Johnny Pesky: 1919-2012

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One of the most beloved figures in Boston Red Sox history, Johnny Pesky, has died at the age of 92.

Pesky played ten seasons in the majors, eight in Boston, with brief stops in Detroit and Washington toward the end of his career. He missed three full seasons due to military service during World War II.

Over the course of his career he hit .307 with a fantastic .394 on base percentage. While he wasn’t much of a slugger — he had 17 career homers — his name will forever adorn the short right field foul pole at Fenway Park, Pesky’s Pole, which it is often claimed he used to his advantage. Of course, given that he only hit six homers in Fenway Park in his career, it’s not necessarily accurate, but legends are often made of more things than mere facts.

Pesky was much better known in recent years as a fixture with the Boston Red Sox, serving in any number of capacities. He managed the team in 1963 and 1964. After a detour to coach in Pittsburgh he returned to Boston where he was a radio and television commentator from the late 60s through the mid 70s. He then held a number of coaching jobs with the Sox, including first base coach, bench coach and hitting coach. He served as an interim manager after Don Zimmer was axed with five games to go in the 1980 season.

Since the early 90s Pesky was an instructor and front office assistant. Unlike most instructors he’d often be in uniform and would even sit on the bench during games. His presence during those years in many ways turned him into the embodiment of the old, allegedly cursed Boston Red Sox, and he was often center stage as the team ramped up for and eventually won the World Series in 2004 and 2007. In 2008 his number 6 was retired by the Red Sox.

Farewell, Johnny Pesky.

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.

U.S. blanks Puerto Rico 8-0 to win first World Baseball Classic title

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The United States handed Puerto Rico its first loss in the World Baseball Classic, winning 8-0 for its first title in the fourth iteration of the tournament.

Puerto Rico starter Seth Lugo was matching Marcus Stroman zero-for-zero through the first two innings, but the U.S. broke out for a pair of runs when Ian Kinsler deposited a two-run home run just beyond the fence in left-center at Dodger Stadium. The U.S. tacked on two more in the fifth on RBI singles from Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Meanwhile, Stroman was dealing. The right-hander, normally seen in a Blue Jays uniform, held Puerto Rico hitless through his first six innings, giving up just a lone walk. The U.S. put together a long rally in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits, two walks, and a hit batter. Stroman came back out for the seventh but immediately served up a double down the left field line to Angel Pagan. U.S. manager Jim Leyland immediately lifted Stroman from the game, bringing in Sam Dyson who escaped the inning without any further damage.

Pat Neshek allowed a leadoff single to Yadier Molina to begin the eighth, but induced a double-play, then worked around a two-out walk by striking out Kenny Vargas to end the frame.

In the ninth, David Robertson took over. He induced an infield pop-up from Enrique Hernandez. After Pagan singled up the middle, Francisco Lindor sharply grounded out to Eric Hosmer at first base for the second out. Finally, Robertson closed it out, inducing Carlos Correa to ground out to third base, making the U.S. 8-0 victors over Puerto Rico to win the World Baseball Classic.

Puerto Rico had an admirable run, defeating Venezuela, Mexico, and Italy to get out of Pool D undefeated. Then, in Pool F, it beat Venezuela again as well as the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to move to the semifinals. It narrowly edged Netherlands 4-3 in the semifinals to get into the finals.

The U.S. lost to the D.R. but beat Canada and Colombia to get out of Pool C. In Pool F, the U.S. lost to Puerto Rico and defeated the D.R again as well as Venezuela. The U.S. took down Japan in the semifinals to advance to the finals to play Puerto Rico.

The U.S. joins Japan (twice, 2006 and ’09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) as countries to win the World Baseball Classic. The 2017 tournament was a rousing success, setting attendance records, drawing over one million fans to ballparks to take in the games. It will hopefully encourage commissioner Rob Manfred and others to make a concerted effort to make the 2021 tournament bigger and better.