A missing pair of Sox

Team removes plaques honoring former owner and GM over alleged racism

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.

A plaque honoring former Red Sox general manager Eddie Collins that had hung outside Fenway Park for 67 years was quietly removed by the team recently.

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.

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

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.