BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Red Sox will ask the city to rename
Yawkey Way, the street alongside Fenway Park, to erase what owner
John Henry called a haunting reminder of the ballclub’s history
of racial intolerance.
Henry told the Boston Herald on Thursday that he welcomes
changing the name of the street that honors his predecessor Tom
Yawkey, an inductee in the baseball Hall of Fame, and is the
mailing address for the ballpark and team offices.
Under Yawkey, who owned the club for four decades, the Red Sox
were the last team in the major leagues to cross the color
barrier while choosing not to sign black players including Jackie
Robinson and Willie Mays.
“It’s a continuation of John’s strong feelings about tolerance
and inclusion and making sure that everyone in Boston and New
England feels welcome at Fenway Park,” Red Sox president Sam
Kennedy told The Associated Press. “This is just the beginning of
a process that will involve the community.”
Henry did not immediately respond to a message from the AP
Kennedy said a change would require a discussion among the
property owners along Yawkey Way. In addition to the Red Sox,
that would mean the owner of a large souvenir stand across the
street from Fenway Park, as well as a hamburger restaurant on the
corner, he said. (The owners of the souvenir shop told the Herald
they would not be opposed to a name change.)
“The different property owners would need to get together and
discuss this,” Kennedy said. “You need a consensus to petition
Yawkey came into his inheritance in 1933 at the age of 30 and
promptly bought into the all-white sport of major league
Then he did what he could to keep it that way.
As other teams abandoned the color barrier, the Red Sox held out,
giving Robinson a tryout and scouting Mays but opting to sign
neither. The club eventually signed Pumpsie Green as its first
black player in 1959 — more than a decade after Robinson debuted
for the Brooklyn Dodgers and after even Willie O’Ree took the ice
for the Boston Bruins as the first black player in the NHL.
Yawkey owned the club until his death in 1976, when his wife,
Jean, took control. She died and left the ballclub in the care of
a foundation that bore their name; trustee John Harrington ran
the team until it was sold to Henry and his partners in 2002.
“When we got here in 2002, one of the first things (Henry) did
was acknowledge the shameful past in terms of race relations and
inclusion,” Kennedy said.
Still, the team has struggled to accomplish its goal of making
Fenway more welcoming to minorities.
In May, Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said a fan called him a
racist slur; Kennedy apologized. The same week, a fan was banned
from the ballpark for life for using a variant of the N-word
while speaking to another fan about the national anthem singer.
The Red Sox also distanced themselves from their flagship radio
broadcaster, WEEI, where hosts doubted Jones’ version of the
events; former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling also said Jones was
Henry told the Herald that he had previously approached the city
before about changing the name, but mayor Tom Menino “did not
want to open what they saw as a can of worms.” The Yawkey
Foundation, which was funded largely by the $700 million Henry’s
group paid for the team, has been a philanthropic force in Boston
for the past 15 years.
“The Yawkey Foundation has done a lot of great things over the
years that have nothing to do with our history,” Henry told the
Among the things in Boston named for Yawkey are an athletic
building at Boston College and the Red Sox Most Valuable Player
Award bestowed by the local chapter of the Baseball Writers
Association of America.
Henry told the paper he would like to see the street renamed for
David Ortiz; the city has already named an extension of the road
after the former Red Sox slugger, who retired last year.
“That’s a conversation for another day,” Kennedy said.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
Information from: Boston Herald, http://www.bostonherald.com