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APPRECIATION


APPRECIATION
It might surprise you that Dominic DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky didn't spend all their time talking about the good old days.

``Oh, we did our share,'' Pesky was saying yesterday morning, this after learning that his dear old pal Dommie had passed away at age 92. ``We'd get on the phone and talk about Tex Hughson, Boo Ferriss, guys like that. And, of course, we'd talk about Ted (Williams).

``But Dommie was a very sharp guy, very up to date on things. He watched the games, and he loved talking about the Red Sox . I was just talking to him a couple of weeks ago. He liked that Ellsbury kid. He didn't see him much in person, but he said he liked the way he played, the way he carried himself.''

That Ellsbury kid, of course, is Jacoby Ellsbury, a talented young player who now patrols the very patch of outfield turf that belonged to Dominic DiMaggio for 11 seasons.

Like DiMaggio before him, Ellsbury is a defensively sound center fielder with great wheels. He is just 25 years old, his future laid out before him like a magic carpet. As Baseball fans, we get to sit back and see where the future takes him, Dustin Pedroia, Justin Masterson, Jon Lester and the other young Red Sox stars.

Maybe, MAYBE, one of them will be enshrined one day in the Hall of Fame. These are stories yet to be written. What we do know is that neither DiMaggio nor Pesky ever made it to the Hall of Fame, even though, when they broke into the major leagues (DiMaggio in 1940 and Pesky in 1942), each of them had a sizzle to their game that hinted at Cooperstown.

DiMaggio hit .301 his rookie season. Pesky, settling in at shortstop, hit .331. But look a little closer at their careers and it's impossible to miss the gaps: Each man missed three full seasons, 1943-45, while serving in the Navy during World War II. No questions asked. They went.

For DiMaggio, this meant he was away from Baseball during the seasons when he was 26, 27 and 28 years old.

Which brings us back to Ellsbury: Imagine this talented young player voluntarily stepping away from Baseball for the next three seasons to help win a war.

Does that help bring home the sacrifices of Dom DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky?

DiMaggio wound up playing 11 seasons for the Red Sox . He had a .298 lifetime average and an eye-popping .383 on-base percentage. During those 11 seasons, he played in seven All-Star Games.

In 10 seasons, Pesky was a .307 hitter with a .394 on-base percentage.

If they were playing today, general managers would be clobbering each other to be first in line to sign them.

And yes, you give back those three seasons to Dom DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky, and perhaps they have plaques in Cooperstown.

``You know, I don't think we ever talked about that,'' Pesky said yesterday morning, fighting back tears. See, the news about Dommie's passing was just settling in. The phone had been ringing all morning. A TV crew was at the front door, another on the way to his house.

``We enjoyed our friendship too much to ever be bitter and, frankly, there was never anything to be bitter about,'' he said. ``We had good careers. We had good times. It all worked out. ``But I can say that, truthfully, Dommie should have been in the Hall of Fame even if he doesn't have those three years. I guess you had to see him play to understand how good he was. But you'd never, ever hear Dommie say that. He'd just say, `Did you see last night's game?' ''

It's OK to embrace a glorious past, but not at the expense of disrespecting the present day. Dommie DiMaggio never fell into that trap. It's one of the things that made him such a joy to be around.

Sure, you might have gotten a Tex Hughson story out of the deal. But you were just as likely to hear something about Jacoby Ellsbury.

- sbuckley@bostonherald.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 9, 2009

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