In case you don’t know, the Boston Red Sox was the last MLB team to sign a black player - 14 long years after Jackie Robinson inked a deal with the Dodgers. Because of that, there’s been plenty of speculation as to why it took the Bosox so long to integrate.
Longtime baseball writer and editor Glenn Stout went back into the archives to see if he could turn up any published evidence of racism by the Red Sox Owner at that time: Tom Yawkey. What he culled, from a 1965 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED piece on Yawkey, was startling.
Upon examination, Yawkey’s final statement - “We scouted them right along, but we didn’t want one because he was a Negro. We wanted a ballplayer,” might be the most telling statement of all.
For if we follow Yawkey’s logic – “We looked for black ballplayers but we wanted talent first and foremost” – then compare it to the fact that from the time of (Jackie) Robinson’s signing through July of 1959 the Red Sox neither put an African player on the major league field who they signed themselves nor traded for one, the conclusion is inescapable: Tom Yawkey and his organization simply did not believe that any African American ballplayer had the talent to play for the Red Sox.
This, despite the fact that they were playing on every other team in baseball, and that by 1959 there were dozens and dozens of African Americans winning championships, winning Cy Young awards and MVP awards and playing on All-Star teams throughout the major leagues, players like Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Don Newcombe and many, many, many more.
But none, apparently, were good enough for Boston. “We wanted ballplayers,” indeed.
“They blame me, and I’m not even a Southerner. I’m from Detroit.” Yawkey remains on his South Carolina fief until May because Boston weather before then is too much for his sensitive sinuses. “I have no feeling against colored people,” he says. “I employ a lot of them in the South. But they are clannish, and when that story got around that we didn’t want Negroes they all decided to sign with some other club. Actually, we scouted them right along, but we didn’t want one because he was a Negro. We wanted a ballplayer.”
So Yawkey said “clannish” black ballplayers were boycotting the Red Sox!
To confirm the absurdity of that notion, Stout contacted Dr. Lawrence Hogan, a Professor of History at Union College in New Jersey who is also one of the preeminent Negro League historians in the country and the author of Shades of Glory, published by National Geographic and the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The book is largely credited with being the “definitive history of Black baseball in America.”
Stout asked Hogan about the possibility that black ballplayers may have colluded in refusing to sign with the Red Sox, as Yawkey suggested. His response:
“I have never heard even the slightest suggestion of either thing you mention happening. I am sure there were players good enough to be signed who were not because of the glacial pace of integration. But I can ot imagine any Negro League player turning down an offer, other than on the normal personal grounds of not enough money being offered, or wanting to get on with life in a non-baseball way.”
In case you think this is all common knowledge, read Stout’s entire piece, as he cites Boston media apologists, like the late Will McDonough, who continually defended Yawkey as being anything but racist. Why do I have a feeling that in today’s online media age, Yawkey wouldn’t have been granted such favorable treatment?
I didn’t post this to smear the Red Sox, or Yawkey. I had never heard those comments from the former Red Sox Owner, and when I read them, I was appalled. Dumbstruck. It’ll be interesting to see if this creates any dialogue among the revision historians still ensconced in The Bean.