Remembering Tom Yawkey
the news out
everywhere that the Boston Red Sox have filed a petition with
the city of Boston to rename Yawkey Way, a road outside Fenway Park
Tom Yawkey, who reportedly resisted integration efforts in the late
early 1950s. The goal is to restore the original name of the street,
Red Sox owner John Henry admitted the Red Sox did not have the
change the name of a city street, but he believed Yawkey Way should be
He said was "haunted" by the name.
on February 21,
1903 in Detroit, Tom Yawkey died on July 9, 1976 in Boston. His
mother was an heir to the Yawkey lumber and mining fortune.
When she died, Tom was adopted by his uncle, William Hoover Yawkey,
of the Detroit Tigers. At the age of 16, Yawkey inherited $20 million.
years later, he purchased the Boston Red Sox for $1 million in 1933.
It was not the
sale but the buyer who
attracted the attention of Boston's newspaper men, a 30-year-old with a
estimated to be more than $40-million. They thought he was too young to
that kind of money. "He's just a kid," wrote one wizened scribe who
couldn't believe the news.
“kid” who at first would be called “Tom” and
later on in his ownership tenure always “Mr. Yawkey,” was heir to an
timber and mining fortune. He would never own a home in Boston. His
be spent at Fenway Park, in a suite between May and October at Boston’s
Ritz-Carlton, in an apartment at New York’s Pierre, or on a 40,000-acre
preserve off the coast of South Carolina where he enjoyed hunting and
and entertaining guests between October
thought that Yawkey had been taken, paying more than a
million dollars for one of the worst teams in baseball and a decaying
the next 44
seasons, Yawkey was the face of the franchise, a man who lost an
million attempting to develop championship teams.
The young Yawkey hired veteran Edward
Trowbridge Collins, Sr. the storied former second baseman and veteran
man as General Manager and Vice President, giving him the
transforming the sorry Red Sox into a contender and raising attendance
Fenway Park. The goals seemed wishful thinking especially in the middle
Great Depression, but no one ever accused Yawkey of thinking small.
WERBER: In May 1933, when I came as a
to the Red Sox from the Yankees, I met with Tom Yawkey about salary. It
about $2,000 less than what I'd been earning— big money back then. But
at his figure. He was the owner.
in a game , I ran after a high foul ball into the Yankee dugout. I
first step and went down on my back in the dugout with all the Yankees
hollering at me. But I caught the ball.
the game was over, Johnny Orlando, the clubhouse boy, said that Mr. Yawkey wanted to see me in his office.
“Bill," he said
to me, “that was
the damndest catch I’ve seen in quite a while: you lying on your back
those Yankees yelling. I am putting the money you wanted back in your
DALY: I was an office boy in the front office from 1942 until
worked from 10 in the morning until the conclusion of the game for
game. For a doubleheader I got $3.75.
Tom Yawkey. To an office boy he was
rather formidable, of course. He would come every day to the ballgame
with Mr. Edward Collins, the Vice- President/General Manager. Mr.
rather relaxed in the way he dressed, high informal.
Green was the color they used in the ballpark. It came from a paint
Malden, Mass. There was a commotion when
they announced that they weren’t going to produce that paint any more,
Yawkey promptly bought the paint
company. That made sure that that famous green would continue.
FERRIS: I was a rookie pitcher. My
was seven hundred dollars a month. Since
I was there five months in ’45, I got $3,500.
the season was over, Mr. Yawkey
called me into his office. I wasn’t nervous.
He was an easy man to talk to.
He handed me a check – a bonus -
I’d thought I had robbed Fort Knox.
I took the check to the bank back in my hometown of Mississippi,
PARNELL: It truly impressed me as a rookie pitcher to see Mr. Yawkey on
field taking batting practice with us. I
didn’t see him hit any balls out, but he got some close to the wall.
who worked around the ballpark would shag flies for him. When he was
would give each one a twenty-dollar bill.
Red Sox's longtime
owner was never enthusiastic about night baseball. As The
Boston Globe's Hy Hurwitz reported, "Yawkey is strictly in
the baseball business" and added that Yawkey didn't "believe in
fashion shows, nylon hosiery, door prizes and other nonsense."
bowing to League pressure, Yawkey agreed to 14 night games, two with
American League team. The Red Sox became the last club in their league
under the lights at home.
1947, Fenway Park seating capacity increased by 500 to 35,500 – the
increase from 1912’s 35,000. More
importantly, arc lights were installed making the BoSox the 13th
league team to light up its home park. That same year, The
two-hundred-and-forty feet wide left field wall was painted with
of green paint. Tom Yawkey gave the green light to cover up advertising
billboards. It was then that the nickname "The Green Monster" was
The Calvert Owl ("Be Wise"), Gem
Blades ("Avoid 5 O’clock Shadow"), Lifebuoy ("The Red Sox use
it") and Vimms ("Get that Vimms feeling") were now
thing Tom Yawkey held firm to was not integrating his Red Sox. Each
team had routinely received a waiver from the Boston City Council
them to play Sunday baseball. Now Councilman Isadore Muchnick, who
the Mattapan section of Boston,
teamed with African-American journalist Wendell Smith.
They had an offer for Tom Yawkey that they
knew he could not refuse. A trade, of sorts.
For the BoSox to keep the long-held waiver
going, the team would have to allow three black baseball prospects to
Yawkey, as the story was reported
reluctantly agreed to the tryouts of Jackie Robinson, Marvin Williams
Jethroe but only the condition decisions about them would be the
his baseball people.
ballplayers from the Negro Leagues from time to time had
played at Fenway when the Red Sox were on the
road. The color barrier was firmly in effect at this time, but owners
nothing of picking up some spare change through this business
they would have chance to break the big club’s color line at Fenway Park,
or so was the understanding.
April 16, 1945 began damp and drizzly. At
about 10:00 A.M. Muchnick and Smith were in the stands watching as the
was getting underway. Just back from
army service in World War II, Jackie Robinson was set to play with the
City Monarchs in the Negro League that season.
Marvin Williams was a member of the Philadelphia Stars. Sam
an outfielder for the Cleveland Buckeyes.
Sox Manager Joe Cronin sat
in the stands, according to one account, “stone-faced.'' Eddie Collins,
general manager, reportedly was unable to attend the tryout “because of
the end of their one-hour workout, according to Clifford Keane,
the Boston Globe, someone
called out, “Get those niggers off the
Red Sox immortal and Coach Hugh Duffy,
78, was one of those who conducted the workouts. Later that year he
inducted into the Baseball Hall of
boys look like pretty good
players,” he was quoted as saying. “I hope you enjoyed the workout.” Later he remarked: “After one workout, it was
not possible to judge their ability."
tryout was over, Jackie Robinson said: “It was April, 1945. Nobody was
about black players in the majors, except maybe for a few politicians.”
to United Press
International, Jethroe and Williams “seemed tense and both their
to the Red Sox front office,
the players were not ready for the majors and would not be comfortable
for the team's Triple-A affiliate in Louisville, Kentucky.
According to Sam Jethroe, the entire
experience was “a sham.” The Red Sox
front office would never contact the players.
need for players with the abilities of Jethroe, Robinson and Williams.
1945 baseball season began and the war still raged, Major League
stocked with not quite ready for prime time players, a few underage
quite a few who were long in the tooth. But the game went on at Fenway Park
in 1945 and other big league venues, as it had always gone on, only
SULLIVAN: I went up from pitching in A –
ball in ‘53. I was 23. I saw buck shot
over the walls and learned that Ted Williams was out shooting pigeons
park. I heard Yawkey also shot along with him.
1959, the Sox became the last team
to break baseball’s color line. It was a dozen years after Jackie
it with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Some claim the racism with the Red Sox
from Yawkey but from his general managers, his managers. That claim
explored in detail in this book.
GREEN: I was the first African-American there. The Red Sox got me a
room in a
hotel. I didn’t even know if I had to pay for it or not. I got to meet
Yawkey the second day that I was in Boston. He was a very gentle,
man. He said he wanted to get to know me, and wished me well.
you run into any problems or need any advice on something, you don’t
have to go
to the coaches or manager. Come directly to me,” he said. I thanked
him, and we
first night in Boston was July 24. Fenway Park just felt small. Even Minneapolis, where I played for two
years, seemed bigger. There was now more media pressure than ever. “I can’t fail. I can’t make a mistake.” That
was how I felt.
Tuesday August 4th, Green, 25, batted leadoff, played second base
and made his Fenway Park debut in the first game of a doubleheader
Kansas City. Boston won 4-1.
GREEN: There was such a crowd, the park was full. A lot of blacks
come to the game. They didn’t have seats, but they were accommodated.
Sox roped off a corner part of centerfield.
got a rousing ovation when I got up to the plate - a standing ovation. I can remember thinking to myself, "I
really don't want to strike out right now. I really want to hit the
ball.” I tripled off the wall.
made good friends on that team — Pete Runnels, Frank Malzone. Jackie Jensen and also Ted Williams. They
were fellow Californians. Williams was
one of the nicest guys I've ever met around baseball or any other time.
say 'Hey, Pumps, let's go warm up.' Me
warming up with Ted Williams. I loved it.
people said he was making a statement. But it wasn’t just he who
it was he and a bunch of the guys. It was just that after the ball
they went their way and I went my way.
MALZONE: I used to marvel at the way Tom Yawkey came around to say
everybody. They say he sat up in his box and not only watched our game
two TVs going on watching two other games.
This is how much he loved baseball.
LEE: I pitched all summer and came
in to the ballpark in the winter to get my mail at Fenway Park. Mr.
always stealing my National Geographics.
I had to go up to his office to get them; he
was going through chemotherapy at the time.
We had long talks.
on July 8, 1976 reached
1‚007‚491, the earliest date to that time the franchise topped the
mark. The next day brought the announcement that an ailing Tom Yawkey
of leukemia at age 73 in New England Baptist Hospital. Team ownership
taken over by a trust headed by his widow, Jean.
of the most prolific and respected sports journalists
and oral historians in the United States, author of the autobiographies
legends Nolan Ryan,Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman, Dr. Harvey
written several books on the Red Sox. .
professor for more
than two decades in the MALS program at Dartmouth College, Frommer was
“Dartmouth’s Mr. Baseball” by their alumni magazine. He’s also the
founder of www.HarveyFrommerSports.com.