David Ortiz said prior to the Red Sox' game against the Angels Thursday night that he understood how previous commitments might have prevented some Red Sox players from attending Johnny Pesky's funeral Monday, but he did point out that he had encouraged members of the team to participate in the ceremony.
"My No. 1 priority that day was being there, being with family and just sharing that last moment with him," Ortiz said. "I said on the airplane to everybody, 'Expect his funeral tomorrow. If you can go ahead and show up, go ahead, that would be great.' If they could make it, great. But I don't think it's fair bringing it up now."
The Red Sox have come under fire after a Boston Herald report stated just four players -- Ortiz, Vicente Padilla, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Clay Buchholz -- attended the funeral.
"Let me tell you, I see it two different ways," Ortiz said. "No. 1, a lot of us were close to Pesky. I was very close to Pesky. The funeral is the last goodbye you give to a friend. There's no way you're a friend with somebody, that person passes away and you're not going to show up to his funeral.
"I was talking to [Kevin Youkilis] this morning, and Youk feels so bad he wasn't able to be at that funeral. Youk was close to Pesky, but he was in another city in another place having to play. It was hard for him to show up. But I'm pretty sure one way or another he contacted somebody to give his condolences. At the same time we have guys here that through the years they were able to be close to Pesky and they have their reasons they didn't show up. That's not my business. We got in at 4 o'clock in the morning -- and I'm not saying this is an excuse -- some of the guys had things to do that day. I had things to do that day and I showed up, but I was close to Pesky."
Ortiz said with the Red Sox arriving back in Boston from New York at 4 a.m., and off-day plans already in place for some of the players, he grasped why the player turnout wasn't what many had hoped for.
"We came back from New York very late and some of the guys probably had some things to do that day. That's probably the reason why some of the guys didn't show up," he said. "I can tell you why I showed up. I had a friend that just passed away and I wanted to be there.
"It was probably the best thing to do, but like I said everybody has his opinion, things to do, and I'm not going to say who should and shouldn't [go]. Hopefully they don't make a big deal about. We don't need that right now. We just need to continue to keep playing and focus on trying to win some games to see if we can go to the playoffs."
According to Ortiz, not only was he happy to attend the funeral, but the ceremony provided lasting memories for the designated hitter.
"There were a lot of people at the funeral," he said. "Me, personally, I can give my opinion on what I felt I was supposed to do. I felt I needed to be there supporting his family. It was very sad. I heard one of the guys giving a speech about a poem he wrote about Pesky, a really close friend of his, and when that guy spoke I couldn't hold it in. That brought up a lot of memories. Any time Pesky was here I used to go in and mess around with him. Pesky would give me confidence just saying a couple of things. Pesky to me was part of the family. There was not one day that man wouldn't make you laugh."
For more Red Sox news, go to the team page at weei.com/redsox.
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