|Terry Francona on M&M: Johnny Pesky was the ‘greatest ambassador for the Red Sox you could ever have’||08.14.12 at 2:34 pm ET|
Former Red Sox Manager Terry Francona joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday to discuss the recent passing of Red Sox great Johnny Pesky. Francona, who joined the Red Sox in 2004, said that one of the first calls he made as the manager of the Red Sox was to Pesky.
“We bonded a little bit then, he came down to spring training and shoot, back in ’04 he was pretty spry,” Francona said. “He could hit some fungoes and he would walk around and talking to the guys. As time passed it became a little harder for him to move around. But he would sit on a lawn chair down on the third base line and sign autographs for fans and he would talk to anybody – anybody about the Red Sox.
“He was so passionate – I mean, he lived the Red Sox. He was probably the greatest ambassador for the Red Sox you could ever have.”
Francona discussed Pesky’s role in the clubhouse during Francona’s time as manager, as the then-84-year-old was not there as the master strategist despite his long tenure in major league baseball.
Well, I could see – everybody really adored him,” Francona said. “And when you get to a certain age, you don’t necessarily talk about strategy of the game – I mean, he certainly had carte blanche to do whatever he wanted – but it was mostly just kind of befriending them or giving them an encouraging word.
“I remember, shoot, in ’05, when we raised the flag on Opening Day, Johnny was pulling the flag up. Anything to do with the Red Sox, he had such an enormous amount of pride. Things like that are the things I will remember.”
Pesky, of course, was one of the members of the Red Sox who had not won a world series during his eight seasons with Boston as a player. So when Boston’s 86-year World Series drought ended in 2004, the players recognized how much the championship meant to someone like him.
“You see the videos of Curt Schilling and those guys giving Johnny hugs after the World Series. That’s not fake stuff,” Francona said. “They were genuinely proud for Johnny.”
While he was certainly elated amidst the World Series celebration, Francona noted that the spring was really Pesky’s favorite part of the season.
“[Spring training] is when he was the happiest,” Francona said. “It was perfect for him because he could roam around and the rules weren’t so strict then about having people in uniform and he could go to the back field and talk to a minor league kid if he wanted to or he could sit in the dugout, or what I remember was he could just sit in that little lawn chair on the third base side and sign autograph after autograph and talk to anybody. Anybody that wanted to have a word with him – he would sit there for hours.”
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