Big news was released Thursday afternoon as Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald is reporting that Red sox owner John Henry wants to lead the way in changing the name of Yawkey Way. This has been a point of discussion among many Red Sox fans for years, as Tom Yawkey and his family’s ownership of the team was one that was marred by racism. It’s easy to call him a product of his time, and there’s an element to that, but you can’t simply blame all of Yawkey’s flaws on when he grew up. His racism was a problem even for his time. The Red Sox were the last team in baseball to sign a player of color, and Yawkey most famously passed up a chance to sign Jackie Robinson two years before he signed with the Dodgers. He also passed up a chance to sign Willie Mays.
Even putting aside the moral questions of honoring someone like Yawkey in this way, it has always felt strange to honor a man for whom a big part of his legacy was making the team actively worse. Of course, we also shouldn’t put aside the moral aspect of this either. The Red Sox, and specifically Henry, are finally uncomfortable enough about this strong association with Yawkey’s time owning the team and are ready to push for a change.
There are many interesting tidbits included in the report linked above, but among them is that Henry has supposedly taken this issue up with other mayors in previous years, but they “didn’t want to open up that can of worms.” For a city with the racial history of Boston, that is certainly disheartening. It is, though, good to hear that we are finally ready for a change. Henry also makes it a point to say that this change would not and will not completely wipe out the legacy of the Yawkeys. Although their racist past is not one that should be swept aside by any measure, the family’s charitable organization has done a lot of good in the city of Boston and continues to do so to this day.
As far as the new name goes, there are still steps to go in this process before we can even get to this point. The street is part of the city, so the Red Sox can only push for a change before the city itself pushes through a change. Hopefully we will reach that point, and then the discussion of a new name can become more serious. In the meantime, I think it would be appropriate to name the street after a person of color who has had a massive, positive impact on the Red Sox organization. As old friend Marc Normandin wrote just last year, the perfect candidate in that respect would be David Ortiz. Pedro Martinez, of course, could be another example. For now, though, let’s just celebrate the Red Sox taking a step in the right direction and hope the city of Boston is ready to do the same.