Tom Yawkey with his first wife Elise Sparrow Yawkey in 1938
Thomas Yawkey Austin|
February 21, 1903
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
July 9, 1976 73) (aged|
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Known for||Owner of the Boston Red Sox|
|Predecessor||J. A. Robert Quinn|
|Successor||Jean R. Yawkey|
Thomas Austin Yawkey, born Thomas Yawkey Austin, (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. Yawkey's alleged racism and resistance to baseball's integration have led the modern day Red Sox to distance themselves from his legacy.
Yawkey was born 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
On February 25, 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.
The Red Sox had been the dregs of the American League for more than a decade since the infamous Babe Ruth sale to the New York Yankees by former owner Harry Frazee before the 1920 season, and had just finished the 1932 season, in which they lost 111 games—a record 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. 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 attempting to build winning teams, with The Boston Globe citing Yawkey's estimation in 1974 that he lost $10 million on the team during his tenure owning the Red Sox. 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.
Criticism and controversies
Yawkey has been accused of being a racist for his apparent reluctance to employ black players with the Red Sox.
The Red Sox had multiple black players in their farm system during the 1950s, with the team failing to promote them despite the successes other teams realized after integrating black players. During this period, the Red Sox went from perennial contender to failing to finish within ten games of first place for 16 years (1951–1966). As owner of the Boston Red Sox, the team's policy on integration ultimately was Yawkey's responsibility. 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".
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. The abuse was reported to the team by victims and players who witnessed it, but Fitzpatrick remained employed. Yawkey, and later his wife Jean after Tom's death, protected Fitzpatrick from the allegations, according to two sources with knowledge of their relationship. In 2002, Fitzpatrick pleaded guilty after being charged with four counts of attempted sexual battery for actions between 1975 and 1989.
Yawkey was a popular figure in Boston and a respected voice in major league councils, as evidenced by his fellow American League owners naming him vice president between 1956 and 1973, though fellow owners regarded him as a "strange fish" in the words of one contemporary sports writer for Yawkey's willingness to spend lavishly on salaries and perks for star players at the expense of profits.
Yawkey died from leukemia in Boston on July 9, 1976. His wife, Jean R. Yawkey, became president of the club following his death. The Yawkey Foundation was established in 1976 through a bequest in his will. The foundation later recorded $420 million in 2002 income after the sale of the Red Sox. Alongside a second foundation formed in 1982 by Jean Yawkey, the Yawkey Foundations donated $30 million in 2007 for the Dana–Farber Cancer Institute to build the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care in Boston.
In 1977, the section of Jersey Street where Fenway Park is located was renamed Yawkey Way in his honor. However, in August 2017, Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry announced the team was seeking to change the name, adding he was "haunted" by Yawkey's legacy, which some have characterized as racist. The change was approved by the City of Boston in April 2018, and the name reverted to Jersey Street in May 2018. A plaque honoring Yawkey, from "his Red Sox employees," that had hung at the administrative office entrance to Fenway Park since shortly after his death was removed in May 2018.
A chain of islands off the coast of Georgetown, South Carolina make up the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center Heritage Preserve, a nature preserve formed from 24,000 acres of land Yawkey willed to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, which he purchased for use as a hunting retreat, later allowing access by Red Sox players including Ted Williams. It consists of North Island, South Island, Sand Island and a majority of Cat Island.
Yawkey was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980.
Yawkey married Elise Sparrow in 1925, with the couple adopting a daughter named Julia in 1936. With different interests, the couple would drift apart and divorce in November 1944. Both remarried within a few weeks of the divorce, Tom Yawkey to department store model Jean R. Hiller. Tom and Jean Yawkey had no children.
Yawkey's friends addressed him as "T.A."; he was fond of taking batting practice at Fenway Park, exulting when hitting a ball off the Green Monster left field wall.
The only full-length biography of Yawkey is entitled Tom Yawkey: Patriarch of the Boston Red Sox. It was written by Bill Nowlin and was published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2018.
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- Zinsser, Elizabeth (2013). "NEST SUCCESS AND HABITAT CHOICE OF WILSON'S PLOVERS IN TOM YAWKEY WILDLIFE CENTER HERITAGE PRESERVE, SOUTH CAROLINA". All Theses. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
- "Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center". Audubon. Retrieved January 14, 2017.
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- Thomas Jr., Robert McG. (February 27, 1992). "Jean R. Yawkey, Red Sox Owner And Philanthropist, Is Dead at 83". The New York Times. Retrieved January 14, 2017.
- Montville, Leigh (February 2, 2018). "Review: 'Tom Yawkey' and the Red Sox' 'Original Sin'". The Wall Street Journal.
Boston was an all-white ball club until 1959—12 years after Jackie Robinson became a Dodger.
J. A. Robert Quinn
| Owner of the Boston Red Sox
February 25, 1933 – July 9, 1976
Jean R. Yawkey