No one knows the pain of missing out as much as Johnny Pesky, formerly of the Boston Red Sox.
The current baseball hiatus has left fans without the game they love. Though players are arguing over safety and money, they are left out in the cold as well. Certain milestones will now be unachievable. Johnny Pesky knew this all too well when he gave three years of his life to the United States Navy during the prime of his career.
Pesky debuted with the Boston Red Sox as a twenty-three-year-old infielder in 1942. He immediately took the league by surprise, hitting .331 as a rookie while leading the league in hits with 205.
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Then his baseball career was put on hold. Pesky, whose father had been an officer in the Austro-Hungarian Navy before World War I, joined the war effort and spent the next three years in the United States Navy.
By the time he returned to baseball he was twenty-seven, though he kept hitting as if he had never left. The next two years he again led the league in hits, running his three years total to 620. At the pace he established, the thought of Pesky tallying an extra 600 hits during his war years, isn’t too far of a stretch.
Over the next four years in Boston, Pesky put up good numbers, averaging 162 hits while hitting over .300 three of those years.
At this point, had the war not put his playing career on hold, Pesky could have been approaching 1900 career hits.
A personal grudge held by Boston Red Sox manager Lou Boudreau cut into Pesky’s playing time during the 1952 season. A new youth movement on the horizon meant the end of the road in Boston for Pesky. He was traded to Detroit where he would become a part-time player.
During his three years in Motown he would crack 100 games just once, and by the time his tenth year came around his game was well in decline.
Johnny Pesky would finish his career with under 1500 total hits. Those numbers would have been drastically higher and he may have even been a member of the 3000 hit club had Pesky not heroically answered the call of duty.
Years of his prime he was unable to get back. Similar to those players who were just arguing over ten games in what will ultimately become a sixty game season.