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City panel delays vote Yawkey Way name change at request of Red Sox

Fans enjoyed the sights of Yawkey Way outside of Fenway Park before the Red Sox home opener last week.
Fans enjoyed the sights of Yawkey Way outside of Fenway Park before the Red Sox home opener last week.(Jim Davis/Globe Staff)

The city’s Public Improvement Commission Thursday postponed its vote on a request by the Boston Red Sox to remove the name of former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey from the street alongside Fenway Park because of Yawkey’s reputed pattern of bigotry.

The decision by the commission came at the request of the Red Sox organization, which has formally asked that Yawkey’s name be stricken from street signs, and that the street return to its original name of Jersey Street.

The team asked for the delay on Wednesday in a letter written by Red Sox senior vice president David Friedman. He wrote that the Red Sox, under current owner John Henry, remain committed to restoring the city street to its original name. Henry and his wife, Linda Henry, also own The Boston Globe.

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“We remain committed to our petition and do not seek to alter it in any way,’’ Friedman wrote.

But, he wrote, the Red Sox wanted the panel to postpone Thursday’s hearing for two weeks to give the commission “ample time to review and fully consider the substantial testimony, and any new material that has been received form the community.”

The commission reset the vote for April 26.

The request by the Red Sox comes after an emotional public hearing last month in which longtime power brokers such as philanthropist Jack Connors and former Red Sox CEO John Harrington argued that Yawkey’s substantial charitable works should be given due consideration during the ongoing debate.

But some members of the city’s black community, including state Representative Byron Rushing and Tanisha Sullivan, president of the city’s NAACP, pointed out Yawkey’s reputed bigotry.

Yawkey, for whom the street was named in 1977, owned the team from 1933 until his death in 1976.

During his 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. That was 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier when he was offered a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

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John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Milton J. Valencia can be reached at milton.valencia
@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.