Dodger Stadium is no longer located on Elysian Park Avenue. Thanks to a Los Angeles City Council vote, it now lives on Vin Scully Avenue, as the street has been renamed in honor of the longtime announcer who is as central to the team's history as basically anyone who has ever put on their uniform. There are only so many streets to go around as far as stadiums are concerned, so this is quite the honor for Scully.
The Red Sox have a street named after a longtime, central figure as well. Except, unlike with the beloved Scully, their stadium is located on a road named after a man history should treat less fondly. Yawkey Way is the home of Fenway Park and the Red Sox, even though the man it's named after has a well-documented history of racism that went so far as to see the Bruins integrate their roster before the Red Sox did.
We've covered Yawkey's (and the Red Sox') racist history in this space in the past -- before you make any arguments against changing the name of the street, know that Bryan Joiner has already countered them. We also are far from the only ones who have: the Boston Globe wrote a feature in December of last year titled "It's time to banish the racist legacy of Tom Yawkey", and MassLive covered this a couple years back as well.
Yawkey wasn't just a product of his time -- he was a racist problem even for his time. The Red Sox were the last team to integrate in Major League Baseball -- and the last team in Boston to integrate -- despite numerous opportunities to do so, and it likely cost them chances to end the "curse" of Babe Ruth years before they did in 2004. For instance, imagine if the Red Sox had signed Willie Mays? They scouted him in 1949, and had an agreement all lined up that would have broken the color barrier until Yawkey blocked it:
"[Joe] Cronin sent another scout down to look at him, but [owner Tom] Yawkey and Cronin already had made up their minds they weren't going to take any black players."
Just take a minute to imagine what a Red Sox outfield with Ted Williams and Mays would have looked like. And it's not like Mays is the only one. Jackie Robinson, who eventually did break the color barrier, got a "tryout" with the Sox, and that word isn't in quotes here because it's being cited from another article.
The only "curse" the Red Sox had in this time period was poor and racist management, with Yawkey at the head of it all, and yet, he's celebrated because he didn't relinquish the team he paid for back in 1933. Sticking around for a long time isn't an accomplishment on its own, especially when you're the one making the decision of whether you get to stay. Of course, "building a better baseball team" as the main focus here is missing the point, but it's worth mentioning for an owner whose name lives on due to his relationship with this game
"Jersey Street" was the previous name of Yawkey Way, and while simply going back to that is one option, there are better ones. The 2016 season will be David Ortiz's final campaign with the Red Sox and in MLB in general. There are few, if any, players in the organization's history who have made as much of an impact on the team, the city, and the legacy of both than Ortiz has: he is the central thread of all three of the World Series titles the Red Sox have won since 2004, and he has stood as a symbol for the city of Boston in times of need.
David Ortiz is more than just a baseball player for Boston. He'll be missed, even though he's still going to be around after he retires -- there is no chance that Ortiz fails to show up in front of a camera in some capacity after he leaves his playing career behind. He deserves to be remembered, and while he'll eventually enter the Red Sox Hall of Fame, and maybe even Cooperstown, and see his number 34 retired by the organization, it feels like more is needed. And not just "more" in the sense that he could get a statue outside Fenway, as Carl Yastrzemski and Ted Williams have. Get this man a street, and make sure it's the one that's currently named "Yawkey."
Ortiz has been the heart and soul of the Red Sox during the most successful period in the team's history. He's still an absolute star going into his final season, and not even in the polite way we often treat athletes on the way out: he's still one of the game's most dangerous hitters and largest personalities. You can't tell the story of baseball's history without Ortiz, and you absolutely cannot tell the Red Sox' history without him.
You could say the same for Yawkey, of course, but that doesn't mean he needs a street named after him: remembering Ortiz is a celebratory act, while remembering Yawkey is meant to safeguard ourselves in the future and remember that things were not always the way they are today. He's a reminder to always try to be a better person -- not because Yawkey tried anything of the sort, but because someone has to.
You want Yawkey to still be connected to the street, for fear people will forget what was wrong with him in the first place? Don't worry: history will have to remember what "Papi Way" or "Ortiz Street" or whatever Yawkey Way is renamed to was before the right thing was done. It'll have to remember why Ortiz got the street in the end, when it already had a significant piece of Red Sox history attached to it. Yawkey won't be forgotten -- only the illusion of who he was and why he was worth remembering will be as he's removed from the lexicon of fans eager to see a game at Baseball's oldest park.
That man does not deserve to share a street with the Red Sox championship banners. David Ortiz did far more to help earn them than Yawkey -- who actively inhibited Boston's competitiveness through his racism -- ever managed. The time to do something about Yawkey Way came well before today, but with Ortiz on the way out, there is no moment better than this one to finally fix a mistake of the past.