Joe Lavin

May 2007

From Boston Sports Review

Pesky's Pole Position

Taking a break from their ongoing quest to rid the game of steroids, Major League Baseball has decided to go after something far more sinister. I'm talking about 87-year-old men who like to sit in the dugout. Yes, in their infinite wisdom, the commissioner's office has decided that Johnny Pesky can no longer put on a Red Sox uniform and sit in the dugout during home games. And you thought Bud Selig didn't really have any power.

Letting Pesky in the dugout apparently violates Major League Baseball's rules. According to these rules, teams are limited to having only players, the manager, and six coaches in the dugout. The rule has long been on the books, but the league has finally decided to enforce it this year. Any more people then this would apparently give the Red Sox a competitive advantage. Short of making him a ball boy – which would really be no more ridiculous than the Giants letting Dusty Baker's toddler on the field a few years back – it looks like Pesky will have to sit in the stands, unless the league accidentally comes to its senses.

No offense to Johnny Pesky – if any 87-year-old could give the Sox an advantage, he's your man -- but I'm not exactly sure that having him on the bench is the final piece of the puzzle that will lead the Red Sox to the World Series. Sure, he does help the team, and the players are glad to have him there, but he's not exactly giving them an unfair advantage. If he did, you could be sure the Yankees would be out looking for their own 87-year-old to sit on the bench. Actually, the Sox and Yankees would probably be having bidding wars at nursing homes.

Joe Garagiola Jr., who is now senior vice president for baseball operations, recently told The Boston Globe, "Teams feel with some justification that an extra person could be a potential advantage, an additional set of eyes and ears for a manager. Somebody's job, for example, could be to bear down on the other club's third base coach and pick up signs."

Sure, this is true, but why not let the other teams have their own legends sit on the bench too? As far as I'm concerned, the Yankees can have Yogi Berra on the bench. The Dodgers can have Tommy Lasorda. The Devil Rays can have …um, well, maybe that guy whose comeback "The Rookie" was based on. And the Mets can even let Julio Franco sit in the dugout. Oh, wait, he's already playing first for them. Never mind.

Still, the league worries. "If somebody had seven, eventually some team is going to say, we want to have eight. It would be impossible to make the distinction of who a person is and what his role is," Garagiola said.

Well, then don't bother. Where do you draw the line? That's easy. How many seats are there in the dugout? I've always thought that teams should be allowed to have as many people on the bench as they can fit, whether they are interpreters, trainers, team executives, hot dog vendors, or even Ben Affleck.

Even better, maybe they could let Dan Shaughnessy sit in the dugout too. Imagine how entertaining it would be to watch him sit down next to Schilling.

Of course, these are the Red Sox, so maybe it's not such a great idea. It would only be a matter of time before the team started selling tickets for fans to sit in the dugout. At first, they would only do this occasionally for charity, but after awhile it would no doubt get out of hand. It's a slippery slope from "Hey, let's auction off a seat in the dugout for charity" to "You know, I bet, if we made Mirabelli stand for the whole game, we could charge somebody to sit in his seat."

Admittedly, health concerns may also have played a part in the decision. The league is obviously worried about what would happen if a foul ball were to hit Pesky, but there are already some fences in the dugout to protect him. If they are really worried, the team could even put up some Plexiglas in one area to protect him from foul balls -- you know, sort of like the Pope-mobile, but in the dugout.

Affleck, however, would be on his own.

©2007 Joe Lavin
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