The impact that Johnny Pesky made on the Red Sox during his 70-year career as a player, manager, coach, and ambassador was evident Sunday night when Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk walked onto the field at the start of the team’s tribute.
Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Jim Rice, Jason Varitek, and Tim Wakefield were among those who followed along with all of the players on the present-day roster.
Jerry Remy, Reggie Smith, Bill Lee, Keith Foulke, Lou Merloni, and Rich Gedman also were among those on hand, along with former coaches Brad Mills, Ron Jackson, Lynn Jones, and Dick Berardino.
“It’s probably a cumulative memory of John,” Fisk said. “You can talk about all the guys that played for this team over the course of the years, but he sort of remained the face of the organization for the longest time.
“He loved the game of baseball. He was one of those guys that transcended a lot of eras.”
Martinez was close to Pesky and misses his friend, who passed away last month at the age of 93.
“Anytime you see Boston, you remember his legend,” Martinez said. “You see Boston as a tradition, you have to think about Johnny Pesky, Ted Williams, and people like that that.
“Everywhere in the history of Boston you seem to have Johnny Pesky. Every story about every season that ever started has started with Johnny Pesky in spring training. I just think that his soul was attached to Boston in some way that nobody’s probably able to describe. It makes Johnny unique and makes his soul unique.”
The ceremony was a simple one. Author Dick Flavin spoke. Then a selection of players, past and present, shared stories about Pesky. David Pesky, Johnny’s only child, was on hand with his wife, Alison.
At the end of the ceremony, the players and guests laid roses on the large No. 6 on the infield at shortstop. They then all signed the “Pesky Pole” in right field.
Fans who stayed after the 2-1 victory against Baltimore gathered in the third base seats to watch, then viewed an exhibit of memorabilia on the warning track in left field.
Cody Ross made a play in the first inning near the Pesky Pole that saved a run for the Sox.
Adam Jones hit a fly ball down the line in right that looked sure to land in the first row of the seats beyond the pole. Ross tracked the ball down and caught it while banging his right knee into the wall.
Manager Bobby Valentine said it was appropriate that play was made given the tribute to Pesky later in the day.
“He was there keeping it in the ballpark, both Johnny and Cody,” Valentine said.
Ross initially thought the ball would go foul.
“I just ran over and didn’t really know where I was,” he said. “I ran in and somebody said I robbed a home run.”
Ross was limping initially but stayed in the game.
Shortstop Jose Iglesias also made several outstanding plays. He snapped up a sharply hit ball to take a hit away from Jones in the sixth inning.
In the seventh, with a runner on first, Iglesias charged a slowly-hit ball off the bat of Manny Machado and threw across his body to get a force at second.
“It’s fun to watch,” Valentine said. “He can do some special things.”
Ellsbury out again
Jacoby Ellsbury missed his third consecutive game with a lat strain. The center fielder was in the original lineup before he was scratched and replaced by Scott Podsednik.
“I was waiting on Ells to get here and work out and see how he felt,” Valentine said. “He said he felt all right but wanted to go out and throw just to make sure. After throwing, he decided that he needs another day.”
Love that smell
Valentine, you may have noticed, often holds the ball up to his face and smells it when he comes out to the mound to replace the pitcher.
So why does he do that?
“Isn’t that funny? I do smell it” Valentine said. “You got me, what am I doing? I asked myself that once while I was doing it. I like it. I like the smell of it.”
Valentine admitted it was “kind of weird.”
The manager said he didn’t spit on the ball, just in case you thought he was up to something.
John Lackey pitched two perfect innings in an Instructional League intrasquad game in Fort Myers, Fla. He struck out three and threw 26 pitches. It was the final step in what has been a season-long rehabilitation program from Tommy John elbow surgery. Lackey, who had the surgery last Nov. 1, has said he expects to start spring training without any restrictions . . . Outfielder Ryan Kalish hasn’t had a plate appearance since Sept. 11 or played in a game since Sept. 16 because of lingering shoulder discomfort related to his surgery last December. He remains on the roster but will be used sparingly, if at all. “I would think unless an emergency arises, I can’t see him really playing,” Valentine said. “He hasn’t swung in a long time. He might pinch run.” Kalish has had only 357 plate appearances over the last two seasons because of injuries . . . Dylan Bundy, a 19-year-old righthander, made his major league debut for Baltimore. He faced two batters in the eighth, getting Ryan Lavarnway on a fly ball and Danny Valencia on a pop to right. Bundy was the fourth overall pick of the 2011 draft and had a 2.08 ERA in 23 minor league starts this season . . . In what might have been his final at-bat at Fenway, 42-year-old Jim Thome pinch hit in the ninth inning and had a ground-rule double to right.