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Johnny Pesky: A Legend and a Gentleman

Swampscott residents remember Johnny Pesky.

Johnny Pesky was a warm, regular, graceful man who rarely struck out.

This is what we are hearing from Swampscott people who knew the Red Sox legend, who died Monday, at the age of 92.

Dick Lynch, father of Channel 5 sportscaster Mike Lynch, knew Johnny very well going back to around the war years — World War II.

Johnny married a Lynn girl, Ruth Hickey, who lived up the street from Dick. Dick Lynch grew up in Lynn.

Both Ruth and Johnny were in the Navy; Ruth as a Navy Wave and the two moved to Lynn in the 1940s when Dick was going to high school.

In fact, Dick and Johnny use to work out in the off-season playing two-on-two basketball.

They stayed in touch over the years.

Johnny, the Red Sox shortstop and later the manager of the team, always made himself available to people. When invited to speak to youth groups he did so, and would not accept a fee.

Dick remembers picking his brain, talking baseball with Johnny when he was manager of the Boston Red Sox.

Dick was a football, basketball and baseball coach at Swampscott High School and would ask Johnny about training technques, ways to teach kids to pitch or play short.

Johnny was a gracious man who did not put on airs or think of himself as special, as some professional athletes do, Dick said.

He would always tell people he was glad to meet them, and he was.

Just about a year ago, Dick went to Johnny's house on Parsons Drive in Swampscott and Johnny signed a baseball for one of Dick's grandchildren.

Johnny, No. 6, had a terrific knack for making contact with the baseball.

One year, over the course of a season and 600- 700 at bats he struck out only 19 times.

"He always got the bat on the ball," Dick said. He was also a great shortstop.

Along with that he was a warm and wonderful human being said Dick and Swampscott resident Neil Bernstein.

Neil runs the Boston Marathon with a pole, a Pesky Pole replica, attached to his hat.

It started out as a gag but continued as a tribute to the man after he met him.

The right field foul pole is nick-named the Pesky Pole, after Johnny for his ability to sneak a home run inside the pole and down the extremely short right field line.

Neil said Monday that Johnny will be missed. "He was a warm, gentle human being. You felt good whenever you were around him," Neil said.

Neil said he will be running his next Boston marathon as a tribute to Johnny.

Swampscott native Ted Delano, a detective with the police department, remembers seeing Johnny over the years at Mass at St. John's or getting a cup of coffee at Dunkin' Donuts.

He always had a smile and a kind word, Ted said.

Little League coach Dan Santanello, also of Swampscott, said he too would see Johnny over the years, often at the old Bickford's pancake house and, later, at Uno's.

He was always willing to help out, signing baseballs to raise money for charities, whatever you asked him to do.

He was true gentleman.

And he loved the Red Sox, said Dick Lynch.

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