Boston city officials approved the renaming of Yawkey Way back to its original name, Jersey Street, after the Boston Red Sox petitioned to change it as a way to distance the team from former owner Tom Yawkey’s racist past.
The city’s Public Improvement Commission unanimously voted in favor of the change this morning.
Boston law allows for the renaming of city streets provided 100 percent of the landowners on the street approve of the change. In the case of the former Yawkey Way, there’s only one other property owner past the Red Sox, and they signed off on the renaming. The move was pushed by Red Sox owner John Henry, who sought to put some distance between the Red Sox and Yawkey. The Red Sox were the last MLB team to integrate, in 1959, over a decade after Jackie Robinson broke the color line in 1947. While Yawkey and the Red Sox were scouting Negro Leagues players in the mid-1940s (indeed, the Red Sox gave Robinson a tryout and passed on signing Willie Mays), his opposition to actually pulling the trigger on a signing and MLB roster spot certainly a stain on the Yawkey legacy. Hence the Red Sox ownership seeking to drop the Yawkey Way name from a Fenway Park street that’s closed before every home game so the pregame festivities, beer and entertainment can begin outside the ballpark.
There was one complicating factor: the Yawkey Foundation and other community leaders opposed the renaming, arguing that it would bad for the foundation and its charitable efforts. In response, Henry issues a statement in support of the Yawkey Foundation, stressing that the renaming should not reflect poorly on the charitable group:
“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 a 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.”