“Two Jackies” Shift from Boston’s Jim Crow Era


Most Red Sox fans are aware of the racist history of the Boston baseball franchise and it appears that the “Jim Crow” Era of owner Tom Yawkey ended on February 22, 2002, when the club was purchased by New England Sports Ventures.

Nearly a year later, on January 31, Jackie Robinson’s birthday, the club sponsored a “teach in” of sorts on Robinson for a group of adolescents.

It appears that the new Red Sox ownership, by not denying, dismissing, or distorting the facts of the club’s racist reputation, seem willing to treat that era as a lesson learned and move into the post-integration epoch.

The way that the latest “Jackie”–Jackie Bradley, Jr.–arrived on the Boston roster is a stark contrast to a Jackie who tried out for the team in 1945.

Back then, it took a City Councilman to threaten to not approve Red Sox games on Sundays [due to Blue Laws], to force the franchise to reluctantly to give the man a tryout at Fenway.

But, the team stalled for three days and the player was forced to sit in a hotel room, until a local paper broke the story.  When the player and two other black players ran onto the field, it was reported, anecdotally, that someone yelled out “Get those niggers off the field,” but not in any newspaper.

“It burns me up to come fifteen hundred miles to have them give    me the runaround…Not for one minute did we think the tryout was sincere.” [Jackie Robinson]

No doubt JACKIE BRADLEY, JR. is familiar with the racist history of the Boston Red Sox franchise:  it was the last team to put a black player on its Major league roster.  Cantankerous owner [1933-76], Tom Yawkey was a racist:

“The Red Sox had several black players in their farm system during the 1950s. Many would have good seasons but then, without explanation, be traded away or even released outright, while the slow, lumbering power-oriented white players that typified the Red Sox were no longer in style in the major leagues. Against his personal wishes, Yawkey finally allowed the team to be integrated. In 1959, the Red Sox became the last major league team to field a black player, (Pumpsie Green), twelve years after Jackie Robinson‘s rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers.”  [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Yawkey]

“We scouted them right along, but we didn’t want one because he was a Negro. We wanted a ballplayer,” said Yawkey.


Until 1959, they rejected players who were not up to Yawkey’s “ballplayer standard”—Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays, while all the other MLB teams were signing Lary Doby, Satchel Paige, Hank Thompson, Monty Irvin, and Hall of Fame SS, “Mr. Cub,” Ernie Banks.

“The Red Sox were one of the most racist teams in baseball. You’ve got a 50-year legacy of difficulties between the Red Sox and the African-American population.” [Howard Bryant, author of Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston (2002).

Over the years, many black players have been privately tipped off about Boston’s “dirty little secret”—an entrenched racism under the thin liberal patina created by the faculty and students of its many universities and colleges.

“Bolstered by the undertone of racial apartheid that long was otherwise-liberal Boston’s dirty little secret, Yawkey’s Red Sox neither sought nor signed African-American players [until 1966]… Pumpsie Green was the token black player’s name, and he had to play for a manager, Yawkey pal Mike Higgins, who was an unrepentant southern racist who could have stepped into Rod Steiger’s “In the Heat of the Night” role without an acting coach.”


Although “[Mike] Higgins was prone to using racist slurs…Yawkey not only kept him on as manager for several years, he promoted him to general manager.”

Yawkey explained:

I have no feeling against colored people. I employ a lot of them in the South. But they are clannish…”


Yawkey and his ilk tended toward a more Klan-ish attitude.

Boston general manager and Hall of Fame infielder Eddie Collins claimed in March, 1944:

“We [the Red Sox] have never had a single request for a try-out by a colored applicant.”

But, almost a year later at approximately 10:30 in the morning on Monday, April 16, 1945, Boston city Councilman Isadore Muchnick and sportswriter Wendell Smith and three African-American baseball players from the Negro leagues arrived at Boston’s Fenway Park.

One month earlier the Red Sox reluctantly agreed to hold a tryout for African American ballplayers:  Shortstop Jackie Robinson of the Kansas City Monarchs, second baseman Marvin Williams of the Philadelphia Stars and outfielder Sam Jethroe of the Cleveland Buckeyes.

The audition of the three players took a little over one year to arrange and lasted only a perfunctory ninety minutes. A blatant insult.

But, if you think that racism was over the day that Jackie Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers, thin again.

When the Sox fired Tommy Harper in 1985 he filed a successful suit through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In 1990, outfielder Ellis Burks was the only African American player on the Red Sox roster, just like it was in 1959, when then General Manager, Lou Gorman said:  “I know it’s out there but I really don’t know what you can do about it.”

There were issues with the treatment African American players, such as star Mo Vaughn, and off-field Red Sox employees.

In 1998, Thomas Sneed, the African American manager of the club’s “600 Club,” a private restaurant with club seating at Fenway Park, filed a complaint with MCAD.  Someone defaced a photograph on his desk of his white girlfriend.  When he complained, the Red Sox took no action.

Thus, for at least the third time in their history, race inspired legal action against the Red Sox organization.

Past history?

There was undercover officer Michael Cox’s beating at the hands of white colleagues who mistook him for a criminal.

In March, 2012 a 23-year-old butcher from Roxbury walked into a Dorchester bar called Twelve Bens around midnight, the only black man in an Irish pub was with a 27-year-old white friend, and, after they had ordered a few drinks and started playing darts, a half dozen drunken white men approached them, according to the police report.

The word “nigger” was thrown at the black man, and he was taunted for being a black hockey fan wearing a Bruins shirt. His friend stepped in and was branded a “nigger lover.”

The two men asked the bartender for help; he allegedly snapped, “Mind your own business.” They left, but the group followed them and a fight erupted in the parking lot, six men pummeling one into the pavement. No one was arrested, though the bar’s owner was cited for failing to notify police.

The incident went all but unreported in the media.


And, then there was that ugly incident in 2012 when the Boston Bruins lost the Stanley Cup to the Washington Capitals, when Caps’ right winger—a  black hockey player— Joel Ward fired a puck past Bruins goalie Tim Thomas.

Boston fans were outraged, not just because their team lost, but because they had been beaten by “a nigger.”

Listen to the racist carrion Tweet:

  • “Joel ward you fucking nigger you suck 6 goals all season you fucking plug nigger bitch”
  • “Hey Joel Ward!! You fuckin spear chucking monkey, why don’t you actually DO SOMETHING. You’re totally irrelevant”
  • “Joel Ward doe. yet again, slowly taking over everything the white man holds near and dear”
  • “The only reason Joel ward is playing hockey is because he got cut from the basketball team in high school #gorilla”
  • “Fuck joel ward. Fuck black hockey players. the bruins blackhawks all day niggas”
  • “Joel ward is a fuckin nigger #FuckYou”
  • “How the fuck did Joel ward get out of my plantation? #WheresMyCotton”
  • “Warning to Joel Ward. Your one of three black guys in Canada. I will find you…and I will kill you.

[MORE HERE with IDs attached: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jpmoore/27-racist-and-homophobic-reactions-to-black-hockey]

Red Sox Century, traced the racial history of the Red Sox back to the Jackie Robinson tryout and asserted that racism– not the spurious “Curse of the Bambino”–was the major factor that prevented the Red Sox from winning a world championship since 1945.

Today’s Red Sox fans have given a warm welcome to this Post Jim-Crow Era “Jackie.”

Yes, Jackie Bradley, Jr., welcome the team that let its blatant racism send Jackie Robinson away, after the future Hall of Famer was humiliated, forced to wait for days for a try out that lasted only 90 minutes.

"Welcome to a city with a long, sordid history of hatred toward black people."

Now, the Fenway Faithful will embrace you as their new Center fielder and Xander Bogaerts as their starting shortstop and it will be a sign that the franchise is moving on, finally.

[JIM CROW will appear every Wednesday here on BSI.]