The Boston Herald on Thursday reported that Boston Red Sox principal owner John Henry will make an effort to change the name of Fenway Park's Yawkey Way in a play to avoid being "haunted" by the racist legacy of Tom Yawkey.
The public Jersey Street extension outside of Fenway Park, named after Henry's predecessor Yawkey, has long been a point of contention for many people.
Yawkey — a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame — was the owner of the Red Sox from 1933 to 1976, and was often criticized for being the last of the major league baseball teams to integrate black baseball players onto their team.
“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,” Henry told the Herald via email. “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 claimed that if the ball were in his court, he would rename the street "David Ortiz Way" or "Big Papi Way" — another reference to David Ortiz, who retired in 2016.
“The Red Sox don’t control the naming or renaming of streets,” Henry said. “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.”
The Red Sox had a long, contentious history with integration, and despite eventually allowing men of color to join the team, refused to sign legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson prior to the Dodgers picking him up as the first black baseball player in the MLB.
Baseball itself was integrated in 1947, but the Red Sox didn't sign their first African American player until 1959 — Pumpsie Green.
“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,” Henry said about attempting to change the name of Yawkey Way.
Update: The original version of this post incorrectly named "Yankee Stadium." It has been updated for accuracy.