Boston Red Sox: 30 Greatest Players in Team History

13 of 31

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19: Johnny Pesky, INF (1942, 1946-1952)

Probably best known in recent times for “Pesky Pole” down the right-field line at Fenway, Johnny Pesky was a great player for the Red Sox during his career. He burst onto the scene as a rookie in 1942, finishing the season with a league-leading 205 hits. Pesky’s .331 average was second in the league, and he was voted third in the MVP race. All of this as a rookie.

Pesky, like many MLB players at the time, did not play the next three seasons as he fought for his country in World War II. However, he did return to the Red Sox in 1946, and continued his incredible play.

Pesky hit .335/.401/.427, once again leading the league in hits with 208, this time coming in fourth place in MVP voting. Pesky continued his impressive career with another league leading 207 hits in 1947. So, Pesky led the league in base hits in each of his first three big league seasons. He is one of two players to ever do that in his career, with Tony Oliva being the other from 1964-1966.*

The first three years of his career were undoubtedly his best, but Pesky continued to be a strong player through most of his remaining years with the Red Sox. He was a strong defender at shortstop early in his career, before the Red Sox trade for Vern Stephens moved him to third base prior to the 1948 season. The position changed seemed to take a toll on Pesky offensively, as he had worst season to date, hitting only .281 in 1948.

He was able to get back on track, hitting over .300 every year until the Red Sox traded him away during the 1952 season.

Pesky later went on to manage the Red Sox for two seasons, although unsuccessfully, and worked as a color commentator for the team’s television and radio broadcasts in the 1960s.

Pesky was a common presence in the clubhouse for the Red Sox championship runs in 2004 and 2007. He was majorly involved in celebrations, and even received World Series rings from team both times. Pesky took on the role of “Mr. Red Sox” before passing away at the age of 93 in 2012.

He was an incredible player on the field, but his presence for the team for such a long period of time made him such a fan favorite, and an obvious selection to do well on this list. If it weren’t for losing three of his prime years due to serving his country at war, Pesky would have been a strong Hall of Fame candidate.

*Oliva did lead the league in hits for his first three full big league seasons, but he did make appearances in the two seasons prior. Pesky leading the league in hits during his first three seasons was truly the first three years he played Major League Baseball.

Next: Number 18