Civil Rights Game: Why Is MLB Honoring Racists?

As MLB never ceases to remind us of its role in breaking down the walls of segregation in America, witness last weekend’s annual “Civil Right’s Game”, it’s appropriate to also annually inform the public of the honors MLB continues to bestow on some of the highest profile racists in American history.

Baseball Hall of Fame Racists: Ford Frick, Tom Yawkey, Bill Harridge

To that end, BizOfBaseball’s Maury Brown recently unearthed a document from the six most powerful men in MLB in 1946.

The 27-page “steering committee” report was authored and approved by baseball Hall of Famers Tom Yawkey (Red Sox), William Harridge (American League), Ford Frick (Future MLB Commissioner) and Phil Wrigley (Cubs), Sam Breadon (Cardinals), and Lee McPhail (Yankees).

The report was expressly designed as a formal plea to all MLB owners to keep blacks out of MLB. More specifically, it was hastily written to block the impending admittance of Jackie Robinson into MLB by Branch Rickey of the Dodgers. (Robinson made his MLB debut six months after the report was published.)

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Smoking Gun: Red Sox Owner Was Blatant Racist

In case you don’t know, the Boston Red Sox was the last MLB team to sign a black player - 14 long years after Jackie Robinson inked a deal with the Dodgers. Because of that, there’s been plenty of speculation as to why it took the Bosox so long to integrate.

Tom Yawkey Clemente Aaron Mays All In MLB Before Red Sox Signed Black Player

Longtime baseball writer and editor Glenn Stout went back into the archives to see if he could turn up any published evidence of racism by the Red Sox Owner at that time: Tom Yawkey. What he culled, from a 1965 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED piece on Yawkey, was startling.

Upon examination, Yawkey’s final statement - “We scouted them right along, but we didn’t want one because he was a Negro. We wanted a ballplayer,” might be the most telling statement of all.

For if we follow Yawkey’s logic – “We looked for black ballplayers but we wanted talent first and foremost” – then compare it to the fact that from the time of (Jackie) Robinson’s signing through July of 1959 the Red Sox neither put an African player on the major league field who they signed themselves nor traded for one, the conclusion is inescapable: Tom Yawkey and his organization simply did not believe that any African American ballplayer had the talent to play for the Red Sox.

This, despite the fact that they were playing on every other team in baseball, and that by 1959 there were dozens and dozens of African Americans winning championships, winning Cy Young awards and MVP awards and playing on All-Star teams throughout the major leagues, players like Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Don Newcombe and many, many, many more.

But none, apparently, were good enough for Boston. “We wanted ballplayers,” indeed.

Was Red Sox Owner Tom Yawkey a Racist?

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