Category

Red Sox Race Relations 
A Perspective, December 9, 2010

After the Boston Red Sox traded the loud, brash Latino Manny Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three-way deal in 2008, and receiving the quiet reserved and Caucasian Jason Bay in return, a famous sportswriter and reporter wrote an article extolling that John Henry and company were trying to rid their roster of any “non-white players who spoke their minds” to paraphrase the article. With the current John Henry regime just closing the two largest contracts in Red Sox history to an African-American, Carl Crawford, and a Latino, Adrian Gonzalez, this sort of fodder should be finally put to rest; that today's Red Sox being a racist ball club.

The men most noted for helping the Red Sox to acquire this reputation, were acclaimed owner Tom Yawkey, and a general manager and former player for the Red Sox, Mike "Pinky" Higgins. Yawkey and Higgins were famous drinking buddies during Higgins career with the Red Sox, and up through the time Higgins was GM in the 1960s. The Red Sox were the last team in the major leagues to add a black player to their roster, Pumpsie Green, in 1959. It was almost certainly a Public Relations move, as Green was a below average ball-player.

Yawkey was completely indifferent to the possibility of finding a treasure trove of cheap talent that was currently playing in the Negro Leagues. The Red Sox, in another Public Relations move, offered tryouts in 1946 to two black ball-players, Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays. The two distinguished themselves nicely, but Yawkey was not impressed. A voice boomed from the owners box in Fenway Park as the two players walked off the field, purportedly hurling a racial epithet.

Higgins, being a close friend of Yawkey, who was known to associate with his like-minded players, was considered a cohort in the continual segregation of the Boston Red Sox. After Yawkey's death in 1976, and even before, the Red Sox were signing black ball-players of considerable talent. Among those were Reggie Smith, Cecil Cooper, George Scott and a young Jim Rice. It seems that Yawkey may have faced the music by this time, and possibly relented more and more control of the team to shrewd baseball men, who were color-blind in the truest sense of the word.

This history of segregation doesn't apply to the Red Sox under the helm of John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner. In fact, even in the 1980s, when Jim Rice was the highest paid ball-player in the Majors, it was still assumed that the Boston Red Sox were a racist team, and Boston a racist city. This author can't speak for Boston as a whole, but the Boston Red Sox of 2011 greatly appear to be more interested in how well a ball-player can play, and not the color of their skin.

— Roman Llimar

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