(cross-posted from Military Times’ After Action sports blog)
Boston Red Sox shortstop, coach, manager and all-around legend Johnny Pesky died Monday at age 92. The Fenway fans’ seven-decade love affair with Pesky went well beyond his stat sheet, even though he hit .307 over 10 seasons and led the American League in hits three times — 1942, 1946 and 1947.
What happened in 1943, 1944 and 1945? Like so many others, baseball icon or no, Pesky went to war.
He began his naval aviator training in Massachusetts before the 1942 season ended, learning alongside Ted Williams at Amherst College. (Williams had it down cold, apparently — he would earn multiple Air Medals over Korea as a Marine, flying several missions with John Glenn.)
Pesky later trained in North Carolina, according to one online biography, and then Atlanta, where he met his wife, Ruth, who was serving with the WAVES — Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. Then came service in Hawaii at war’s end, including a stint as player-manager of Naval Air Station Honolulu’s baseball team.
“I think that if I didn’t have baseball to come back to, I’d have stayed in the Navy because it was clean and I kind of liked the atmosphere,” Lt. j.g. Pesky’s quoted as saying by the folks at BaseballinWartime.com.