This is Johnny Pesky, one of the most beloved figures in Boston Red Sox history. He spent 61 years with Boston as a player, coach, manager and broadcaster.
He was born John Michael Paveskovich right here in the Slabtown neighborhood of Northwest Portland, Oregon. As a kid, Pesky spent virtually all of his free time at Vaughn Street Ballpark (open from 1901–1955), which stood at Northwest 24th & Vaughn – just three blocks from the Tavern & Pool. He and his buddies also hung out and played pool at the tavern, owned at the time by the uncle of one of Johnny's good friends. Pesky first signed with the Red Sox in 1939 at the urging of his mom. According to a story in the Daily News, several teams were after Johnny, but a scout from the Red Sox sealed the deal by wooing his mom with flowers and his dad with bourbon. Ironically, a few years later, Johnny’s younger brother Vince signed with the Sox’s arch nemesis, the New York Yankees. The expected big confrontation between brothers of rivaling teams, however, never did come to pass. After a couple unsatisfactory seasons in the minors, Vince decided he'd rather coach baseball and teach high school, which he went on to do with great success for several decades in Portland.
As a hitter for the Sox, Johnny Pesky specialized in getting on base, leading the American League in base hits three times and finishing with a .307 career batting average. [Note: That’s super-good.] He was a teammate and close friend of Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr and Dom DiMaggio, a friendship that was written about in David Halberstam’s book The Teammates. Today, a bronze statue immortalizing the four friends stands outside the entrance to Fenway Park in Boston. And even cooler, the right field foul pole has long been called the Pesky Pole for all the long fly balls that Johnny wrapped around it for home runs.
McMenamins Tavern and Pool was honored to host Pesky and several of his old Vaughn Street pals in 2006 and again in 2010. Here he is with our historian Tim Hills during his first visit, signing some books and photos for our archives and sharing memories of his days in his old Slabtown neighborhood, some of which is on display at T&P.
Johnny Pesky passed away in 2012 at the age of 92. The Boston Red Sox retired the #6 in his honor, despite the fact that Pesky is not a member of the Hall of Fame. The Boston Globe wrote: “If it had something to do with the Red Sox, it had something to do with Johnny Pesky. The Red Sox are 112 years old. Fenway is 100. Johnny ‘only’ lived to be 92. But his life touched everything that ever had anything to do with the Red Sox.”
Head to the Tavern & Pool to see some baseball artifacts, from both Vaughn Street Ball Park as well as Johnny’s time with the Red Sox. While you’re there, have a look at the new bar and new shuffleboard tables – and, of course, raise a glass to the old Slabtown boys, including Johnny and Vince.