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TON -- The Red Sox were on the road when their pillar, Johnny Pesky, passed away last Monday. Finally back home on Tuesday, the club made Pesky's 61 years with the organization resonate through every corner of Fenway Park.
Just behind shortstop, a large No. 6 -- Pesky's number -- was etched into the outfield. Every uniformed Red Sox player and coach, from David Ortiz to the just-recalled Daniel Nava, wore the same number, one of the eight the Red Sox have retired.
"Legendary Johnny, it was a huge loss that we had last week, of course," said Ortiz, who caught a ceremonial first pitch from Pesky's son, David. "[He meant] a lot -- not just to this baseball team, but to baseball in general. Pesky had a wonderful career. Not only that, he went into the World War to represent all of us."
Pesky, who passed away a month shy of his 93rd birthday, was laid to rest next to his wife, Ruth, in a private ceremony on Monday. On Tuesday, before a 7:10 p.m. ET game against the Angels, the celebration of Pesky's life and career with the Red Sox moved to Fenway, where his name will be invoked every time a ball heads toward the right-field foul pole.
Both teams lined up for a pregame ceremony, and during a moment of silence, the American flag was unfurled over the Green Monster. NESN broadcaster Don Orsillo, who emcee'd the event along with fellow Red Sox voices Joe Castiglione and Dave O'Brien, broke the silence.
"Rest in peace, No. 6," Orsillo said.
Pesky did everything with the Red Sox, from player to coach to manager to broadcaster. He was inducted into the inaugural Red Sox Hall of Fame class in 1995.
Pesky served in the military in the middle of his playing days, from 1943-45, and was eulogized with a single-horn version of Taps, the traditional song of a military funeral. Pesky's final numbers in eight years as a player with the Red Sox -- a .313 average, one All-Star appearance -- would have likely been even more impressive had he not left to defend his country, alongside those like teammate Ted Williams.
The Red Sox players will return to their regular uniform numbers following Tuesday, but the remembrance of Pesky will continue. At an undetermined date this year, the club plans to hold a public tribute to Pesky at Fenway, and the team will carry his memory on the field every game.
Until the end of the season, the Red Sox will wear a black patch with a white No. 6 on the left sleeve of their home white and alternate jerseys. The gray road uniforms will have black armbands on the right sleeve.
While Pesky, who spent 73 years in professional baseball, will always be remembered most here, his geniality was appreciated in every dugout.
"First time I met him was when we came here [to Fenway] and I was first managing in the year 2000," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, the longest-tenured manager in the Majors. "But very quickly I was introduced to him, and we talked every time I came to town here for a long time. He's a special guy. He's a player from a special era in baseball, and not only was he a terrific player, but just a true gentleman and a really nice man. It was great to talk to him, and he always had unique insights that you could draw from."