Tom Yawkey, racist

Tom Yawkey and his wife, Jean, at Fenway Park in the 1930s. Photo (cc) by the Boston Public Library
Tom Yawkey and his wife, Jean, at Fenway Park in the 1930s. Photo (cc) by the Boston Public Library

Excellent column by noted baseball fan Adrian Walker in today’s Boston Globe on the racism of the late Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey. Somewhere in the mists of my memory I seem to recall that when the Sox finally did sign their first black ballplayer, Pumpsie Green, Yawkey’s reaction was: “They really do have funny names, don’t they?”

Walker suggests that both Yawkey Way and the MBTA’s Yawkey Station be named for Ted Williams, who not only was “racially enlightened,” as Walker writes, but was also perhaps the greatest Latino player in major-league history.

Sounds like a good idea to me. But as an alternative, why not rename Yawkey Way for Williams and the T station for Jim Rice, a Hall of Famer and an African-American? Rice was the team’s best player at a time when Boston was considered the most racist city in America. Yet, incredibly, he was often criticized around here for his all-business demeanor and his frosty relations with the media.

Ben Bradlee Jr. on Ted Williams’ ‘immortal life’

Ben Bradlee Jr.
Ben Bradlee Jr.

Veteran investigative reporter Ben Bradlee Jr., a former top editor at The Boston Globe, discussed his biography of Ted Williams, “The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams,” at Northeastern on Wednesday. I live-tweeted the talk at @NUjournalism and Storified the results. Please have a look.

Photo (cc) by Dan Kennedy. Some rights reserved.

The Red Sox’ first Latino superstar

In today’s Boston Globe, Keith O’Brien writes about the diminishing number of Latino players on the Red Sox — and compares the current team to the all- or mostly white teams of the past.

Point taken. But O’Brien steps in it when he refers to a “team whose stars typically looked like Ted Williams or Carl Yastrzemski” in describing those mostly white line-ups. The problem here is that Williams, as many knowledgeable fans know, was only the greatest Latino star in baseball history.

Williams’ mother, Micaela “May” Venzor, was the daughter of parents who were born in Mexico, Pablo Venzor and Natalia Hernández. In his 1969 autobiography, “My Turn at Bat,” Williams, who himself was born and grew up in San Diego, writes of his mother:

Her maiden name was Venzor, and she was part Mexican and part French, and that’s fate for you; if I had had my mother’s name, there is no doubt I would have run into problems in those days, the prejudices people had in Southern California.

May Venzor Williams was a volunteer for the Salvation Army, an avocation that kept her away from home most of the time, and about which her son complains bitterly in “My Turn at Bat.”

O’Brien’s mistake is not unusual. In 2005, the New York Times groused that Williams had been left off Major League Baseball’s list of “Latino Legends.” Williams’ Latino background is not well-known. But that makes it no less real.