Johnny Pesky has been with the Boston Red Sox for only about 50 years, so he comes from a rather narrow perspective. But Pesky considers Boston's seven-game elimination by the hated New York Yankees in the AL Championship Series one for the ages Ñ and not in a good way.
'I thought this was the year,' says the Portland native, 84, who is special assignment instructor for the Red Sox. 'This was the best club we have had in a long time. I feel terrible about it. I feel bad for Pedro (Martinez), I feel bad for (Tim) Wakefield, I feel bad for Grady (Little), and I feel especially bad for our fans.'
Little was fired as manager despite taking Boston to the precipice of the World Series.
'I don't understand that,' says Pesky, a former Red Sox shortstop and manager. 'Grady took a ballclub with chaos. It got straightened out, and he had a lot to do with it Ñ the players would tell you that. I guess ownership has different ideas.'
Pesky comes down on the side of Martinez in the pitcher's celebrated incident with Don Zimmer.
'I am very fond of Don Zimmer, but I couldn't understand why he did that,' says Pesky, who was in the Red Sox dugout when the Yankee coach did a face-plant after his run at Martinez. 'He isn't anything like that. Pedro saw him coming and was just protecting himself. It was like a linebacker shedding a blocker. I was afraid that Don had a heart attack. I went into their locker room the next day and he was on the training table, with ice all over him.'
Pesky says he hopes slugger Manny Ramirez remains with Boston next season.
'I don't think he really wants to leave, but who knows?' Pesky says. 'When all this crap came out, I couldn't believe it. He is a hell of a kid and a great hitter.'
Pesky says Ramirez asked him at one point of the New York series, 'John, did they ever boo you?'
'I told him, yeah,' Pesky says. 'When it happened, I didn't do anything. Didn't even look at (the fans). Just got back in the dugout and thought, 'If you are stupid enough to pay $1.75 to see me play, go ahead and boo me.' '
• Political correctness rears its ugly head too often in sports, but those in the Valley League outdid themselves this season by allowing McNary's Kacey McCallister to race his wheelchair in the district cross country meet Oct. 27.
This is to take nothing away from McCallister, who lost his legs at age 6 and should be commended for the competitive spirit that lifted him to a course record and a championship. The fact is, however, wheelchair racers cover distance races more quickly than runners. McCallister protests that when he started, he couldn't beat junior varsity runners, but that is a moot point. Wheelchair racers aren't runners. They use their arms to maneuver the vehicles.
The Bush Park course was set up mostly on pavement, a benefit to McCallister, but that is usually not the case. One opposing team competed against McNary this season on a trail covered with bark dust.
'At times, he was obstructing the field,' the opposing team's coach says of McCallister. 'On a narrow trail, it was tough to get by him. Going up a hill, he struggled, and runners had a hard time passing him.'
Wheelchair racers should have competition available for them Ñ separate from the runners.
• Andre Green from Vancouver, Wash., is one step away from the world light heavyweight Toughman boxing title. Green is one of 16 finalists competing for the top prize in his division at the World Championships on Friday and Saturday in Norman, Okla.
'I am only going to win,' says the 5-10, 170-pound Green, 30, who was 8-0 in elimination bouts. 'I have seen all the other guys fight at least once, and I am there. In my mind, I am the man to beat.'