November 5, 2015

Re-Name Yawkey Way?

WEEI columnist John Tomase suggests re-naming Yawkey Way, because honouring Tom Yawkey, who owned the Red Sox for 44 years until his death in 1976, is a quiet assent to his virulent racism.
Honoring Tom Yawkey is every bit as offensive as the nickname of Washington's football team.
By celebrating this stain on the franchise's history, Tomase says the current ownership group is "either ignorant of his disgraceful past or indifferent to it". (And we know they are not ignorant of team history.)

By the time Yawkey relented and allowed a man with dark skin to wear a Red Sox uniform, it was July 1959. Every other major league team had integrated - though most only to a small degree - and Jackie Robinson had been retired from his Hall of Fame career for nearly three seasons. Robinson called Yawkey "one of the most bigoted guys in baseball".


johngoldfine said...

No doubt Yawkey was a virulent racist, and no doubt either that Boston, the city, has had its shameful, racist side in the not-so-distant past.

But changing street names because of the sins of the honorees reminds me of memory-hole approaches to history: e.g, Tsaritsyn to Stalingrad to Volgograd. We need to remember Tom Yawkey, not forget him.

I'm sorry he has a street named after him, but now that it is, leave it and let the city cast one of its fine bronze plaques to mount nearby: "Tom Yawkey, owner of the Red Sox 1933-76. Businessman, sportsman, virulent racist."

Jere said...

Ahhhh! This is the thing I tried to start! A few months ago (late June) I tweeted like every day about it. I even came up with a bunch of new names for it. I wonder if this dude saw my stuff....


allan said...

I think there is already a plaque type deal to Yawkey near the ticket selling area near Gate A.

laura k said...

One of the most bigoted men in baseball? That is really saying something.

I'd love to see them re-name the street. Streets are re-named all the time. It's not like renaming the state or the city.

However, "Yawkey Way" is in no way as offensive as the name of Cleveland's baseball team or Washington DC's football team. It's Yawkey Way, not Pickaninny Way.

Maxwell Horse said...

I kind of see both points of view on this. On the one hand, I think johngoldfine states the first side perfectly. (It reminds me reading ridiculous stories in which high school history teachers are reprimanded or outright fired for acknowledging the existence of slavery in their lessons.) Changing the name would be motivated by good intentions, but it feels like a slippery slope into Orwell territory. Good or bad, Yawkey is a part of Red Sox history.

On the other hand, as Laura says, it is just a street name. So big whoop.

FenFan said...

Apparently I've been off the grid for the past week because I'm just seeing all of Allan's great posts today (shame on me). I guess I will weigh in on these one at a time.

Tom Yawkey's legacy deserves to be maligned for employing unspoken racist policies that consumed the club well up until the end of the last century, but changing the name of a street will not take away from the fact that he was an important figure in Red Sox history. He rejuvenated a once-proud ball club that had become a perennial loser, rebuilt a crumbling Fenway Park, and kept the team in Boston through many lean years.

To speak to what others have eluded, having a team named the Redskins in 2015 is, in my opinion, far more insensitive than having a street named after Tom Yawkey in 2015.