Amid a wave of teams and cities reconsidering what various monuments mean in the modern world, and even more so the political climate we find ourselves in, the Red Sox are finally starting to take the steps necessary to rename Yawkey Way.
The side street that runs down one side of Fenway Park was named for Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey in 1977 a year after he died in 1976. He owned the team for more than 40 years and left behind a legacy rife with racist, discriminatory, and altogether unsavory practices.
In comments to the Boston Herald, current Sox owner John Henry says he has discussed the process with city leadership in the past but that it was considered opening a can of worms.
Some Sox fans may agree that the road should have been changed years ago, or at least more publicly acknowledged as a process that should be initiated. Henry maintains that he has been “haunted” by the team’s past and the legacy of those that came before him.
“But for me, personally, the street name has always been a consistent reminder that it is our job to ensure the Red Sox are not just multi-cultural, but stand for as many of the right things in our community as we can — particularly in our African-American community and in the Dominican community that has embraced us so fully. The Red Sox Foundation and other organizations the Sox created such as Home Base have accomplished a lot over the last 15 years, but I am still haunted by what went on here a long time before we arrived.”
What complicates matters for the organization, and prevents it from simply saying “It’s changing today, the time has come,” is that the road is a public road. It is supported by taxpayer money and falls under the city’s jurisdiction. It is only closed on game days, but that still leads some to believe that the team can make this decision unilaterally.
Not only do the Red Sox have to agree that the time has come but so do any other businesses that abut the road. Fortunately, one other owner (the D’Angelo family) does, and they are on board with a potential switch as well.
Next, they will submit a petition for a name change to Boston’s Public Improvement Commission and hope the city agrees with their outlook.
In his explanation for why now is the time to push this process forward, Henry even alluded to President Donald Trump’s discriminatory policies, saying,
“We ought to be able to lead the effort and if others in the community favor a change, we would welcome it — particularly in light of the country’s current leadership stance with regard to intolerance.”
The other question is what it could be changed to, if that change is allowed. Henry is publicly throwing his support behind David Ortiz receiving the honor but acknowledges that it will be an ongoing process. Perhaps, in this particular situation, a fan vote should be eschewed for a more official process.
After all, despite not having the best history with race, the Sox do have some great options in this case. There’s Pumpsie Green, who first broke the color barrier on Boston’s roster, or Jim Rice. Or it could be as easy as putting Ortiz’s name on it, especially since (as Henry notes) Dominican fans and players have become an important part of the Boston family.
Whatever the case, it’ll be up to the city to say yes or no. With the increased rate of other cities and organizations removing monuments and changing names, now may finally be the time for this supposed can of worms to be embraced.