. 6 against the New Orleans Saints at Levi’s Stadium.

“We’ve got a lot of self-scout that we have set aside,” Kelly said. “We’ll be in here all week kind of looking at what we’ve done in the first seven games, what have our opponents done to us in the first seven games relative to what we thought going into the game based on the break downs. Did they change?

“If they were 60-percent pressure going into our game and they were only 30-percent pressure in our game, trying to delve into how people are defending us. How are people attacking us from an offensive standpoint in terms of attacking our defense and what their tendencies were going into the game and then what actually transpired in the game. So we’ve got a lot of film work and a lot of studying to do here during this week.”

Kelly reiterated on Monday that he is not looking at leaving the 49ers after this season. He said he has not heard from any schools with coaching openings or potential openings. Kelly said he has tried to remain focused on his job through the longest losing streak he has ever experienced as a coach.

“No one’s happy, so I don’t know if the word’s anguish, but I mean obviously you try to keep it consistent in terms of your approach to everything that you do,” Kelly said. “I don’t think being consistent and being even-keeled means that it doesn’t bother you or that you’re not frustrated in terms of what’s gone on.”

Kelly said the 49ers have the talent to win games. When asked why the coaches have not been able to extract more victories, Kelly placed the blame for the team’s poor play on himself and his staff.

“That’s on us,” Kelly said. “I agree 100-percent in terms of what you’re saying. But our job is to put our players in position to make plays and we’re not doing a good enough job of that right now.”