With Johnny Pesky passing away yesterday at 92 years old, the Red Sox organization (and for that matter all of Major League Baseball) lost one of the game’s great ambassadors. Johnny Pesky was involved with the Red Sox for over 70 years—as a player, a manager, a broadcaster and a coach.
During this period Pesky would win the admiration of nearly all that he came across. According to Metro Boston, Bud Selig stated, “The national pastime has lost one of its greatest ambassadors today. Johnny Pesky, who led a great American life, was an embodiment of loyalty and goodwill for the Boston Red Sox and all of Major League Baseball.”
Even the hated Yankees paused to acknowledge Pesky’s passing yesterday, with Captain Derek Jeter quipping, “Every time I’d see him, he would come over and say, ‘I hope you get four hits today–and the guy behind you hits into four double plays.”
As I reflect on Pesky’s passing, I can’t help but think of the current state of the Red Sox—and the whiny, pompous little babies that so many professional athletes have become in this day and age.
With this in mind I thought it would be fun to hone in on the most polarizing Red Sox of all time—the guys that seemingly everyone has a different take on. Thefreedictionary.com defines “polarize” as “to cause people to adopt extreme opposing positions.” Let’s see who fits the bill.
1. Josh Beckett
Everybody hates Josh Beckett. For the most part, that’s now a true statement.
Following the chicken and beer debacle up with a solid 5-9 season (thus far) with an ERA just under 5.00 didn’t do Mr. Beckett any favors. Neither did the comments about there being more important things in life than baseball.
While this may be true, this is Boston—no one wants to hear it. That’s what you signed up for, Joshy boy. It’s amazing how quickly Red Sox fans forget that Beckett helped them win the 2007 World Series, which was only five years ago. Don’t you remember that at one point there was an 86-year championship drought? Don’t worry Josh, I still love you.
2. Nomar Garciaparra
Where do I even start with Nomar?
For most, Nomar is much more beloved than hated. That said, there’s no doubt he was polarizing. For me, Nomar is easily the Red Sox player I hate the most. Yes, it’s personal.
My primary reason for hating Nomar dates back to 1999, when my Babe Ruth team qualified to represent the Northeast in the Babe Ruth World Series. We were invited to Fenway Park and given free rein on the field several hours before game time.
I cautiously approached Nomar, who was sitting by himself doing absolutely nothing out in right field. At the time the man was my hero, and I sputtered as I asked him if he wouldn’t mind signing my glove. Not only did he refuse, but he was extremely rude in doing so. I was 13 at the time. Additionally, Nomar has a general air of smugness that I just can’t get past.
3. Ted Williams
Williams is likely the greatest player in Red Sox history, as well as one of the game’s finest students. He was the last man to hit .400, and he’s always been beloved and admired in Boston for his skill.
That said, he always had a reputation for being something of just a plain ass. He was insecure in his upbringing, and stubbornly cocky as a result of his talent. His relationship with the media and fans was often trying, with too many tactless remarks dished out over the years to count.
4. Bill “Spaceman” Lee
Boston’s ultimate weirdo, Lee famously engaged in a very public feud with manager Don Zimmer during the 1978 season.
Zimmer would punish Lee by banishing him to the bullpen, and he was traded to Montreal in the offseason. Over the years Lee been very outspoken about numerous issues, managing to stay in the public's eyes.
5) Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd
Boyd recently made headlines by seemingly bragging about smoking crack cocaine openly throughout the entire 1986 season.
He allegedly went so far as to pitch a game with crack rocks stored in his ball cap. Ironically he was 16-10 that season with a 3.78 ERA, only to see his ERA rise to almost 6.00 the next season.
Boyd is also responsible for some quotes that are absolute gems, including, “I’m not that thankful for Jackie (Robinson) at all,” because he wanted to play in the Negro Leagues where his style of play and personality would be more accepted.
6. Johnny Damon
Johnny Damon played a huge role in helping the 2004 Red Sox break the curse of the Bambino.
During this time he could not have sung Boston’s praises, or his love of the Red Sox, any louder. He then immediately proceeded to sign a contract with the Yankees, for a minimal amount of additional money.
Benedict Arnold should no longer be the definition of a traitor—Johnny Damon should be. He’s also a complete sell-out.
There you have it—six guys that are just as easy to love as they are to hate. Who should be added to the list?
Geoff Roberts is the Founder and Managing Editor of howiGit.com, a Boston Red Sox blog.