Ah, Ethics Alarms heaven! The statue-toppling mania issue has collided with the Boston Red Sox, just two days after my pilgrimage to Fenway Park!
ESPN reported yesterday that Red Sox owner John Henry wants Boston to change the name of the street that borders the legendary park, Yawkey Way, and he is trying to exploit the current political correctness mania that has cities pulling down statues of war heroes in the dead of night to accomplish his goal.
That’s my characterization, of course, not ESPN’s.
Henry told the Boston Herald that he is “haunted” by the racist legacy of previous owner Tom Yawkey, who led the team from 1933 to 1976. Because he is haunted, he thinks that it is fair and right that the man who beyond question saved the team, ran it as a Boston institution and public utility, and is as responsible as anyone for the fact that Henry owns one of the prestige franchises in all of sports, should be dishonored and shunned because he wasn’t enlightened about civil rights long before Martin Luther King began marching.
Such disgraceful moral grandstanding and self-righteous ingratitude is seldom seen. But I guess if anyone should be able to grandstand, its someone who owns a baseball park.
For those who mock the idea that the desecration of Robert E. Lee’s statues leads directly to George Washington, now hear this; for the Boston Red Sox, Tom Yawkey is George Washington.
The only owner any one remembered before Tom Yawkee bought the team was Harry Frazee, consigned to Beantown Hell for selling Babe Ruth (and many other stars) to the New York Yankees in 1919. From that moment on, the team was a perennial loser, often in last place, while New York won pennant after pennant and sneered at its proud rival on the Bay. In 1933,
Tom Yawkey , a lumber tycoon and baseball enthusiast, bought the team and poured money and love into it, buying other team’s stars (Left Grove, Joe Cronin, Jimmy Foxx) and turning the team into worthy challenger to the Yankees. From the beginning, Yawkey paid no attention to the bottom line as he tried to build a champion out of the franchise, or as he put it, “to bring a championship back to the fans of Boston.” This was during a period when teams had permanent control over player contracts, and most owners used that leverage to pay players pathetic wages. Not Tom Yawkee. He was criticized for over-paying players–hilarious now, when we’re talking about his paying a utility infielder $15,000 when others of his ilk were making just $8,000, and current utility players make a couple million dollars a season. Sportswriters in Boston called the Red Sox a country club, and blamed Yawkee for “falling in love with his players.” In 1960, Ted Williams had to ask Yawkey to cut his salary, because he felt embarrassed after a bad year, his only one.
Was Yawkey a racist? He was born in 1903, and grew up during the Wilson Administration, when Jim Crow really took of. Sure he was a racist, along with about 95% of the whites in the nation. Continue reading