Friday, March 30, 2007

It's Time for the Johnny Pesky Rule

Grandfathered, (verb from; Grandfather Clause); to exempt (one involved in an activity or business) from new regulations: as in ‘the new ordinance restricts the size of billboards, but it grandfathers those erected before 1997.’ (

The grandfather clause is something that Major League Baseball should have looked into before making its latest fan alienating decision. For the second time, well technically the third time Major League Baseball is booting Johnny Pesky out of the Red Sox dugout. Some people might say this isn’t a big deal and it’s probably safer not to have Pesky in the dugout during games but I disagree and in my opinion the fact that a guy like Pesky isn’t grandfathered in this rule is complete BS.

Johnny Pesky turns 88 in September and he’s been with the Red Sox for 55 years. 55 years with the Sox and MLB is really going to remove him from the dugout because he’s not deemed as essential staff, give me a break. Pesky has a physical part of Fenway Park named after him, he’s been with the Sox for 55 of his 68 years in baseball and his biography is titled Mr. Red Sox. I really don’t have to make the case that he’s a part of the team. He was a part of one of the greatest Red Sox teams ever in the mid to late 40’s that featured “the Teammates” (which is a fantastic book by the way) Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr and Dom DiMaggio he’s like a living breathing piece of Red Sox history and lore.

I have a little bit of a personal attachment to Pesky for a couple of reasons. One, he was one of my grandfather’s favorite players when he was younger and my grandfather had a big impact on just about every aspect of my life. Two, I was fortunate enough to briefly meet Johnny Pesky when I went to spring training in 2005. It was just long enough to get my picture taken with him and say a few quick things but in that brief meeting I learned a lot about Johnny Pesky. He was incredibly gracious and had a giant smile on his face, he was so happy to be out at the ball park shaking hands with fans talking baseball.

He legitimately was one of the happiest people I have ever seen and seeing the way he reacted to the each fan, young and old and the way his eyes lit up every time some one handed him Mr. Red Sox to sign or how he excited he was to talk about ‘the Teammates’ with me even if it was only for a brief moment. Pesky reminded me of why I love baseball so much. I like to be 10 years old once in while and that’s how Johnny Pesky made me feel, like I was a little kid it’s the same way I feel every time I set foot inside Fenway it’s the reason why above all the other sports I’ve grown to embrace, baseball will always be my first love.

In my opinion Pesky represents everything that is good about baseball and sports. He genuinely loves baseball and loves the Red Sox, I cannot think of one good reason why he shouldn’t be allowed to watch Red Sox games from the dugout, I think after all these years that is something that he has earned.

In 1997, Dan Duquette told Pesky he would no long be in uniform with the team but once the new ownership took over they changed that. But then again at the end of 2004 the MLB told Pesky he was being banned from the dugout and watched from the stands when the Sox won the World Series. He went back to the dugout in 2005 and the MLB had no problem with it until this year. According to Theo Epstein the Sox have been breaking the rule for a while but now the MLB is enforcing the rule with fines.

According to the Globe in Gordon Edes column today

The rule governing dugout occupancy states that only the players, manager, and
six coaches can be in uniform and in the dugout, Garagiola said. The rule used
to be only five coaches, until bench coaches became in vogue. The trainer is
allowed to be on the bench, and it is understood that the equipment manager and
an assistant trainer would be going back and forth to the clubhouse, so their
presence is accepted.

Some teams feel that extra personnel could be a potential advantage for teams; I’m not against that I agree there should be limitations, but I am calling for some sort of Grandfather Clause for guys like Johnny Pesky. I really just don’t understand removing someone like Pesky from the dugout. Clearly Major League Baseball just doesn’t care about pissing off fans, the Direct TV package certainly affects more people then this ruling but since I live in Boston and get all the Sox games on NESN it’s not one that hits home quite like Johnny Pesky being removed from the dugout.

Two of the major points or arguments I’ve seen not necessarily supporting the decision but highlighting why its not a bad thing are as follows. If you allow Pesky on the bench what’s to stop other teams from doing the same with former players and end up having 15 non-players in the dugout. The other is the health risk that Pesky is frail and could easily be hurt. I feel like the risk of Pesky getting hit by a ball in the dugout is equal to the chance of anyone else in the dugout getting hit by a foul ball.

As far as keeping the number of people in the dugout from getting out of control, I’m fine with that, which is why I suggested a Grandfather Clause for someone like Pesky. I don’t really think he’s going to give Boston an advantage I think he is probably more there for the fans because he enjoys being at the ballpark, interacting with the fans and being part of the team.

I also think it’s important for fans to connect with the sports past, I know that my fandom has been increased significantly by the history of the sport. I love reading about Red Sox teams of the past, I loved my trip to the Hall of Fame as a kid and have been itching to go back ever since and I’m completely fascinated by baseball in the 1920’s seeing how the sport emerged from the dead ball era and eventually helped pull the United States out of the depression. I think that Pesky is a great representation of the history of one of the most storied franchises in the world.

According to Edes column the Sox are fighting this decision but it will be interesting to see what they do come opening day. I assume we will at least see Pesky on the field and in uniform before games and in the clubhouse but he will probably move up to the stands for the actual game, although it would be good to see the Sox fight it and have Pesky in the dugout for at least the home opener.

Here is the link to the Globe article: Baseball Ready to Give Pesky the Hook (Boston Globe)

And if you’d like to see some of the lively discussions on the matter check out Sons of Sam Horn: MLB bans Pesky from the dugout (again)

One last thing, this quote from SoSH pretty much sums up my feelings on Dan Shaughnessy and clearly I’m not alone.

From poster AlNipper49 – “If I was Schilling and Shaughnessy got ALS I’d find a new fucking charity.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.


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