Boston Red Sox Submit Formal Petition To City To Make Tom Yawkey Disappear

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The Boston Red Sox are looking to turn back the clock to 1977, the year the city honored then-recently-deceased longtime team owner Tom Yawkey by renaming the section of Jersey Street bordering Fenway Park’s third base line in his name.

Current owner John Henry is now spearheading a petition to convince the city that the only way to move beyond Yawkey’s complicated legacy is to strip his namesake from all road signs and markers and return the name of that portion of road to what it once was — Jersey Street.

The Red Sox filed their petition with the Boston Public Improvement Commission on Wednesday.

The Yawkey Foundation — the philanthropic outfit launched shortly after Yawkey’s death, which has donated more than $450 million to various nonprofits since its inception — responded by issuing a blistering statement slamming the petition as being driven “by a false narrative about Tom Yawkey and his record as the team’s owner.”

The Red Sox statement announcing the petition to revive the Jersey Street name indicates that the decision is fueled by a desire to “reinforce that Fenway Park is inclusive and welcoming to all.”

The growing rancor between Henry and the Yawkey Foundation is showing no sign of letting up.

“Henry is seeking to take the drastic action of renaming the street that has borne Yawkey’s name for more than 40 years without any apparent consideration of these facts,” the foundation points out in its statement, mentioning instances of Yawkey’s benevolence and various details designed to puncture the narrative of Yawkey being a racist. “Former Red Sox ballplayers and club officials who knew Tom Yawkey have stated many times that he treated every player the same, regardless of their race.

“The full picture of Tom Yawkey’s life is exactly the opposite of the one that Henry has tried to paint.”

The foundation has also subtly claimed that Henry’s other significant role in Boston — as owner of the Boston Globe — has helped him amplify his anti-Yawkey narrative. In response to a Globe Spotlight series exploring issues of race, with a focus on African-Americans in the city, the foundation launched a new page on its site titled “Setting the Record Straight,” reasoning that “because Tom Yawkey cannot speak for himself we feel compelled to speak for him.”

“The story described calls by team (and Globe) owner John Henry to change the name of Yawkey Way outside of Fenway Park as a sign of ‘hope’ for improving the city’s image, since ‘no other professional sports franchise plays near a street named for such a racially divisive figure’,” the page explains.

Bill Nowlin, whose lengthy biographical work Tom Yawkey: Patriarch of the Boston Red Sox hit bookstores earlier this month, has said he “never once found any evidence that Yawkey was personally racist.” 

“Nor did interviews with several dozen Sox players, including Pumpsie Green and Reggie Smith, turn up any such a suggestion,” Nowlin told the Globe’s Nick Cafardo last August. “I looked for a smoking gun, and I couldn’t find one.”

Mayor Marty Walsh has said he supports scrubbing Yawkey’s name from street signs.  

Henry has said he feels “haunted by what went on here a long time before we arrived,” referring to the Red Sox under Yawkey.

According to the Boston Herald, the Boston Public Improvement Commission is slated to discuss the petition when the board meets on Thursday, March 15.

Read the Yawkey Foundation statement:

Yawkey Foundations Statement 2-28-18 by Evan on Scribd