Thursday, August 23, 2012
Ortiz, Pedroia weigh in on Pesky funeral flap
By Joe McDonald and Gordon Edes
BOSTON -- David Ortiz, one of four Red Sox players who attended Monday's funeral for Sox icon Johnny Pesky, said all of his teammates "probably" should have attended, "but I'm nobody to say who should and who should not [have gone]."
A front-page story in Thursday's Boston Herald noted that Ortiz, pitchers Vicente Padilla and Clay Buchholz and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia were the only current players to attend, along with manager Bobby Valentine. Two busloads of other Red Sox employees and front-office officials -- numbering more than 100 in all -- also attended the funeral, which was held in Swampscott, the same North Shore town in which Pesky, 92, lived for decades.
The Red Sox did not arrive from New York, where they had played in a nationally televised game Sunday night, until around 4 a.m. Monday, according to club officials. New York was the last stop on a three-city, 11-day trip that had begun Aug. 8 with a flight to Cleveland.
"Me personally, I was close to Johnny and when it comes down to his funeral situation, there's no reason why you don't show up when a friend passes away," Ortiz said. "I felt like I needed to be there for him and his family. Everybody has their particular reasons why some of the guys didn't show up. We came back from New York very late and some of the guys probably had some things to do that day and that's probably the reason why some of the guys didn't show up."
Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino said Thursday afternoon that players were informed of the funeral schedule while in New York but the club did not issue a directive either mandating they attend or requesting their attendance.
"We thought it was very much a personal decision," Lucchino said. "We also knew there would be other events at the ballpark. The thing Tuesday night [a pregame ceremony in which the entire team lined up wearing Pesky's No. 6 jersey], and we knew there would be a memorial service sometime around his birthday. We never contemplated making it mandatory."
The small number of players in attendance provoked a good deal of outrage in the media, most notably on talk radio, which was addressed by manager Bobby Valentine in his pregame session.
"I think it's very insulting to the family -- the Pesky family -- for people to be thinking that an organization that loved him so much did anything other than the right thing," Valentine said. "That's my answer to that."
One Sox employee said he skipped the organizational photo taken Thursday because of his anger toward the players, while two other employees said they were disappointed by the turnout.
"We didn't know how many guys would choose to come," Lucchino said. "It was completely personal and private. The buses were not for the players; they were for other team employees, and were almost completely full.
"It's very much an individual decision when it comes to attending a funeral. The fact that over 100 people from the Red Sox organization -- players, manager, owners, front office people, staff -- came was a show of real respect and affection."
The topic touched a nerve with some players.
"If this is about Johnny Pesky, I'm not talking about it," pitcher Jon Lester said. "All it is is gossip, and has nothing to do with what's going on in here."
Adrian Gonzalez said he did not attend because he and his wife, Betsy, had a previous commitment to buy school supplies for underprivileged children. Dustin Pedroia's wife, Kelli, is nine months pregnant and confined to bed rest.
"I'm sure everyone had a situation why they weren't there," Pedroia said. "I wish I could have been there. Obviously, everyone knows how we feel about Johnny. We love him and we're all here for his family.
"I don't want to say anything that offends anybody. All I can say is we're here for his family and Johnny was the best, man. We all love him."
Ortiz, aware of the beating the team's image was taking, appealed for some understanding.
"Hopefully people don't start making a big deal about it," he said. "We don't need that right now. We need to continue playing and focus on trying to win some games and get into the playoffs."