AMID ALL THE FUROR over changing the name of Yawkey Way to Jersey Street because of the alleged racist attitudes of the late Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, the team has quietly removed plaques at an entrance to Fenway Park honoring the longtime owner as well as that of former general manager Eddie Collins, who allegedly refused to sign black players for the team.
The plaques for the two Hall of Famers had hung outside the administrative office entrance at Fenway Park for decades and were there as recently as the beginning of the month. It’s unclear when they were taken down or why they were removed, but the spots where they hung are bare, with several holes in the bricks where anchors had held them up.
The removal of the plaques came as the Sox owners, led by John Henry, who also owns the Boston Globe, have openly distanced themselves from the team’s past practices that gave it the label of one of baseball’s most racist organizations. Henry told the Boston Herald in August last year that he was “haunted” by the team’s perceived racist past and used that as a rationale to petition the city to switch Yawkey Way’s name back to its original Jersey Street. The name of the street had been changed to Yawkey Way in 1976 after Tom Yawkey’s death.
Since the plaques had hung on the wall of Fenway for so long, it’s unclear why the team decided to remove them now. Unlike the switch from Yawkey Way to Jersey Street, which required city approval, the Sox were free to take down the plaques at any time.
Red Sox officials did not return calls or emails for comment on the removal of the plaques and a spokesman for the Yawkey Foundation did not return a call for comment. It’s unclear what happened to the plaques.
The Red Sox were the last team to put a black player on their major league roster, when Pumpsie Green took the field in 1959, 12 years after Jackie Robinson’s rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1945, the Sox held a sham tryout for Robinson and two other Negro League stars, Sam Jethroe and Marvin Williams. While the trio was being run through drills at the empty stadium, someone in the stands yelled “Get those n—— off the field.” The comment has been routinely attributed to either Yawkey or Collins.
Shortly after Yawkey died, the bronze plaque was hung outside 4 Yawkey Way on the right side of the administrative office entrance. It read, “From those who knew him best” and underneath, “His Red Sox employees.”
Yawkey Foundation officials and recipients of the charity’s largesse had protested the street name change, saying the racism allegations were unfounded and sullied the legacies of Yawkey and his wife, Jean, whose bequests have provided hundreds of millions of dollars to everything from small scholarship programs to major expansions at some of the city’s best hospitals.
Little had been made about Collins’s role in the tryout or any attempt by Sox ownership to distance themselves from his legacy. Collins’s plaque had hung outside the entrance since 1951 with the inscription, “His ability, loyalty and integrity as a player and an executive in the game of baseball will forever be remembered and cherished.”
Before coming to the Red Sox, Collins was a player and manager and was a second baseman on the infamous Black Sox team that threw the 1919 World Series, though he was never implicated in the scandal.