What's next? Joe Mooney's Canvas Alley?
In an apparent continuing belief that their fans are dumber than they truly are, the Red Sox last night "officially" dubbed the right field foul pole at Fenway Park, "Pesky Pole," the name that fans have long associated with it anyway. How far away are we from a plaque in the bullpen "officially" calling it "Williamsburgh?"
"That which has long been informal, official, that has long been unofficial," Fenway voice Carl Beane bellowed through the old yard last night as long-time Red Sox ambassador Johnny Pesky received the honor on his 87th birthday. We're still waiting on a translation to find out what that actually means.
You will find nary a soul in New England that will debate Pesky's contribution to this franchise over the years. (OK, maybe Dan Duquette.) And nobody is denying the fact that some sort of tribute to Pesky is long overdue to thank the man for his 56 years with the team. But this wasn't it.
Everything needs to be a reminder at Fenway, an "official" something or other, to teach the pink hats Red Sox history, forcing it down the throats of the rest of a fan base that is fully aware of every nook and cranny in the first place. This is, of course, the reason why we've now got the Fisk Pole to go along with the Pesky Pole. Real Red Sox fans take all this naming as a sort of insult. They know what these landmarks are. They don't need to be continually reminded of their importance and significance in relation to Red Sox lore.
The pink hats though, well they hear Pesky's Pole, and you know where they're going to go with it.
There used to be something ritualistic about having these names that no longer exists with their now-official status. The Fisk Pole used to just be the left field foul pole, but one lasting image popped into everyone's head when you brought it up. The Pesky Pole has been explained countless times at Fenway amongst fans bringing up their young. "Johnny Pesky used to hit very few home runs when he played, and he often hit them into that corner. That's why Mel Parnell dubbed it, 'Pesky's Pole.'"
Now…well, go read the plaque, would ya kid?
They were the little quirks and nicknames about Fenway that fans could pass down to newcomers. Now, there's no more wink, nod, and explanation as to why things are called what they are. And in "officially" naming Pesky's Pole the Red Sox came up far too short in an attempt to honor No. 6.
If the Red Sox really wanted to make a big deal about Johnny Pesky's years of service, there was simply one way to truly honor the man. Retire his number. Yes, I understand the idiotic rules by which the rules stipulate you can have your number hang from the right field rafters. It's why Wade Boggs' No. 26 isn't up there. It's why Roger Clemens (God, help us) will likely pitch in Fenway next spring so the team can retire his No. 21. It's one thing to limit the honor to Hall of Famers, something else entirely banal to demand he also finish his career with the club. And what the heck is Carlton Fisk doing these days anyway?
But one man trumps all those rules, and no, it is not Tony Conigliaro, thank you very much. He may be no Hall of Famer, but Johnny Pesky is one of the most important faces of the franchise's history in many ways. The Red Sox are his life, no hyperbole whatsoever. Most men who dedicate 56 years to any one job might get a watch upon retirement. Pesky is in a career in which his profile is so enamored by his public, which so respects his half-century of service, that he should receive the ultimate tribute that any one team can bestow upon its employee.
And "officially" dubbing something that was already named, isn't it.
The Red Seat isn't far behind, of course, the organization inevitable to feel that some sort of "official" plaque is needed there too to explain its significance. Like nobody knows. It shouldn't really bother anyone, I suppose, but I can't stand when little quirks and mysteries that are widely, yet not universally known, are made the norm. We all lose a little distinctiveness when things go mainstream.
So, it's officially Pesky's Pole, the name I've been calling the right field foul pole for the better part of three decades. Yippee. If the Red Sox truly wanted to show the man how much he really means to them, they would buck their own trend and retire his number.
It is completely deserved in this case, and warranted, despite the debate such an honor might create internally.
The Pesky Pole ceremony was the easy way out.