Henry claimed that he is “haunted” by the legacy of former owner Tom Yawkey and his racist legacy. Yawkey Way, the street just outside Fenway Park, was named for the man who was the team’s owner from 1933 to 1976. His wife, Jean Yawkey and the Yawkey Trust owned the team from his death in 1976 until Henry bought the club in 2002.
Yawkey is a complicated historical figure, but from 1947 to 1959 the Red Sox refused to integrate while the rest of baseball did so. Boston was the final team in Major League Baseball to employ a black player when Pumpsie Green was signed in 1959.
As the linked article in the Boston Herald points out, even after the Red Sox did finally integrate in 1959, the organization wasn’t exactly friendly towards players of color.
That legacy has haunted the team, and the city of Boston, for decades. Being that Yawkey Way is a public street and maintained with taxpayer dollars, changing it would make sense.
Here is what Henry had to say about the issue in an email to the Herald:
“I discussed this a number of times with the previous mayoral administration and they did not want to open what they saw as a can of worms. There are a number of buildings and institutions that bear the same name. The sale of the Red Sox by John Harrington helped to fund a number of very good works in the city done by the Yawkey Foundation (we had no control over where any monies were spent). The Yawkey Foundation has done a lot of great things over the years that have nothing to do with our history.”
Henry said if it were up to him, he’d like to rename the street after David Ortiz.
“The Red Sox don’t control the naming or renaming of streets. But 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 multi-cultural, 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. The Red Sox Foundation and other organizations the Sox created such as Home Base have accomplished a lot over the last 15 years, but I am still haunted by what went on here a long time before we arrived.”
Henry finished his thoughts with this conclusion:
“We ought to be able to lead the effort and if others in the community favor a change, we would welcome it — particularly in light of the country’s current leadership stance with regard to intolerance.”
It seems like the Red Sox are resolute in wanting to stop honoring a controversial and racist past and officially move on from what they believe was a dark part of their history.