April 16, 2007

Buckley: Kick Yawkey Out Of Hall Of Fame

Today marks another Jackie Robinson anniversary.

On April 16, 1945 -- 62 years ago -- the Red Sox, under pressure from City Councilor Isadore Muchnick and others, held a practice at Fenway Park for three Negro League players: Kansas City Monarchs shortstop Robinson, Philadelphia Stars second baseman Marvin Williams, and Cleveland Buckeyes outfielder Sam Jethroe. After the "tryout", the team never bothered contacting any of the three men.

Boston Herald columnist Steve Buckley wonders why the owner of the last team to integrate is in the Hall of Fame.
"[C]an somebody explain why [Tom] Yawkey was enshrined there in the first place? (The Veterans Committee elected him in 1980, four years after his passing.)

The short answer, naturally, is money: As Glenn Stout and Dick Johnson pointed out in "Red Sox Century," still the best book ever written on the team: "... Yawkey had been a benefactor of the Hall for years, and his enshrinement was a kind of belated thank you."

In other words, Yawkey bought his way in.

It seems strange that Robinson is celebrated for breaking baseball's color line, while the man who did more than anyone to keep that color line in place has a plaque in Cooperstown.
Buckley suggests that "the next time the league chooses to celebrate the life and times of Robinson, I have an idea that's far more symbolic than having a collection of players and coaches wear No. 42 on their backs. Kick Tom Yawkey out of the Hall of Fame."

Even if Yawkey got the boot, which seems both extreme and highly unlikely, that would still leave plenty of racists enshried in Cooperstown. And it wasn't as though every team quickly followed Branch Rickey's example and Yawkey was bringing up the rear all alone 12 years later.

Here are the final four teams to integrate:
New York Yankees - April 14, 1955
Philadelphia Phillies - April 22, 1957
Detroit Tigers - June 6, 1958
Boston Red Sox - July 21, 1959
Should the Tigers be punished as well?

6 comments:

Sean said...

This I agree with. Tom Yawkey's racism not only cast a shadow on the Sox from which we're still trying to recover, but also relegated us to the 2nd divsion for a half century.

Kick him out, damn straight.

Woti-woti said...

Wouldn't booting Yawkey out of the HoF just paper over his bigotry by censoring it? Wipe it out like it never happened? The only way this stuff ever changes is if successive generations of people understand how stupid (and wrong) such behaviour is. You don't ignore somebody like Yawkey, you highlight the consequences of his actions. He bought his way into the HoF as a founder, so what? That's what happens with rich guys and money. Despite billions of dollars spent on branding, hyping, advertising etc, people in the biz reluctantly admit that the best recommendation is still word of mouth. The more people that know what really happened and pass it on honestly to those in the dark, the better off we'll all be. Besides, as Redsock points out, other baseball execs took their sweet time with integration--and not because there was a lack of talent.

In other news, good ol' Cogeco has been showing NESN since the scheduled 10 a.m. start and it looks like a (somewhat soggy) go at 12.15.

Sarah Gates said...

Wouldn't booting Yawkey out of the HoF just paper over his bigotry by censoring it? Wipe it out like it never happened?

So, better idea then - black bunting for him (and others for that matter) and an associated display about bigotry in the baseball! Front and center.

Nice quote from Terry Francona yesterday - "It's a little bit of a shame that we have to have this day. Because, 60 years ago, [of] the color of somebody's skin they weren't treated the same. To me, that's humiliating. So I hope that message doesn't get lost either."

L-girl said...

It would be excellent if the HoF did an honest exhibit on racism in the sport. It could end on a very positive note, so they wouldn't have to be afraid of a tarnished image.

There's no point in removing anyone from the HoF because of their views, no matter how badly they affected the game. But I'm not sure why Tom Yawkey belongs in the HoF in the first place. I mean really belongs, not just $$.

Good excuse for an educational column, though. Cheers to Buckley for that.

redsock said...

It would be excellent if the HoF did an honest exhibit on racism in the sport.

They'd have to build another wing.

redsock said...

But I'm not sure why Tom Yawkey belongs in the HoF in the first place.

Being rich, drunk and racist just doesn't have the social cache it did back in baseball's golden age.

Sigh.