The Boston Red Sox are asking the city of Boston to change Yawkey Way back to its original name, Jersey Street, saying the move is intended to send a message of inclusion.
“Restoring the Jersey Street name is intended to reinforce that Fenway Park is inclusive and welcoming to all,” the team said in a statement.
Last year, the team’s principal owner, John Henry, said he wanted to change the name of the street, which honors a former team owner who has been called a racist.
The late Sox owner Tom Yawkey, for whom the street was named in 1977, owned the team from 1933 to 1976.
During Yawkey’s tenure, the Red Sox were the last Major League baseball club to integrate, finally calling up their first black player, infielder Pumpsie Green, in 1959, 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Not only did the Red Sox pass on signing Robinson and other black stars of the era, Yawkey is believed to have screamed a racial slur from the grandstands at Robinson and two other black players at a team tryout in 1945. (The person who yelled out the slur has never been positively confirmed, the Globe has reported.)
The Yawkey Foundations issued a statement expressing deep disappointment, saying that the team was taking an action “based on a false narrative about Tom Yawkey and his record as the team’s owner.”
Yawkey “attempted to acquire and promote black ballplayers throughout the 1950s,” the statement said. It also said Henry, who also owns The Boston Globe, “fails to take into account the entirety of Tom Yawkey’s life and his generosity to the city he loved.”
The Red Sox statement acknowledged the charity’s “incredible” work.
“It is important to separate the unfortunate and undeniable history of the Red Sox with regards to race and integration from the incredible charitable work the Yawkey Foundation has accomplished in this millennium and over the last 16 years,” the team said in its statement.
“The positive impact they have had, and continue to have, in hospitals, on education programs, and with underserved communities throughout Boston and New England, is admirable and enduring. We have the utmost respect for their mission, leadership, and the institutions they support.”Mark Arsenault of the Globe staff contributed to this report.