John Henry wants to change Yawkey Way to a different name, because Yawkey was a racist. Of course his suggestion is to rename it after David Ortiz, because Ortiz doesn’t have enough shit named after or given to him these days. The best part is that he called it a “haunting reminder” of the city’s “history of racial intoleramce”, as though he just bought the fucking team yesterday and hasn’t owned it since 2002.
Tom Yawkey was racist. That much is true. He gave Jackie Robinson a workout back before he was signed to the Dodgers, but he had no real intention of signing him and passed on other legends like Willie Mays, who probably would have gotten the Sox to a world series playing with other legends like Yaz.
But Yawkey was tremendously important to the Sox. The team was following the tailspin of losing every hall of famer, great player, even decent player from previous mismanagement (particularly Harry Frazee), and watching the Yankees buy up all of their talent to win championship after championship. They didn’t win a World Series, but they contended for several, and played in three, during his ownership. He prevented the Sox from the potential of moving out of Boston or perpetually feeding the New York roster with developing stars, which would probably be worse.
Yawkey was also a beloved member of the community of Boston, according to people who knew him at the time. His charitable contributions were enormous. The Jimmy Fund, truly one of the greatest organizations in our country, wouldn’t be nearly as successful as they are today without his constant support.
We can’t pretend that Yawkey’s only characteristic was that he was racist. We don’t have to and shouldn’t justify it. but at the same time we can’t say that it prevented him from doing anything good for Boston and for the Sox. We can find fault with literally any historical figure in any circumstance, and there can be an argument against momuments or public recognition of any of them. In this case, John Henry is clearly caving to social pressure from a very small minority of vocal protestors, many of whom couldn’t care less about the Sox or their history.