Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Identity in baseball

Despite there being a lot of progress made in America by the 1980s, there were still problems with racism. That was certainly true in baseball, in particular with a team called the Boston Red Sox, due to the owners not wanting to sign black players.

In 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first black baseball player to play in the Major Leagues, which was the starting point for the integration of baseball, with 1960 being the year in which all teams had integrated, with the Red Sox being the last. Despite this during the early 1980s the Red Sox had very few black Americans in their team, with their 1983 team only having one black player. The team also had links to a racist group called the Elk club, who had contact with many red sox employees. In his 2002 book shutout: a story of race and baseball in Boston Howard Bryant talks about the racist culture which occupied the Red Sox at this time. One issue he focuses on is when black baseball coach Tommy Harper was fired from the Red Sox because he said in an interview that the club were taking part in racial practices such as the Elk club. On the topic of Tommy Harper Bryant writes “He had always thought of himself as a part of the game, but in truth he was an outsider, a figure foreign and distant to the men who have always run Major League Baseball.” This quote shows that because of the racial problems in Boston at the time, employees of the club, as well as fans would not have felt part of their baseball team, due to the racist nature of the club.

At the time this was a big issue, as the Red Sox were bringing down the reputation of not only the club, but baseball in general, during a decade in which there had been much change and progress made regarding equality.

The legacy of this situation is interesting as since the late 1990s under new ownership, the club has completely changed its image in regards equality with Tommy Harper being re-hired as a coach in 2000. However what I found interesting is Tom Yawkey, who was owner of the club from the 1933-1976 and was the reason why Boston did not hire black players, was inducted to the baseball hall of fame and is still a member, which seems strange considering that, although he was part of baseball for most of his life, his contribution and effect he had on his club and the sport as a whole was extremely negative.


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