Let’s Just Go Ahead and Demolish Fenway Park

I have to start this piece by clarifying that I’m not really arguing that Fenway Park should be demolished. This is a satirical piece. But so many of you threw a fit after I wrote this piece that I don’t have a choice. Now, given the Red Sox concern about Tom Yawkey’s legacy, they should just go ahead and demolish Fenway Park. Why settle on a simple street name change? After all, Yawkey is arguably responsible for Fenway Park being the great place it is today. So let’s just erase it!

Yawkey bought the Red Sox in 1933 after inheriting $40 million from a rich uncle. Hedemolish fenway park immediately began work on renovating Fenway Park. Before his purchase, Fenway Park was a dump. Part of the park had burned down in 1926. It hadn’t even been that well maintained since it opened in 1912. Yawkey’s renovations included better seating (much of which still exists today). It also included the construction of what we know as the Green Monster wall. If it wasn’t for Yawkey, Fenway Park would have fallen into disrepair and eventually condemned. But since he was such a racist, maybe the Red Sox should just demolish Fenway Park to make sure they’ve done enough to distance itself from him.

Demolish Fenway Park And Build A New Racist-Free Ballpark!

The Red Sox could do what Patriots did and build a new stadium out in the middle of nowhere. That way they won’t have to risk seeing Yawkey’s name on anything nearby. Fans won’t have to walk past the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care. They won’t have to take the train to Yawkey Station. The Red Sox could better control how much exposure the fans will have to the charities sponsored by the Yawkey family. Think about it! A new stadium means the Red Sox can erase their past and start new!

Okay that’s enough. I think you get my point. Listen, in no way am I defending Yawkey’s decision to be the last team to integrate. That’s a burden Yawkey’s legacy will have to endure forever. But while Yawkey could have done so much more to secure his legacy than just throwing money at charities, renaming Yawkey Way isn’t a step in the right direction. I’m struggling to understand the team’s motive here. Why do they want to change the street’s name now? If John Henry and Sam Kennedy are this concerned about Yawkey’s legacy, why did they wait until now to do something about it? Confederate monuments are coming down because they’re a lightning rod for white supremacy. That’s a legitimate reason and I fully support it. But what’s the team’s reason for changing Yawkey Way now? Is it a pre-emptive measure to keep protestors away before they can form?

What Will Renaming Yawkey Way Change?

Changing the street’s name won’t change history. If anything, it only drudges up old and painful memories, among other things. It puts the charities named after Yawkey in a very awkward position, which could jeopardize their missions. Furthermore, can one really argue that Yawkey Way is the same as a monument commemorating leaders who led a rebellion against the United States in an effort to preserve slavery? Perhaps we should look at Yawkey and use him as an example of what happens when someone doesn’t pay attention to social issues.

Continue to hold Yawkey’s legacy accountable, but don’t pretend everything will be okay if the city changes the street name. Instead of erasing something that wasn’t intended to evoke racism, look to it as a life lesson.

Sam Kennedy Leading Efforts To Rename Yawkey Way

The Boston Red Sox announced in August that they wanted Yawkey Way renamed. Their concern stems from a racist legacy left in the wake of Tom Yawkey’s ownership. As of today, a Boston Red Sox-themed Instagram page titled “bostonstrong_34” with a following of over 91,000 users posted that Red Sox President Sam Kennedy confirmed the team’s efforts to eventually change the street name. With Sam Kennedy leading the efforts to rename Yawkey Way, it’s clear that this change could come sooner than later.

In a book coming out on Yawkey titled Tom Yawkey: Patriarch of the Boston Red Sox,sam kennedy leading author Bill Nowlin explores the man that very few know or understand. In an article published by prosportsdaily.com, Nowlin stated that “I 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. I looked for a smoking gun, and couldn’t find one.” That doesn’t mean he was without flaws. In an e-mail message to me, Nowlin elaborated, “He owned 100% of the team, and on 24 hours’ notice he could have ensured the Red Sox had an African American ballplayer. The facts show that the team was institutionally racist up until at least 1959 – though it’s also only fair to note that so was every newspaper in Boston, and many other institutions as well.”

I recently discussed this topic in an earlier post. I wrote that the Yawkey Way name should stay in place. While Tom Yawkey owned the Red Sox when they became the last team to integrate, I don’t believe Yawkey himself was a true racist. Of course, this does not excuse him from any blame or responsibility for the team’s legacy under his ownership. While Tom Yawkey wasn’t exactly a Civil Rights Leader, he wasn’t a racist. So while Yawkey bears the responsibility for the team’s racist history during his tenure as owner, it’s difficult to place him at the same level as the KKK as many are insinuating. With Sam Kennedy leading the charge on this move, I am disappointed because I don’t think he thought about this idea very thoroughly at all.

Sam Kennedy Leading A Dishonest And Very Flawed Effort

Yawkey wasn’t perfect; far from it. But he was also a very generous man who didn’t collect on loans he gave to his players, both black and white. To me, this suggests that he may have evolved in his views on race for the better.

To rename Yawkey Way is to suggest that people can’t change. What’s the point of educating others about the dangers of bigotry if we don’t recognize the effect it has? Do we continue to call someone a racist even if they eventually changed their views? What do the stories about how generous Yawkey was towards players say about him? It certainly doesn’t excuse him from any responsibility regarding the team’s stance on integration before 1959. But it’s also not a good excuse to rename Yawkey Way.

Kennedy wants to rename Yawkey Way for the wrong reasons. He wants a scapegoat that he thinks will alleviate the focus on the Red Sox messy record on integration. He is also exploiting a very serious issue in America. He’s trying to make the team look like they care about combating bigotry in America. While I don’t doubt his sincerity, I feel he would have made this move years ago if he felt this way.

Keep Yawkey Way So We Don’t Forget His Mistakes

Calls to tear down Confederate monuments are making headlines throughout the United States. Violence in Charlottesville has brought attention to our nation’s history that leave many divided. Personally, I think most of them should come down and be placed in museums. Racists erected them to intimidate African Americans, and they represent nothing but treason and oppression. Calls to rename other parks and streets that bare the names of ambiguous persons of history echo those same demands. One of those demands includes renaming Yawkey Way. While I think Confederate monuments should come down, I think they should keep Yawkey Way the way it is.

Yawkey Way was named after Tom Yawkey, the owner of the Boston Red Sox from 1933keep yawkey way to 1976. Many remember Yawkey as a racist. During his reign, the Boston Red Sox were the last team to integrate when Pumpsie Green took the field in 1959. Before then, the Red Sox had chances to sign players like Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Sam Jethroe, all Rookies of the Year. Additionally, he employed Mike “Pinky” Higgins, a manager who made no effort to keep his distain for African Americans a secret. Higgins is the primary reason why the Red Sox didn’t integrate for years. Yawkey not only kept Higgins around, but he even promoted him through the years. Unlike owners like Branch Rickey and Bill Veeck, Yawkey chose to play along with the rest of the owners in baseball and drag their feet before integrating their teams. That will always be a part of his reputation and deservedly so.

Keep Yawkey Way So We Don’t Forget, and Repeat, The Past

Going back to my introduction, Confederate monuments need to come down because they represent a time in our nation’s history when traitors tried to tear this country apart. For many years after the war ended, its sympathizers tried to retain the honor of the south by erecting monuments, partly so they could continue terrorizing and intimidating African Americans who they’d oppressed for years. Many of these Confederate monuments were built specifically and deliberately to push back against integration and Civil Rights. That’s why they now need to come down. In fact, Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate forces, discouraged monuments. He thought they “keep open the sores of war” (Boy was he right).

Was Yawkey Way given its name for the same reasons? Of course not. Yawkey Way was named to honor Tom Yawkey, not to intimidate African Americans from coming to Fenway Park.

Keep Yawkey Way To Hold Yawkey’s Legacy Responsible

Yawkey Way bares the name of an owner responsible for modernizing Fenway Park. He played an important role in the history of the Red Sox and in baseball. Many ballplayers, black and white, remember him as being a very generous and approachable man. Deep down, he probably didn’t harbor racist sentiments as intense as Higgins’. However, he’s still responsible for that racist legacy. He could have done what Rickey and Veeck did and integrate the Red Sox before any other team. But he didn’t.

So instead of letting Yawkey and the Red Sox off the hook, the team needs to keep Yawkey Way. Of course, the current ownership doesn’t hold the same views Yawkey did, but they chose to buy the team and its dark legacy comes with that. They don’t get to “erase” that. It would also enable people to forget about the terrible mistakes Tom Yawkey made. Instead of erasing that history, the Red Sox should use this opportunity not only to remember a dark past, but take efforts to ensure they don’t go down similar paths.

Keep Yawkey Way To Ensure We Don’t Forget

There is no easy solution here. People will remain angry no matter what’s done. But let’s keep things in perspective here. This publication, which also bears the Yawkey name, looks to a future that includes equality and opportunity for everyone. To rename the street would jeopardize those efforts to craft a better future. Personally, I write for Yawkey Way Report because I want to help create a future with more equal opportunities so that everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc. have a chance to thrive, whether it’s in baseball or in other aspects of life. Renaming Yawkey Way would indirectly disrupt those efforts because those involved would have to start from scratch to associate itself with a new title. That takes time, and frankly, I don’t see how that’s a better approach. That’s like tearing down an entire house just because the kitchen is unstable.

So instead of looking at Yawkey Way as a symbol of racism, look to it as a symbol of change. Tom Yawkey, while he could have done much more, tried to change his views for the better. Does that excuse his behavior? No. But renaming a street isn’t a zero sum solution and it never will be. We need to take the good with the bad. We can remember Tom Yawkey as an innovative owner while also holding his legacy responsible for its reprehensible actions. To change the name of Yawkey Way would be to erase and rewrite a history that, despite its darkness, is important to remember so we do not repeat it.

Instances of Racism Haunt Fenway

Orioles outfielder Adam Jones claimed that he was the focus of racist taunts during Monday’s game at Fenway Park. A fan threw a bag of peanuts at him while others taunted him with racial slurs. While those fans were ejected, it’s another example of how instances of racism haunt Fenway Park. Not only are these instances ignorant and immature, but Racism Haunt Fenwaythey embarrass the City of Boston.

This isn’t the first instance of racism that Fenway has witnessed. Back in 1945 Jackie Robinson and two other Negro League players were given a try out at Fenway Park. Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey allegedly yelled from the stands “Get that nigger off the field!” when he saw Robinson. Yawkey, never known for his progressive views, was the owner when they became the last team to integrate in 1959 when Pumpsie Green joined the Red Sox. Ted Williams, himself a Mexican American, was one of the few players on the team who took the time to embrace his new teammate by asking him to warm up with him before a game. During his own induction speech, Williams called for the induction of Negro Leaguers in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Is There a Double Standard?

Many are saying that Jones’ claims aren’t valid. Some are even saying he’s lying or exaggerating. They argue that no one ever called David Ortiz those same slurs, so why should they believe Jones? That’s because Boston fans loved Ortiz. Jones, on the other hand, isn’t afraid to speak his mind. He’s known as someone who calls it the way he sees it, and instead of responding to his ideas in a mature way, people focus on his race to discredit him. Those people not only disrespect opposing viewpoints, but they can’t even form coherent responses. For them, it’s easier to shout something racist than it is to think of a logical and insightful opinion. Then again, Fenway’s a ballpark and not a university, so these types of instances shouldn’t be happening to begin with.

The particularly disgusting thing about this incident though is that people paid money to come to the ballpark and act this way. It’s fine if you want to boo him for being an Oriole. But throwing peanuts at him? You not only make yourself look stupid, but you give Boston a bad reputation.

Instances of Immaturity and Racism Haunt Fenway

Last Sunday I sat in the grandstand to watch the final series game between the Red Sox and Cubs. Sitting behind me was a twenty-something who clearly had had too much to drink. The immature, sexist, racist, and derogatory things he said right out loud during the game embarrassed me in front of our Chicago guests. This guy talked about his blatant use of women as objects, his drug habit, and didn’t refrain from using bad language around kids. He was your typical obnoxious fan whose beliefs and opinions reflect a low I.Q.

It’s bad enough that I have to deal with fans like this. But it’s worse when they become national news. If you’re going to be so stupid as to think your race is better than someone else’s, then stay home. Bostonians don’t want to hear what you have to say. As instances of racism haunt Fenway, instead of being a jerk, be that fan who screams with joy when Hanley Ramirez hits another homer over the Green Monster. And if you hear someone shouting something racist, tell them to shut up, or call security and let them handle it.

State Officials Considering A David Ortiz Bridge

It’s no secret that David Ortiz will leave a lasting legacy in Boston after he hangs up his spikes for the final time. In his honor, he has received gifts all year. He’s gotten everything from cigars to paintings to giant tubs of peanut butter. But could a part of the city soon bear his name? That is yet to be decided, however, the rumors of a possible David Ortiz Bridge (more specifically the David Prtiz (‘Big Papi’) Bridge) outside Fenway Park are circling.

The Brookline Avenue bridge has been a staple for Red Sox fans for decades. It connectsDavid Ortiz Bridge Newbury Street to Landsdowne Street and thousands of fans go across it every game day after coming from the Kenmore “T” station. The proposal, led by politicians like Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, would forever link Ortiz to that part of the Fenway experience.

As critical as I’ve been with some of the gifts Ortiz has gotten this year, there’s no doubt this one would be fair. Look, this bridge is a landmark of Fenway’s ambiance. Littered with hawkers, devout Christians, and regretful drivers, the bridge provides fan camaraderie on their way to the ballpark. I’ll be damned if we live in a world where Fenway’s main street is allowed to be named after Tom Yawkey, the main cause of a so-called “curse”, but David Ortiz can not have a bridge!

Ted Williams has his own tunnel in the city, so it’s fitting David Ortiz should get a similar landmark. While maybe a better pure hitter than Ortiz, Williams did not leave the legacy on the organization that Ortiz will. Playing for a franchise once deemed forever unfit for championships, Ortiz has won three and is going for four. While unmistakably harder to get to the post season, Williams went there just once. He hit just .200 in the 1946 World Series and went home empty-handed.

Is The Legacy Enough For A David Ortiz Bridge?

To say David Ortiz is the greatest clutch hitter of all-time is no longer a hot take. Just put his post season heroics in perspective and it’s even more earth-shattering. Consider his two walk-off hits in the 2004 ALCS and his clutch grand slam in the 2013 ALCS. Ortiz has resurrected the Red Sox in the midst of two World Series runs. He essentially brought them back from the dead both times with a few swings of the bat. Obviously, Teddy Ballgame had less chances, but it’s hard to cite a time where he saved a meaningful season.

To continue with the Ted Williams comparison, Ortiz’s impact off the field was equally as strong. Williams was a giant advocate for the Red Cross and the Jimmy Fund, maybe the best in team history. Ortiz has his own children’s fund, benefiting kids both in Boston and his home of the Dominican Republic. He has become a mainstay at the Boston Children’s Hospital and has even hit home runs for sick children. It was only fitting that Ortiz was handed the microphone to rally Boston after the Marathon bombings. Looking back, it seems Ortiz has always delivered, no matter the circumstance.

So, there is a good chance this name change will happen. The next generation will walk to Fenway, buy a Yawkey Way Report program and yell obscenities at opposing fans. That won’t change. It’ll just be done on the David Ortiz bridge. There will be infinitely more meaning for all those times Dennis Eckersley said Ortiz “went bridge.” He will be forever a part of Fenway and all will be right with the Fenway experience.