America is in the midst of a Mao-like purging of history. Anything that isn’t politically correct must go, our own little cultural revolution, with those not going along with the fun surely to be ostracized or to be lumped in with the Neo-Nazi nut jobs in Charlottesville and elsewhere.
We are tearing down statues, markers, plaques, and monuments at such an accelerating rate it is impossible to keep up and comment on each. But through our summer of reeducation, sometimes you hear of something so small and insignificant it becomes clear how deep an intellectual purge is coming.
Allow me to introduce the owner of the Boston Red Sox, John Henry. He announced that he would like to rename the famed street, Yawkey Way, which is outside baseball’s historic Fenway Park. For those of you unfamiliar with the Yawkey family, they owned the Red Sox for decades, roughly from the Depression till the mid-seventies. If you are old enough to remember the Yawkeys’ reputation, it was as good as it got for baseball owners, as players, fans, and employees loved them, an impossible trifecta for a sports owner.
So what was the Yawkeys’ deep dark sin that was so bad that they must be expunged from the saintly Boston streets? The Red Sox were the last team to break the color barrier, a whole 12 years after the Brooklyn Dodgers did so in 1947. I won’t argue that the Yawkeys didn’t possess progressive ideals on race compared to their counterparts, or may have even kept the prohibition in place due to business considerations. Neither of which, of course, is honorable but compared to their times weren’t far outside the norms.
So forgive the past if they weren’t as enlightened as John Henry. But really who is our era to talk? Look at the mess our current society is in. Are we really in a position to lecture the past for their sins, or should we as was once said, first take care of the log in our own eye, so we can see the spec in another’s eye clearly?
If the future upholds our standard to the past, who in our present era is sinless and infallible enough to be commemorated for future generations? Can’t think of anyone? Neither can I. Sorry John Henry, this includes you as well.
But John Henry is full of great ideas on what to name Yawkey Way. He wants it called David Ortiz Way or Big Papi Way. The recently retired Ortiz, of course, was a great Red Sox player and by accounts a decent person. Interestingly enough for conspiracy theorists, Henry has chosen Ortiz and not decorated WWII and Korean War veteran Ted Williams or Carl Yastrzemski, both of whom had sterling careers with the Red Sox. For comparison, Ortiz had a 55.4 career WAR rating (WAR stands for wins against replacement, a fancy new statistic to show how valuable a player is to a team), while Ted Williams’ WAR rating is 123.2 and Carl Yastrzemski was a 96.1.
So why no Williams or Yaz Way? A simple explanation might be that John Henry has a personal relationship with Ortiz. Or as political correctness makes hypocrites of its adherence, is it that both Yaz and Williams happened to be white, and in our times honoring a white male is not politically tenable? If so, isn’t this the type of limited thinking on race that Henry finds so detestable in the Yawkeys?
Oh, and by the way, did you know that Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, was named in part for the Fenway Realty Company? This was in 1912. I haven’t looked into it and don’t plan to waste my time doing so, but I imagine a Boston company that dealt with real estate in 1912 may have had different and perhaps unwritten rules when it came to selling property to blacks than they did with whites. Oh, uh, John Henry, what to do if some historian digs that up? Perhaps David Ortiz Stadium at Big Papi Way?
If it matters for anything, and it surely won’t, the Yawkey Trust has donated hundreds of millions to charity.
The problem with our times isn’t our past. The problem with our times is the present.