Tom Yawkey

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Thomas Austin "Tom" Yawkey
Born Thomas Austin
(1903-02-21)February 21, 1903
Detroit, Michigan
Died July 9, 1976(1976-07-09) (aged 73)
Boston, Massachusetts
Nationality American
Known for Owner of the Boston Red Sox
Term 1933–1976
Predecessor J. A. Robert Quinn
Successor Jean R. Yawkey

Thomas Austin Yawkey, born Thomas Yawkey Austin[1] (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, longer than anyone else in baseball history. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980.

Early life[edit]

Tom Yawkey with his first wife Elise Sparrow Yawkey in 1938

Yawkey was born Thomas Austin in Detroit on February 21, 1903. He was the grandson of lumber and iron magnate William Clyman Yawkey, who agreed in principle to buy the Detroit Tigers in 1903 but died before the deal closed. The deal eventually was completed by Tom's uncle, Bill Yawkey. After his father died, Tom's uncle adopted him and he took the Yawkey name.

Bill Yawkey died in 1919 and left his $40 million estate to his adopted son, but a clause in the will forbade him from taking possession of it until he turned 30 years old. Tom Yawkey was a graduate of the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale University in 1925 and was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.

Boston Red Sox[edit]

In 1933, four days after his 30th birthday, Yawkey bought the Red Sox for $1.25 million, and persuaded friend and former Philadelphia Athletics second baseman Eddie Collins to be the team’s vice president and general manager.[1]

The Red Sox had been the dregs of the American League for more than a decade since the infamous Babe Ruth sale to the Yankees by former owner Harry Frazee before the 1920 season, and had just come off a dreadful 111-loss season in 1932 which is still the worst in franchise history. Yawkey hired Collins as general manager with instructions to buy up as much talent as possible to turn the team around.[citation needed] He also heavily renovated Fenway Park, which had fallen into disrepair over the years.

Yawkey devoted his time and finances for the rest of his life to building winning teams. His teams' best seasons occurred in 1946, 1967, and 1975, when the Red Sox captured the American League pennant but then went on to lose each World Series in seven games, against the St. Louis Cardinals (1946, 1967) and the Cincinnati Reds (1975). He would never achieve his ultimate goal of winning a world championship.

Charges of racism and other controversies[edit]

Yawkey has been accused of being a racist for his apparent reluctance to employ black players with the Red Sox.[2]

The Red Sox had several black players in their farm system during the 1950s. Many would have good seasons but then, without explanation, be traded away or even released outright, while the slow, lumbering power-oriented white players that typified the Red Sox were no longer in style in the major leagues.[citation needed] During this period, the Red Sox went from perennial contender to failing to finish within ten games of first place for 17 years (1950–1966). Against his personal wishes,[citation needed] Yawkey finally allowed the team to be integrated. In 1959, the Red Sox became the last major league team to field a black player, Pumpsie Green, twelve years after Jackie Robinson's rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers and two-and-a-half years after Robinson's retirement. Robinson would later call Yawkey "one of the most bigoted guys in baseball".[2] Even after integrating, racism was believed to play a role in future Red Sox moves, notably the trades of star outfielder Reggie Smith in 1973[3] and slugging young outfielder Ben Oglivie for aging Detroit veteran second baseman Dick McAuliffe shortly afterward.[citation needed]

Another controversy involved longtime clubhouse attendant Donald Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick was accused of sexual abuse of minors between 1971 and 1991 while working in the Red Sox spring training clubhouse in Winter Haven, Florida.[4] The abuse was reported to the team by victims and players who witnessed it, but Fitzpatrick remained employed.[4] Yawkey, and later his wife Jean after Tom's death, protected Fitzpatrick from the allegations, according to two sources with knowledge of their relationship.[4] In 2002, Fitzpatrick pled guilty after being charged with four counts of attempted sexual battery for actions between 1975 and 1989.[4]


Fenway Park main entrance on Yawkey Way.

Yawkey was a popular man and proved a strong voice in major league councils.[citation needed] He also served as American League vice president between 1956 and 1973.[5]

Yawkey died from leukemia in Boston on July 9, 1976.[1] His wife, Jean R. Yawkey, became president of the club following his death. In 1977, the section of Jersey Street where Fenway Park is located was renamed Yawkey Way in his honor.[6]

A chain of islands off the coast of Georgetown, South Carolina make up the Yawkey Heritage Preserve, a nature preserve formed from land willed to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources by Tom Yawkey. It consists of North and South Islands and a majority of Cat Island.[7][dead link]

Yawkey was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Armour, Mark. "Tom Yawkey". SABR. 
  2. ^ a b Bryant, Howard (September 2, 2003). Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston. Beacon Press. p. 88. ISBN 978-0807009796. 
  3. ^ Sullivan, Paul Francis (February 6, 2009). "LOS ANGELES DODGERS - ALL TIME HOME GROWN TEAM vs. ALL TIME ACQUIRED TEAM". Sully Baseball. 
  4. ^ a b c d Passan, Jeff (November 10, 2011). "From Another Era And Another Sport, A Sex Abuse Scandal Still Inflicting Pain Today". ThePostGame. 
  5. ^ "Thomas A. Yawkey". Retrieved December 10, 2016. 
  6. ^ "Fenway Park Through The Years". Retrieved December 9, 2016. 
  7. ^ Tom Yawkey Heritage Preserve
  8. ^ "Tom Yawkey". The Baseball Hall of Fame. Retrieved December 9, 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

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