By: Michael Curtis:
On Thursday April 26th Boston officials approved the name change of the famous street outside of Boston’s historic landmark, Fenway Park. The street known as Yawkey Way will no longer be after a unanimous vote changed its name. The city’s Public Improvement Commission approved the change from “Yawkey Way” to “Jersey Street”.
The name change came at the request of the Boston Red Sox, who cited allegations of racism against former Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey. Yawkey became the president of the Red Sox in 1933 and was the only owner of the club for the next 44 seasons. He owned the ball club longer than any other owner in the history of professional baseball. Yawkey was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980, four years after he passed. Aside from the street name, Tom Yawkey’s name lives on with the foundation which was created as a result of the sale of the Red Sox in 2002. Since The Yawkey Foundation was formed, it has awarded more than $450 million in grants to nonprofit organizations serving the people all over New England but mostly the City of Boston. The foundation was very upset with the renaming of Yawkey way, they put out multiple statements expressing their disappointment.
The Public Improvement Commission changed the name as a result of stories about Tom Yawkey’s racist past. This is part of a national movement to eliminate monuments or memorials that represent some aspect of discrimination. This is the first time professional baseball has been in this discussion.
The racist allegations against Tom Yawkey are as follows:
(Under ownership of Tom Yawkey)
- The Red Sox were the last to cross the color barrier. They did not debut a black major leaguer until 12 years after Jackie Robinson made his debut for the Dodgers.
- The Red Sox chose not to sign famous black players Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays.
- Jackie Robinson has been quoted saying that Tom Yawkey was “one of the most bigoted guys in baseball”.
These are the three main reasons for the street change. Are these reasons justified to change such a famous name correlation? I asked my twitter followers what they thought of the name change and if these facts make them agree with the name change or not. I got 55 responses.
As you can see, regardless of what has been said about Tom Yawkey, most of the people who participated in my poll believe they should change the street back to Yawkey Way. I spoke to a few of my followers in person and they commented about how historic the name is. They also said that it is a shame that kids in future won’t have the opportunity to say they were on Yawkey Way.
The street name change is effective immediately.
There was a fair amount of backlash with the name change. On Sunday May 6th, the Mayor of Boston Marty Walsh addressed some of it.
The big take aways from the interview are as follows:
When Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was asked about the name change, he said that there was a 100% unanimous vote on the name change. He also said that the name change is considered a gesture, and its the actions that follows the name change is what will make a difference in preventing racism in Boston. The mayor said if it was up to him he wouldn’t have changed the name.
The controversy over Yawkey Way will come to a close with time. With any big change it takes time to adjust. But one thing is for sure, Jersey Street is here to stay and will welcome many Red Sox fans in the same way that Yawkey way used too.