The Boston Red Sox

By TOM SHEEHAN  |  November 14, 2006

“It’s unquestionable in my mind,” says Channel 5 sportscaster Clark Booth. “It doesn’t take Thomas Aquinas to take a look at the evidence and see that’s the case. They just don’t change that much over the years.”

“You don’t see as many blacks and Latins as you think you should,” says WBZ sports talkmaster Guy Maniella, “and you conclude that they haven’t been as diligent in recruiting minorities as they should be.”

“The whole town’s racist,” says Spaceman Bill Lee, the Sox pitcher whose remarks last season – about US Judge W. Arthur Garrity’s courage – created a storm. “The Red Sox are a microcosm of the city. You can’t expect them to be different from the city.”

There is reason to believe things are changing for the better, says Lee; the club appears to be choosing more black and Latin players in the free-agent draft in recent years. But then Lee adds: “They [the nonwhites] don’t come up through the farm system as quickly, it seems, and they get traded away more quickly.”

“The Sox seem to bring minority players in and trade them off,” echoes Boston NAACP official Ed Reed.

Are the Red Sox racist? Undeniably, the team has gained such a reputation in some circles. Critics point out that the Sox were the last major league team to drop baseball’s color bar, that they appear as a rule to have fewer nonwhite players than most other clubs, that they have traded away several black stars, and that one such star openly branded them racist.

In an effort to learn the truth of this matter, we spent a month talking to people who should know – ballplayers, ex-players, big league executives, scouts and sportswriters. The picture that emerged is by no means an all-inclusive one and is more likely to fuel debate than to put an end to it. We found a number of cases where racism certainly appeared to be a motivating factor on the part of the Boston organization: their first black player, we learned, was brought up only after tremendous pressure from minority groups and a government agency, and the team’s first black star feels he was traded partially because he went public with his account of a racial incident. In other trades involving minority players, such as the recent dealing away of Rogelio Moret to Atlanta, we found that factors other than racism – in this case management’s apparent inability to communicate with Latin players – may have contributed, although racism cannot be entirely discounted.

We learned other things as well.

-- From 1959 – the year they first promoted a black player to their big league roster – through the end of the 1975 season, the Red Sox had the fourth worst record of all 24 teams in baseball in putting non-white players on the field. Of baseball’s original 16 teams, only one – Detroit – had a worse record on that score.

-- The Red Sox were among the last major league clubs to scout black and Latin talent seriously.

-- The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination initiated a complaint in 1974 charging the club with discriminatory hiring practices in all areas of its operation except with regard to players. The Commission may investigate that lone exception, too.

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  Topics: Flashbacks , Racism and Bigotry, Harry S. Truman, Arthur Garrity,  More more >
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 See all articles by: TOM SHEEHAN