Red Sox considering changing the name of Yawkey Way

Boston Red Sox owner John Henry has decided he’s had enough. Named after the previous owner, Yawkey Way has been an uncomfortable reminder of a past the team would like to move on from.

Yawkey Way has been a very prominent part of Fenway Park since it was dedicated in 1977. Every game day the street is alive with Boston Red Sox fans excitedly making their way into the ballpark. Every time you walk down Yawkey, it’s like one large block party.

It’s also a constant reminder of a Red Sox owner that refused to follow along with the rest of the league and integrate his team. Shamefully it took 12 years after Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers for the Red Sox to break their own color barrier.

The Red Sox actually brought Robinson in for a tryout in 1945, but without any real intentions of signing him. It was regarded as a publicity stunt, and one that left Jackie with a distinct dislike of the organization.

The Red Sox just honored the 50th anniversary of the 1967 “Impossible Dream” team at Fenway this week. A team that in 1967 Jackie Robinson said, “because of Tom Yawkey I’d like to see them lose, because he is probably one of the most bigoted guys in baseball.”

Tom Yawkey also vetoed the signing of a young Willie Mays, even after his team had desegregated. Mays was bitter about being passed over for decades, and was known to tell Ted Williams that, “we should have played together.”

In 1965 Yawkey attempted to explain why his team was regarded as racist. However, most found it a pathetic excuse at best.

“They blame me and I’m not even a Southerner,” Yawkey said. “I’m from Detroit. I have no feeling against colored people. I employ a lot of them in the South. But they are clannish, and when that story got around that we didn’t want Negroes, they all decided to sign with some other club. Actually, we scouted them all along, but we didn’t want one because he was a Negro, we wanted a ballplayer.” Via the Boston Globe’s Adrian Walker.

With America in yet another place of racial unrest, John Henry has brought up the prospect of renaming the street. It wouldn’t erase the past, but it would reinforce the current diversity goals of the team.

Chris Chavez of SI.com quotes Henry as saying, “For me, personally, the street name has always been a consistent reminder that it is our job to insure the Red Sox are not just multi-cultural, but stand for as many of the right things in our community as we can – particularly in our African-American community and in the Dominican community that has embraced us so fully.”

This is not the first time this year the Red Sox have been in the middle of a race debate. This May team president Sam Kennedy discussed the challenges of renaming the street in the wake of a mini-race controversy.

An incident that resulted in one fan being “permanently banned” from Fenway Park for yelling racial slurs at Orioles outfielder Adam Jones.

Not that anyone deserves to have slurs heaved their way while they’re working, but especially not Jones. He’s a true role model in every sense of the word.

The biggest challenge in renaming the street is that it does not belong to the Red Sox organization. Yawkey Way is a public street and is funded by public money. It would require a petition from 100% of the businesses on the street and approval from the Boston Public Improvement Commission.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, the only other business on the block is the ’47 Brand and merchandise store.  Chavez reports that the D’Angelo family, the owners of the ’47 Brand store, would be on board with a name change.

Personally, I am totally in favor of this proposal. I think the Red Sox missed a big opportunity last year with David Ortiz retiring. What better name could there be than “Big Papi Way?”

The Red Sox have an almost endless supply of former heroes to choose from. Ted Williams Drive? Carl Yastrzemski Road? Pedro Martinez Lane?

The 2017 Red Sox market themselves behind stars like Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr, and David Price. I say it’s well beyond time to stop honoring a man like Tom Yawkey. Who knows, he might not have allowed these players to join his ball club.

 

Considering what David Price has said happens to him at Fenway Park, it would be a nice step forward to move beyond a shameful part of the team’s past.