Fenway’s ‘Yawkey Way’ Going … Going …

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/02/20/fenways-yawkey-way-going-going/

BOSTON — Expect an announcement about the renaming of Yawkey Way — or at least an update on the progress — ahead of Opening Day, Boston Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy recently confirmed.

Kennedy told MassLive.com on Monday that the team is “still in conversations with the city so no new update right now but probably in the next couple weeks we’ll have some news.”

The possible name change stems from deceased longtime team owner Tom Yawkey’s reputed racism, which current principal owner John Henry is apparently looking to whitewash. The Red Sox, the last Major League Baseball team to integrate, did not field a black baseball player until Elijah Jerry “Pumpsie” Green debuted in a pinch-running situation on July 21, 1959, 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.

Yawkey, who owned the team for 44 years before dying in 1976 — the longest sole ownership stint in Major League Baseball history —  was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980. A year after Yawkey’s death, a section of Jersey Street outside Fenway Park was renamed in his honor.

There are no plans to remove Yawkey’s bust from Cooperstown, but several ugly incidents at the ballpark — including an incident last season in which Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones claimed he was the target of racial epithets from a fan — prompted Henry to publicly float the idea of dumping Yawkey’s name.

The Yawkey name is common in Boston, largely because Yawkey and his late wife, Jean, created the Yawkey Foundation, which has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to struggling communities scattered across New England and Yawkey’s home state of South Carolina.

The Red Sox have a close relationship with Yawkey Way, because the team leases it from the city on game days, closing it off to all but ticket holders so vendors can sell food there. Critics of the deal say the city has taken far less from the Red Sox than the easement is worth.

According to Kennedy, the process of scrubbing Yawkey’s name from the street has been complicated by usual petitioning processes involving the renaming of city streets.

Henry first revealed his intentions to push for the re-naming this past August. The street, however, still belongs to taxpayers despite the controversial gameday arrangement established in 2013 between the city and the team.  

Henry told the Boston Herald last August that he still feels “haunted by what went on here a long time before we arrived.”

Henry has owned the team since 2002.

“For me, personally, the street name has always been a consistent reminder that it is our job to ensure the Red Sox are not just multicultural, but stand for as many of the right things in our community as we can — particularly in our African-American community and in the Dominican community that has embraced us so fully,” Henry told the newspaper.

Last summer the team renamed a private street extension previously bearing the Yawkey name. The Yawkey Way Extension, which links Yawkey Way to the Yawkey Station train stop, now honors retired and revered Dominican slugger David Ortiz.

The petition to rename Yawkey Way has gained momentum among city leaders — with Mayor Marty Walsh publicly backing any proposed name change. Nearby Yawkey Station, built in 1988 parallel to the Massachusetts Turnpike and renovated in 2012, will likely be renamed once the street name is changed.


In September a Massachusetts Department of Transportation spokesman confirmed to the Boston Herald that the agency intends to “follow the lead” of the city. 

Walsh, regarding another controversial subject, has previously said his administration is no fan of the “shortchanging” 2013 street closure deal established between the city and the team and brokered under former Mayor Tom Menino.

In September, a little more than a month after Henry’s comments appeared in the Herald, the Red Sox hosted an event at Fenway Park involving the region’s major sports franchises dubbed “Take the Lead.”

The kickoff event for the anti-racism initiative featured remarks from Walsh and other politicians, in addition to retired professional athletes who played for Boston teams.

“The national conversation has been ugly at times, some voices in Washington aren’t helping us, but there’s no reason why we should shy away from the conversation of race,” Walsh said at the time. “Our role here in Boston should be to take the lead.”