Red Sox

Martone: There was more to Yawkey than all this

Martone: There was more to Yawkey than all this

As we sit here 41 years after Tom Yawkey's death, two generations removed and with detail lost to time, it's hard for many to know exactly why he was thought of as a man for the ages.

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The Red Sox won only three American League championships during his 44 years as owner. He spent money lavishly, and many said unwisely, in creating an organization where accountability -- on and off the field -- was a largely unknown word. It goes without saying the team's racial history left a dark stain, dark enough that current owner John Henry says he's been troubled by it since purchasing the club in 2002.

Thing is, I'm old enough to remember the last decade or so of Tom Yawkey's life. Hard as it may be for anyone under the age of 50 to believe, he was a beloved figure.

He was generous to charities and causes; the Jimmy Fund is what it is today in large thanks to the support -- financial and otherwise -- of the Yawkey Red Sox. He was regarded as a benign gentleman sportsman who, rightly or wrongly, valued team above profits. When he died, the people who worked for him chipped in for a plaque that still hangs outside the front door of the team offices that reads "In memory from those who knew him best: His Red Sox employees." Sox players, at least those who spoke publicly about him, adored him. (Of course, that may have had something to do with the generous salaries he paid in those penurious times.) Even some minority players spoke well of him near the end of his life. Bill North, an outspoken black outfielder for the Oakland A's, once said: "Tom Yawkey's the only white man I call 'sir'."

That was the public perception of Tom Yawkey that I -- and others of my age -- grew up with. The portion of Jersey Street in front of Fenway Park was renamed Yawkey Way a year after his death without any pushback that I recall. He sailed into the Hall of Fame a few years later with barely a peep of protest.

All of that has been lost over the years, overwhelmed by the Sox' disgraceful racial past. (And the subsequent revelation that Yawkey and his widow Jean, who ran the team for 16 years after his death, reportedly protected a pedophile employee who sexually abused young clubhouse workers for years.) The negative is all that people seem to remember about Tom Yawkey now.

And I'm not saying that's wrong. Some sins are so strong there's no defense for them.

I just think this story is more nuanced than it's become. My feeling (and it's just my feeling): Yawkey was more weak than evil, a man who had problems with alcohol until he stopped drinking in the 1960s, who didn't question the norms of his time, who wasn't strong enough to stand up and say, "This is wrong." And he certainly surrounded himself with some virulent racists, like Pinky Higgins, to whom he gave enormous power in the organization.

The question, really, is why such a non-groundbreaking figure was given these honors in the first place.

I always had the feeling it was his philanthropy, his generosity -- which was considerable -- that earned him the love. That, and his gentle, non-assuming public persona, was why people of his time regarded him so fondly.

None of which is what John Henry's talking about. The thrust of Henry's statement -- the Yawkey name is a symbol of baseball racism, and we should distance ourselves from it -- is hard to stand against.

But though I never met him -- I was only 21 when he died -- I remember Tom Yawkey as more than just a one-dimensional, bigoted symbol of baseball's blighted past. Even if he doesn't deserve the plaudits he received, there was more to him than that.

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Breakfast Podcast, July 15, 2019: Red Sox get the win despite ongoing struggles from the mound

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Breakfast Podcast, July 15, 2019: Red Sox get the win despite ongoing struggles from the mound

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1:04 - John Tomase and Lou Merloni break down the Red Sox 10-8 win over the Blue Jays and discuss the continuing struggles of Rick Porcello and the rest of the rotation.

6:24 - Phil Perry stops by Early Edition to discuss today's Great Patriots Debate - Deion Branch vs. Danny Amendola.

10:48 - What is one sporting event you would go back in time to see live? The BST crew give us their picks.

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Nathan Eovaldi's 'arm feels great now' as he attempts to return to Red Sox

Nathan Eovaldi's 'arm feels great now' as he attempts to return to Red Sox

Dave Dombrowski has been adamant that the Boston Red Sox will soon be receiving reinforcements as they look to make a postseason push in the second half of the season. That appears to be true and at the moment, it seems that Nathan Eovaldi may be ready to return in the near future.

Eovaldi, who hasn't pitched since April 17 after having surgery to remove "loose bodies" from his elbow, threw live batting practice at Fenway Park on Monday afternoon. And Eovaldi thought the session went well and discussed how he was feeling afterward.

"My arm feels great now," Eovaldi said per WEEI's Rob Bradford. "I felt like the command was a little rusty but everything coming out felt really good. ... It’s been good. I felt like I transitioned a lot better than I thought I would. I haven’t been getting as sore as I thought I would, as well. I would say it has been pretty good."

And as for his stuff? Mitch Moreland thought that it was pretty good as well, and Eovaldi's 100 mph fastball, tough cutter, and curveball were a lot for the first baseman to handle.

"I swung against Nathan," Moreland said per Bradford. "I saw him throw a cutter and I'm like, 'Damn, how did I miss it? Then I thought, 'Oh yeah, he throws it 94 (mph).'"

It's certainly encouraging that Eovaldi had a solid session on Monday and it looks like he could come back soon. With the fifth starter position now solidified in the wake of acquiring Andrew Cashner, Eovaldi will have a chance to help solidify the back-end of their bullpen in a late-inning role. He could even end up becoming the team's closer.

It's unclear when exactly Eovaldi will return, but he's certainly a player to keep an eye on over the course of the next week or so.

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