That the Sox were slow in recruiting black talent is beyond debate. “They simply weren’t interested in them for years,” said Haak. It was not until around 1962, after the departure of farm director Johnny Murphy to the New York Mets (one of baseball’s whitest teams), that the Sox hired a black scout named Ed Scott. Scott is quick to admit the team “hadn’t done well on black players until then.” Scott’s first find was George Scott (no relation), whom he admits he was upset to see go. (“If I had had a word to say on that,” said scout Scott, “I would’ve said he was the best first baseman in the league.”)
Today’s Red Soc farm system appears to reflect the team’s tardiness: it is, as one Sporting News writer told us, “a whiter system than most.” At Boston’s top three farm clubs – Rhode Island, Bristol (Conn.) and Winston-Salem – there are a grand total of six nonwhite players, four of them Latin, two black. Sportswriters who cover those teams regularly say the number is significantly lower than that of other clubs in those leagues. Only one nonwhite player in the Sox organization, outfielder Otis Foster with Winston-Salem, is regarded as a sure-fire major league prospect.
The bottom two clubs of the Sox system – Winter Haven and Elmira, New York – atone somewhat for the lack of color at the top, and may well represent the fruits of the team’s new Latin push. There are eight nonwhites out of 34 at Elmira and eight or nine at Winter Haven (depending on whom you listen to); in both cases, the number is greater than or on a par with the leagues in which the teams compete.
We asked Bill Crowley why there are so few black and Latin ballplayers at the top of the Sox farm system. Crowley, a large and genial man who has served as Sox publicity chief for 16 years, thought for a moment.
“It’s simply the luck of the draw on the draft,” he replied. “I don’t think anybody consciously discriminates anymore if they ever did.”
Asked about the Phoenix’s figures indicating that the Sox have one of the worst records in baseball in putting nonwhite players on the field, Crowley replied: “that’s become the question lately. But the question really is: how have we succeeded as a competitive team? Since the [free agent] draft came along in ’65, we sit down and do a real hard analysis of how we compare with other organizations. And we’ve been a competitive ballclub since 1967.”
We repeated the question. Crowley’s voice grew slightly louder.
“You did this analysis with one thing in mind – and I think the wrong thing,” he said. “the thing that matters is whether the team is competitive.
“New England fans want a contending ballclub. People in New England don’t care what color a player is. There was a change in this organization in the early ‘60s. What happened before that happened before that. What was then was then.”
And more recently, what was Darrell Johnson is now Don Zimmer. And that is progress. “There’s no doubt in my mind,” said one sports journalist who has traveled with the team, “that Darrell had a few racial problems. I’ve heard him say things like, ‘That’s the way you have to deal with colored players.’”