MLB says Pesky ruling isn't aimed at Red Sox

Updated: March 30, 2007, 9:36 PM ET
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- Boston Red Sox icon Johnny Pesky will have to leave the dugout during games this season because of a major league rule that limits the number of coaches allowed in uniform.

Johnny Pesky
AP Photo/Michael DwyerJohnny Pesky reportedly wasn't too happy hearing the news that he won't be allowed in the Red Sox dugout this season.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said the team was told by the commissioner's officer it will enforce the rule that limits uniformed personnel in the dugout to players, managers, and six coaches. Francona said the Red Sox received a stern letter from baseball threatening substantial fines.

"They warned us so many times, I think they got tired of it," he said Friday before the Boston's exhibition game against the Philadelphia Phillies. "I've seen the letters in the past."

Pesky took the news hard when Francona told him this week.

"I sat down with him and talked with him about, and he was hurt," Francona said. "I understand. But the rules are what they are."

The story was first reported Friday by The Boston Globe.

"It's not a new rule. It's been around for some time," said Joe Garagiola Jr., a senior vice president in the commissioner's office. "It is certainly not aimed at any one club or one individual."

The rule also applies to non-baseball staff, including interpreters. The Red Sox will be allowed to use Masai Takahashi, a member of the training staff, to translate for Japanese pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima, Red Sox spokesman John Blake said.

The 87-year-old Pesky has been with the ballclub for 57 years as a player, coach and manager.

"It'll break his heart, but a lot of us in the game of baseball get our hearts broken every once in a while, anyway," said Los Angeles Dodgers manager Grady Little, who managed the Red Sox for two seasons. "We're faced a little bit with the same situation here in L.A. with Manny Mota. Everyone has so much respect for them because of what they've done in the game. And it's instant respect, every time they say anything to anyone to try to help them out."

Pesky played for the Red Sox from 1942-52, missing three years during World War II, before brief stints with Detroit and Washington. He had a career average of .307 and set the club record with 205 hits as a rookie that stood until Nomar Garciaparra had 209 in 1997.

"I think that's a tragedy coming from Major League Baseball. I really do, because I know what it means to Johnny," said Garciaparra, who represented the Red Sox in five All-Star games and is starting his second season with the Dodgers. "It means so much to him to be able to put that uniform on every day and being in that dugout. I know that having him around just meant the world to me when I was there. ... Maybe they can make an exception for certain people who have worn their respective uniforms for so long."

The right-field foul pole at Fenway Park, which is just 302 feet from home plate, came to be known as "Pesky's Pole" for his ability to turn short line drives into home runs; the team made the name official last year.

Pesky also managed the team in 1963-64 and has served as a coach for decades. The previous Red Sox ownership banished him from the dugout in '97, but that policy was reversed when the group led by John Henry and Tom Werner took over in 2002.

"I think his time has come," Little said. "When you get to the age of Johnny Pesky, his reaction time is not like it used to be, so you're concerned with Johnny's health -- not only in the dugout during the game, but also during the workouts when he's out on the field. It's a tough situation, but I'm going to have to agree with Major League Baseball."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press