Tom Yawkey

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Tom Yawkey
Tom Yawkey NYWTS.jpg
Tom Yawkey with his first wife Elise Sparrow Yawkey in 1938
Born: Thomas Yawkey Austin
(1903-02-21)February 21, 1903
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Died: July 9, 1976(1976-07-09) (aged 73)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Induction1980
Election methodVeterans Committee

Thomas Austin Yawkey, born Thomas Yawkey Austin (February 21, 1903 – July 9, 1976), was an American industrialist and Major League Baseball executive. Born in Detroit, Yawkey became president of the Boston Red Sox in 1933 and was the sole owner of the team for 44 seasons. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980. In 2018, John Henry, current owner of the Red Sox, publicly distanced the team from Yawkey, citing that he was haunted by the allegations of racism against Yawkey and the team's slow pace at integrating.[1] Yawkey died in July 1976 from leukemia.

Early life[edit]

Yawkey, c. 1919

Yawkey was born in Detroit on February 21, 1903 to insurance executive Thomas J. Austin and his wife Augusta.[2][3] Augusta was the eldest child of William Clyman Yawkey, who had become wealthy in the lumber and iron ore industries of the Midwestern United States.[3] In addition to these interests, William Clyman Yawkey had agreed to buy the Detroit Tigers baseball team in 1903, but died before the deal closed.[3][4] His son, William H. "Bill" Yawkey, completed the purchase with Frank Navin in late 1903.[5][6]

When Yawkey was about six months old, his father died.[7] After his father's death, Yawkey and his mother moved to New York City to live with his uncle, William Yawkey. Throughout his life, Yawkey maintained a residence in New York City.[8][9] In September 1918, William adopted 15-year-old Tom after his mother died.[10][11] His last name was changed to Yawkey after the adoption.[10]

Bill Yawkey died in 1919 and left half of his $40 million estate to Tom.[12][13] A clause in the will created two trusts that he gained access to at 25 and 30 years old. Yawkey graduated from the Irving School in Tarrytown, NY in 1920 and from the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale University in 1925.[14] While at Yale, Yawkey was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.[15]

Boston Red Sox[edit]

Having met as alumni of the Irving School, Yawkey and Eddie Collins, a former Philadelphia Athletics second baseman, discussed purchasing a baseball team in 1933, when Yawkey was due to turn 30 and gain full access to his fortune.[16][17] Collins found a potential target in the Boston Red Sox, who had spent the better part of a decade and a half as one of the worst teams in baseball. Former owner Harry Frazee had been forced to sell most of his best players to the New York Yankees due to chronic cash shorts. His successor, Bob Quinn, had been grossly underfinanced since the illness and death of a major investor.[18] By the 1932-33 offseason, Quinn was so strapped that he had to borrow against his life insurance to send the team to spring training.[19]

Collins arranged a meeting between Quinn and Yawkey during the 1932 World Series;[18]he later agreed to come to the Red Sox if Yawkey purchased the team.[16] On February 25, 1933, Yawkey bought the Red Sox for $1.25 million.[20] The deal closed just five days after Yawkey turned 30. He became team president, giving Collins control of day-to-day operations as vice president and general manager (posts Collins held until 1947).[18][20][21]

Yawkey inherited a team that had finished the 1932 season with a record of 43–111 (.279), the worst in franchise history.[22][23] However, at one stroke the Red Sox had gone from having one of the poorest owners in baseball to easily the richest. Determined to get the Red Sox out of the basement right away, Yawkey and Collins attempted to build a successful team by acquiring talented players.[18][24] He also spent $1.5 million on repairs to Fenway Park,[25][26] giving it much of its present look.

Yawkey didn't take long to turn the Red Sox around. In 1934, they reached .500 for the first time since winning the 1918 World Series. In 1937, they notched their first winning record since 1918, and in 1938 finished in the first division for the first time since 1918. When it became apparent that buying top level major league players wasn't enough to vault them past the Yankees and Detroit Tigers, Yawkey began building a minor-league system as well.

Under Yawkey, the Jimmy Fund became the official charity of the team in 1953.[27][28]

Yawkey spent millions over the course of his life attempting to build winning teams. In the first seven years of his ownership alone, he lost $1.7 million, more than he paid to buy the team. According to financial records of the time, he spent at least another $3 million during that time on buying players, renovating Fenway Park, and other capital expenses.[18] The Boston Globe wrote in his obituary that, in 1974, Yawkey estimated his ownership of the team had cost him over $10 million.[29] The Red Sox won the American League pennant in 1946 (their first pennant since 1918), 1967, and 1975, but then went on to lose each World Series in seven games, against the St. Louis Cardinals (1946, 1967) and the Cincinnati Reds (1975).[29][30] Yawkey never achieved his goal of winning a world championship.[31][32]

According to two anonymous sources in an article by Jeff Passan in 2011, Yawkey kept Donald Fitzpatrick, an equipment manager for the Red Sox, employed despite allegations of sexual assault against Fitzpatrick.[33] However, no public allegations against Fitzpatrick were made until 1991, 15 years after Yawkey's death.[33]

Integration of the Red Sox[edit]

The Red Sox were the first MLB team to sign a Mexican-born player, fielding Mel Almada on September 8, 1933.[34] However, they were the last major league team to add a black player to their roster, which has led to assertions of Yawkey being racist.[35] These claims have been disputed by some journalists and researchers. In his biography of Yawkey, Bill Nowlin states that there is no evidence that Yawkey ever made a racist statement or was "personally racist".[36][37][38] Furthermore, a 2006 article in The Boston Globe commented that Yawkey "was not overtly racist, but members of his inner circle were."[39]

According to the Boston Herald, as owner of the Boston Red Sox, the team's integration policy was Yawkey's responsibility.[40] In 1945, the Red Sox held a tryout for Jackie Robinson, Sam Jethroe, and Marvin Williams,[41] but the men never heard back from the team after the tryout and Robinson was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers for the 1947 season.[42] In 1967, Robinson said Yawkey was "probably one of the most bigoted guys in baseball".[43]

The team's attempts to integrate prior to 1959 were unsuccessful. In the 1940s and 50s, Joe Cronin, general manager after Eddie Collins, scouted black players, including Sam Jethroe, Larry Doby and Bill Greason but none signed with the team.[44] In 1950, the team signed Lorenzo Piper Davis, their first black player, for their minor league team, but he was released in May of that year.[45][46][47] Three years later, the team signed Earl Wilson to their minor league team, but his career was interrupted by serving in the Marines in 1957.[48][49][50] Wilson returned to the Sox's Minneapolis farm team after completing his military service and was fielded by the Sox in July 1959.[51][52]

In 1956, The Boston Globe published an article discussing the Red Sox's lack of black players on the team, where manager Joe Cronin denied prejudice allegations.[53][54] The article reported that the Red Sox had made an offer of $115,000 for Charlie Neal in 1954, but the offer was rejected.[53][54]

Despite the Red Sox having multiple black players in their farm system during the 1950s, the team did not promote any of them to the major league until 1959.[55] In 1959, Pumpsie Green, who was signed by the team in 1955, made his debut on July 21.[56][57]

In 1967, the Red Sox fielded a team with a starting lineup including multiple black players, such as George Scott and Reggie Smith.[58]

Death and legacy[edit]

Fenway Park main entrance on the then Yawkey Way in 2007

Yawkey died from leukemia in Boston on July 9, 1976.[59][60] His wife, Jean R. Yawkey, became president of the club following his death.[61][62] Yawkey was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980.[63]

The Yawkey Foundation[edit]

The Yawkey Foundation was established in 1976 through a bequest in his will.[64] The foundation later recorded $420 million in 2002 income after the sale of the Red Sox. Alongside a second foundation formed in 1982 by Jean Yawkey, the Yawkey Foundations donated $30 million in 2007 for the Dana–Farber Cancer Institute to build the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care in Boston.[65]

Yawkey Way[edit]

In 1977, the section of Jersey Street where Fenway Park is located was renamed Yawkey Way in his honor.[66] However, in August 2017, during a time of increased racial tensions around the country, the Red Sox's principal owner John W. Henry announced the team was seeking to change the name, due to allegations of racism against Yawkey, adding he was "haunted" by Yawkey's legacy, which some have characterized as racist.[67]

The change was approved by the Boston Public Improvement Commission in April 2018, and the name reverted to Jersey Street in May 2018.[68][69] Also in May, a plaque commemorating Yawkey from "his Red Sox employees," that had hung at the administrative office entrance to Fenway Park since shortly after his death was removed.[70] In April 2019, the MBTA Commuter Rail station near the park, Yawkey station, was renamed Lansdowne station.[71]

Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center Heritage Preserve[edit]

A chain of islands off the coast of Georgetown, South Carolina, near the entrance of Winyah Bay, make up the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center Heritage Preserve. The nature preserve was formed from 24,000 acres (9,700 ha) of land along a tidal estuary, which Yawkey willed to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. He originally purchased the land for use as a hunting and fishing retreat, and often allowed access to Red Sox players, including Ted Williams.[72] It consists of North Island, South Island, Sand Island[73] and a majority of Cat Island.[74]

Personal life[edit]

Yawkey married Elise Sparrow in 1925,[75] and the couple adopted a daughter named Julia in July 1936.[76][77] The couple divorced in November 1944.[75] Yawkey married Jean R. Hiller on Christmas Eve 1944.[78] Tom and Jean Yawkey had no children.[79] Yawkey's only sibling, his sister Emma, died in December 1963.[80]

In 2018, a biography of Yawkey entitled Tom Yawkey: Patriarch of the Boston Red Sox by Bill Nowlin was published by the University of Nebraska Press.[81][82]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Finucane, Martin (February 28, 2018). "Red Sox ask Boston to change name of Yawkey Way back to Jersey Street". The Boston Globe. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
  2. ^ Rogers, Thomas (1976-07-10). "The Sportsman Owner". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-04-28.
  3. ^ a b c Driscoll, Edgar (10 July 1976). "Tom Yawkey, Red Sox owner, dies at 73 - The Boston Globe". BostonGlobe.com. Retrieved 2021-04-28.
  4. ^ Frost, Mark (2009-09-22). Game Six: Cincinnati, Boston, and the 1975 World Series: The Triumph of America's Pastime. Hachette Books. p. 1955. ISBN 978-1-4013-9481-3.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  5. ^ "Angus Leaves Ball Team". Newspapers.com. 23 January 1904. Retrieved 2021-04-28.
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  7. ^ "Death Came to Him Yesterday". Detroit Free Press. September 19, 1903. p. 3. Retrieved September 22, 2020 – via newspapers.com.
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  10. ^ a b Driscoll, Edgar (10 July 1976). "Tom Yawkey, Red Sox owner, dies at 73 - The Boston Globe". BostonGlobe.com. Retrieved 2021-04-28.
  11. ^ "Boy Heir To Big Fortune". Newspapers.com. 17 March 1919. Retrieved 2021-04-28.
  12. ^ "Millions in Sight for a Youth of 14". The Boston Globe. March 7, 1919. p. 9. Retrieved September 21, 2020 – via newspapers.com.
  13. ^ "SCHOOLBOY OF 16 INHERITS $20,000,000; Nephew of William H. Yawkey, Later Adopted, Gets Half of Foster-Father's Estate. HALF A MILLION FOR SISTER Widow to Decide Upon Gifts for Philanthropy--Servants Generously Remembered". The New York Times. 1919-03-18. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-04-28.
  14. ^ Driscoll, Edgar (10 July 1976). "Tom Yawkey, Red Sox owner, dies at 73 - The Boston Globe". BostonGlobe.com. Retrieved 2021-04-28.
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  63. ^ Rosen, ron (1980-03-13). "Klein, Yawkey in Hall". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2021-05-03.
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  70. ^ Sullivan, Jack (May 21, 2018). "A missing pair of Sox". CommonWealth. Retrieved May 24, 2018.
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  73. ^ Zinsser, Elizabeth (2013). "NEST SUCCESS AND HABITAT CHOICE OF WILSON'S PLOVERS IN TOM YAWKEY WILDLIFE CENTER HERITAGE PRESERVE, SOUTH CAROLINA". All Theses. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  74. ^ "Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center". Audubon. 12 September 2016. Retrieved January 14, 2017.
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  76. ^ "The News Parade in Pictures". Newspapers.com. 14 July 1936. Retrieved 2021-05-03.
  77. ^ Rogers, Thomas (1976-07-10). "The Sportsman Owner". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-05-03.
  78. ^ Shaughnessy, Dan. "Ex-players remember Jean Yawkey's role in Red Sox tradition". baltimoresun.com. Retrieved 2021-05-03.
  79. ^ Armour, Mark. "Tom Yawkey". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved January 14, 2017.
  80. ^ "Ouerbacker, Emma Austin". The Courier-Journal. Louisville, Kentucky. December 13, 1963. p. 46. Retrieved September 23, 2020 – via newspapers.com.
  81. ^ Montville, Leigh (February 2, 2018). "Review: 'Tom Yawkey' and the Red Sox' 'Original Sin'". The Wall Street Journal. Boston was an all-white ball club until 1959—12 years after Jackie Robinson became a Dodger.
  82. ^ "Bill Nowlin on Tom Yawkey's life and legacy". Newspapers.com. 17 July 2018. Retrieved 2021-05-03.

Further reading[edit]

  • Nowlin, Bill (2018). Tom Yawkey: Patriarch of the Boston Red Sox. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0803296831.
  • Armour, Mark. "Tom Yawkey". SABR. Retrieved May 3, 2021.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
J. A. Robert Quinn
Owner of the Boston Red Sox
February 25, 1933 – July 9, 1976
Succeeded by
Jean R. Yawkey